Saturday, February 02, 2013

Taking the Offense against Defensiveness

Our friend and regular Midrats guest Peter Munson has an article well worth your ponder over at WaPo.

Keep an open mind and read the whole thing. This resonated with me, and I think many of us have been in the same place Peter is. This will also give you some perspective why a highly successful Marine officer at 16-yrs and on the LtCol list is leaving active duty.
Since I returned home, a darkness has grown in me as both I and our nation have failed to live up to the sacrifices of these young men and women. I had no expectation of “victory” in Afghanistan or Iraq, whatever that would mean. Nor did I expect some epiphany of strategic insight or remorse from the nation’s brain trust.

I just found that I could not square the negativity, pettiness and paranoia in the discourse of our country’s elders with the nobility and dedication of the men and women I had seen and served with in Afghanistan.

Over time, as I listened to the squabbling, I realized that about the only thing Americans agree on these days is gratitude bordering on reverence for our military. It troubled me that the sum total of consensus in our discourse is deference toward the defenders of our nation.

Eventually, it dawned on me that the focus on defense was the root of our problem.
There is a lot to this, and it hits on a subject very much in the American tradition from both sides of the political spectrum.
Defense is an act of negation. It brings no victory, instead making us fearful, paranoid, angry and uncooperative. Our negative, defensive outlook has colored our politics, hampered our economy and hamstrung our strategies. Individually, many Americans retain inner go — the unswerving view of our changing world as an endless fount of opportunity. Collectively, however, we must regain our lost focus on a positive vision for the future. We must exalt those who create value in our society: parents, teachers, workers, builders, entrepreneurs, innovators. We must go forth confident that we can lead a changing world by continuing to create, by working together and by living the sorts of fearless lives that our fallen lived.

A nation cannot survive on defense alone. Militaries and wars produce nothing. They only consume — time, lives, resources and hope. That day in the classroom in 2010, looking across the sea of young, diverse faces and hopeful eyes untainted by cynicism, I saw promise for a positive, creative America. When I decided to focus on that promise, the darkness lifted. It can lift for all of us. America, thank your military by building something worth defending. Banish the fear, paranoia and dissension. Lead again.
If you have not already, you can listen to our interview with Peter on 27 JAN here.

Agree or disagree, I would also recommend you get his book, War, Welfare & Democracy: Rethinking America's Quest for the End of History. Full of ponderables.


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