As I pointed out in a previous post, Adam Gopnik thinks that we worry too much about honor. Apparently, he would prefer the dishonor of defeat to the honor of having fought nobly and lost. He doesn't quite understand the importance of saving face.
In that he would make common cause with President Obama. Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates described Obama the warrior in his new book:
As I sat there, I thought: The president doesn’t trust his commander, can’t stand [Afghan President Hamid] Karzai, doesn’t believe in his own strategy and doesn’t consider the war to be his. For him, it’s all about getting out.
As yourself this: has President Obama honored the victory achieved by the Marines in, for example, Falluja? Did he honor the successes achieved by American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan? Or, did he dishonor them by precipitating a withdrawal that erased their achievements? Does Barack Obama believe in American honor? Does he care if America loses face?
The New York Times answers these questions in a moving report about how Marines who had won Fallujah reacted when it fell back into the hands of al Qaeda.
For those who do not understand what it means for a group of people to be demoralized, this article offers an excellent picture. When calculating the psychological cost of defeat we should pay close attention to the fact that defeat, or even tossing aside the fruits of victory, depresses.
With the loss of honor comes a loss of national pride.
Obviously, the Marines who fought in Fallujah feel it the most acutely. It is far more difficult to measure its effect on the rest of the nation, especially when the nation voted for the policies that have led to the loss, but it is vitally important for a newspaper to tell the story.
The Times report presents the situation:
The bloody mission to wrest Falluja from insurgents in November 2004 meant more to the Marines than almost any other battle in the 12 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many consider it the corps’ biggest and most iconic fight since Vietnam, with nearly 100 Marines and soldiers killed in action and hundreds more wounded.
For many veterans of that battle — most now working in jobs long removed from combat — watching insurgents running roughshod through the streets they once fought to secure, often in brutal close-quarters combat, has shaken their faith in what their mission achieved.
Being fair and balanced the Times reports that some veterans blame President Obama for having walked away from Iraq, while others blame George W. Bush for having gotten into the war itself:
Some now blame President Obama for not pushing harder to keep some troops in Iraq to maintain the stability. Others express anger at George W. Bush for getting them into a war that they now view as dubious in purpose and even more doubtful in its accomplishments. But either way, the fall of the city to insurgents has set off within the tight-knit community of active and former Marines a wrenching reassessment of a battle that in many ways defined their role in the war.
What does it mean to see an American president toss away your very hard fought victory for political reasons? What does it mean when the president does not believe in a triumphant America?
It means nothing good:
“This is just the beginning of the reckoning and accounting,” said Kael Weston, a former State Department political adviser who worked with the Marines for nearly three years in Falluja and the surrounding Anbar Province, and later with Marines in Afghanistan.
Mr. Weston, who is now writing a book but remains in close contact with scores of the men he served with, said Marines across the globe had been frenetically sharing their feelings about the new battle for Falluja via email, text and Facebook.
“The news went viral in the worst way,” he said. “This has been a gut punch to the morale of the Marine Corps and painful for a lot of families who are saying, ‘I thought my son died for a reason.’ ”
Now, the parents of brave men and women believe that, in the eyes of their nation, their children died for nothing.