An essay from an active duty officer with more than 25 years of service, addressed to his fellow USNA alum, Senator James Webb.
Senator Jim “Copperhead” Webb
Why did the new Democratic majority select Senator James Webb (D-VA) to give the Democratic response to the president’s State of the Union Address? Since when does this privilege fall to a freshman, even a freshman senator? It’s seems that despite the bad experience with nominating John Kerry to be their standard bearer in 2004, the Democrats have learned nothing. At least they recognize that they have a serious national security credibility problem but the leadership and the base simply cannot get beyond Vietnam. Hence, they asked a US Marine officer turned novelist, turned Navy Secretary, turned Democrat to present their–well, their opposition to all things Bush, because one certainly did not hear ANY tangible plans. Senator Webb is a graduate of my alma mater, the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis. He is a highly decorated Marine from Vietnam who unlike Senator Kerry actually and definitively earned his commendations for bravery and valor in combat. His novels have sold very well because he is a very talented writer. But on close inspection, something about Senator Webb is very disturbing. Perhaps it harkens all the way back to his midshipman days in Annapolis and a simple boxing match lost. You see, James Webb lost a boxing match to a man he clearly despises, Oliver North. Webb, as chronicled by Robert Timberg in his best-selling book, The Nightingale’s Song, was heavily favored to beat North in the Brigade boxing championships but lost. Timberg claims that Webb believed he was intentionally denied the title by poor preparation from his coach, or more accurately the boxing coach made sure Ollie was better prepared to beat him! Regardless, Webb believes he was wronged and today we can see this streak of vengeance in him. More on this later.[# More #]
Senator Webb, representing the only Democratic senator with any credibility on national security policy (gained while a Republican serving as Navy Secretary for Ronald Reagan), took the president to task for his performance in office. But what exactly did he say? By the second paragraph of his speech, Webb made a gratuitous reference to the devastation of New Orleans. Now since Mr. Webb began his speech by reminding us that we are celebrating the 400 year anniversary of Jamestown, one should assume that this Virginian also knows a bit about James Madison and particularly Federalist 51 and the concept of federalism. Senator, New Orleans is a city of a state in our federated republic. The citizens of that city had a mayor whose responsibility it was to administer competently the levers of power in his city. The state of Louisiana has a chief executive known as a governor with whom resides the responsibility for the competent administration of her state. Both of these public officials, both Democrats, as New Orleans mayors and Louisiana governors long have been, showed how completely incompetent they were in the face of a predicted natural disaster. Everyone who is not blinded by Bush hatred knows that there are serious issues about the performance of local levee boards, the mayor and the governor. However, as a novelist and one further infected with get-the-presidentitis, the senator simply cannot let the facts get in the way of a good story whose fictional title is Katrina was Bush’s Fault.
When giving a nationally televised speech, politicians should learn from Senator Biden’s lessons about pilfering others’ ideas. The two Americas allegory has already been spoken for by former Senator John Edwards, Mr. Webb. One could explore the simplistic populism and allegory of evil CEOs but that might ask Mr. Webb to think about what economic populism has done for Loiusiana, Cuba, or any other place it’s been tried. Perhaps an even deeper intellectual trait revealed by Mr. Webb’s demonizing of corporate America is treating the 21st century as if it is the beginning of the 20th century. Does he know that more Americans today are part of the investing class than at any time in our history and that the number is growing? Corporate earnings, due in part to sound management by those overpaid CEOs, are defying gravity and hence so too are government revenues which siphon off a significant portion of those profits. Governor Spitzer of New York and your colleague and fellow Democrat in the Senate, Charles Schumer, have learned this as they are proposing less restrictive regulation of firms. New Labor in Britain has learned much the same lesson about the past century…but not Mr. Webb? His nostalgia for ideas that have been tested and found wanting also informs his protectionism, lamenting the “dismantling of our manufacturing base” and hence “good American jobs.” Senator Webb, the world has changed a bit since this was in vogue. America leads the world in the creation of wealth. How? We have adapted. The brick and mortar jobs you seem to long for have been transformed into information age jobs. Yes we produce automobiles and refrigerators but we have changed to creators of computer codes that create operating systems and dramatically improve people’s lives while increasing productivity.
What we are witnessing today is the return of the worst hits of the Democratic Party. Going back to the American Civil War, Democrats were against THAT war and tried mightily to undermine President Lincoln. Those Democrats became known as Copperheads or Peace Democrats and, these were labels of which they were proud. They wanted the president to negotiate a peace with the Confederates and put an end to a far more bloody war than the war in Iraq when things were going so very wrong for the Union. So there is a long history of this behavior in the Democratic Party. There was a time they could only envision defeat, not victory. This was NOT true during WW I or WW II, but now the Democrats love to bring up Vietnam and the loss suffered there, and it remains for them the measuring stick against which all US military action MUST be compared. James Webb is a product of that policy failure and he is clearly embittered by it.
I was struck by his demeanor. One announcer called him smooth. Another referred to him as cool. What I saw was a simmering cauldron of arrogance, anger and resentment. His eyes were not the eyes of a serious thinker but those of a man who is clearly very, very angry and his words bear this out. For Senator Webb this war has been mismanaged. I challenge him or any other dissenter to show me the war in history that has not at some time been mismanaged either by the military commanders or the civilians. Thucydides points out in his History of the Peloponnesian War how terribly Athens managed its war with Sparta after the death of Pericles. We can look to the American Civil War and how awfully the Union generals performed until President Lincoln fired enough of them to find General Grant. World War I was one tragic mistake after another from Germany’s decision to weaken the right wing of Schlieffen’s Plan to the failure of France and England to recognize that the machine gun and barbed wire had overcome the offensive. When one couples that with the civilian leadership’s abdication of its responsibility for grand strategy and supreme command it was a disaster. World War II saw more than its share of folly. Hitler failed to learn what Napoleon learned in Russia. He attacked Russia on the very same day! The Americans failed to recognize that Japan had every reason and intention to attack Pearl Harbor but the military failed to act appropriately. The Battle of the Bulge? The list goes on and on and on. Does mismanagement of some aspect of a war make the war wrong? Was Lincoln wrong to fight the South? Should England and France have capitulated during WW I and WW II? Could Athens have won? Could the US have won in Vietnam? Senator Webb uses history to defend his position, but he’s a bit too cute. He invokes President Eisenhower’s success in Korea but he ignores that all Ike did was return the Korean peninsula to the status quo ante, a previously divided state that the North Koreans violated. Using Webb’s calculus, Korea was not a vital national interest and General MacArthur NEVER would have been authorized to land at Inchon. Frankly, MacArthur would never have even been brought out of retirement and Korea would be ruled today by the Great Leader.
Webb invokes his opinion and those of others who were against entering into Iraq in 2002 and 2003. They made their arguments but they were not compelling and were predicated on managing the threat by containing Saddam – but all of that changed at the World Trade Center. We were brutally attacked and most of us expected further equally violent and destructive attacks. The president took the best information he had from numerous intelligence agencies, our own and those of our allies, regarding WMD and made the tough choice. Hindsight is perfect but given what the president AND Congress HONESTLY BELIEVED to be the threat, the accusation of recklessness is a cheap shot unworthy of a former warrior. Mr. Webb opines that we have lost opportunities to defeat the forces of international terrorism. Where? When? How many plots must we foil before the Democrats will admit that we are winning the overall war on terror and Iraq is but ONE theater in that larger war? I challenge Mr. Webb to be more specific. He is long on general accusations but they cannot survive serious critical thinking and examination