Friday, July 23, 2010

More on Devotion

Free-form Friday

As a confirmed centrist, I have no interest in partisan politics. I see the two major parties in U.S. politics as different sides of the same coin. That said, I'm going to make an observation that may sound partisan. I do this only because I think this illustrates a deeper principle.

President George W. Bush said he expected to be judged--and vindicated--by history. After all the noise and distractions have blown away, I believe history will find that Bush and his administration went astray because they placed too much faith in easy answers. For example, the premise for the war in Iraq seems to have been that if we take out the bad guy and his government, democracy, peace and freedom will flourish. Those two points may well be true, but as subsequent events have shown, the equation isn't that simple.

In contrast, some of the high points in U.S. history have come when people were willing to accept the hard answers and do what was necessary. For example, in the 2004 edition of Overrated/Underrated in American Heritage magazine, Michael Korda argues that Robert E. Lee is overrated and Ulysses S. Grant is underrated. Pay particular attention to what he says about Grant:
"[Grant] understood that it could not be done by successfully winning a battle, or even several battles (not that many Union generals were winning any until Vicksburg and Gettysburg), but that it depended strategically upon splitting the South by descending the great rivers deep into Confederate territory and, once that had been achieved, by forcing on the South a war of attrition that the Confederacy could not sustain—and also that, in the final analysis, the North’s superior manpower and industrial might would need to be brought to the battlefield. That the war would therefore be long and bloody, he accepted and persuaded Lincoln to accept, but it could be won that way and no other, and he knew how to do it. Lee is the more glamorous figure, but Grant was the better general, and what is more, he defined American generalship for all time. Eisenhower won the war in Europe by using Grant’s strategy and methods, and whenever America departs from Grant’s strategy, as in Korea, Vietnam, and, perhaps, Iraq, it pays the price. Our model, if we have to fight, should be Grant, not Lee."
Quality and integrity come only when we have the devotion, the courage, and the resolve to accept the hard answers and do what is necessary.

Image: Photography by BJWOK /