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Ours Not to Reason Why

The President's call for 'no division' in the war on terror.

by Barnabas
March 24, 2004

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WASHINGTON, March 19 — President Bush sought to rally support on Friday for what he called an inescapable battle with terrorism, telling representatives of 83 nations that they can afford no concession, no sign of weakness and no division... "The war on terror is not a figure of speech," Mr. Bush said. "It is an inescapable calling of our generation. The terrorists are offended not merely by our policies — they are offended by our existence as free nations. No concession will appease their hatred. No accommodation will satisfy their endless demands."
– Richard W. Stevenson, The New York Times, March 20

War may or may not be the right solution in this instance, but I don’t know that and neither do the marchers. Neither, perhaps, do the people in the White House; but theirs is the fearful responsibility to get it right.
– Barnabas,
February 19, 2003

Theirs not to reason why, 
Theirs but to do and die.
Into the valley of death 
Rode the six hundred
Tennyson, The Charge of the Light Brigade

"No division," Mr. President? You mean as at Little Big Horn, when Custer led his men into a trap?  You mean as in the Crimean War, when the Light Brigade galloped to disaster because "someone had blundered"? You mean as at Gettysburg, when Robert E. Lee watched as his army was decimated by Union forces?

The rationale for all these deaths is that they were in the military, therefore bound not to challenge the strategy of their leaders. So it is with our military personnel around the world. You are their commander-in-chief. It’s their business to say "Yes, sir!" and execute as best they can the orders they are given. If the orders are consistently and deeply flawed, however, the fighters lose their lives and their leaders lose the war.

You are commander in chief of the armed forces, not of the civilian public You are the leader of the free world, not the commander in chief of its armies. We may concur in the war or terror without agreeing with the way it is being waged. Unfortunately, Mr. President, we have allowed you to make agreement with the way you do things the test of firmness, strength, and unity. That wouldn’t be valid even if you had been 100% successful in the war on terror. Since you haven’t come close to that standard, we aren’t even tempted to accept your assumption that agreement with you will lead to victory over terror.

You are still the President, you still get to call the shots. It’s also true what I wrote a month before the first bombs fell, "it is your fearful responsibility to get it right."

Equally, for us to say, "You’re doing it wrong, Mr. President," or "You have to change your strategy, Mr. President," or "You can’t call all the shots, Mr. President," is not division. It’s free speech. In this case, it is also good advice.

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