A Voice of Reason: Sane Views for a Crazy World

April 17, 2007

Come Home With Your Shield Or On It

A thought provoking post by Little Miss Green based on an article in The Christian Scientist Monitor.

In a previous post I had satirically commented about Where are 300 Spartans When you Need Them. That post has stuck around in my mind, even though it was made somewhat tongue in cheek. I am coming to believe that a nation needs a group of people who have the mind frame that we will come home with our shields, or lying upon them. In essence that failure of the mission is not an option that we can accept. I believe that our soldiers have this mindset, and it is at the same time humbling and saddening that we ask so much of so few for so many.

In the article in the TCSM, quotes by Generals Bradley and MacArthur are used.

“In war there is no second prize for the runner-up.” In a similar vein, the legendary Gen. Douglas MacArthur cautioned his fellow Americans: “It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it.”

Despite such warnings, America’s political leaders today – in both the White House and Congress – have waged the war in Iraq as if defeat were acceptable. One wonders why.

Although the United States has sustained more than 3,000 battle deaths and has spent billions of dollars in Iraq, the nation’s overall fight against Saddam Hussein and his successors has been marked by hesitation and half-steps.
That’s how wars are lost.

The Allies won WWII against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan with an all-out effort and resolute orders from the top. President Franklin Roosevelt called for “total war” on the Axis powers. He demanded “unconditional surrender.”

Are America’s current leaders that tough?

Talk about hitting the nail on the head. While it can be argued effectively that the legitimacy of the Iraq war is not on a par to that of WW2, then the leaders who gave the President authority to go, must be held as accountable as those who urged the country towards war. Saying that they were misled is tantamount to saying they were incompetent in the trust given them as legislators. From all accounts it seems that the same information that lead the Pentagon and Administration to push for war was made available to Congress, so the Buck stops with Congress and the Administration if this was a bad policy. And America’s leaders, and possibly many Americans are not that tough.

Roosevelt’s reference to “total war” was not mere rhetoric. Total war means everything belonging to the enemy is a potential target – their factories, their cities, even their civilians. With clear orders from Roosevelt, generals such as Dwight Eisenhower and George Patton knew what to do. They obliterated Germany’s and Japan’s will to fight. The cost was high, including hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths in the Axis homelands.

In 1945, total war led to the firebombing of Dresden, Germany, by some 3,000 British and US planes. An estimated 135,000 Germans, mostly civilians, were killed. Within days, other US bombers launched similar raids that created a firestorm in Tokyo that killed nearly 84,000 Japanese and wounded 40,000 more. A few months later, US planes dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Another good point is made by the author, but I feel they miss the main issue, and that the commitment to total war was shared between the leadership of the country and the population. It would seem to even the most casual viewer that the war is a daily, albeit, heartwrenching interruption to life going on pretty much the same for the OVERWHELMING majority of the public, and has become a burden which is shared by the smallest amount of the population at large ever in the history of this Republic. Consider my own personal family history with WW2, that of five family members serving in the Armed Forces with four in combat zones. This was not aytpical of the American experience. Also, the burdens of the war were shared by the population at the home front, where real inconveniences were experienced. Now, this is not to advocate the celebration of “the bad life”, but shared sacrifices, which are shared by all members of a society tend to bring a sense of community and determination towards a shared goal. However, this war, and its burden is even less felt on the general population than VietNam, which ended up suffering from the same lack of political and national will, has never been made to cost all Americans something.

As the US fights its one-handed campaign, the insurgents are waging their own version of “total war”: It’s not just US and British forces being targeted in Iraq, but mosques, churches, open-air markets, restaurants, shops, government buildings, street corners – anywhere people gather. The carnage is spreading.

This is the difference between nations that have relatively little invested in the fight, and those few, and I don’t for a moment believe it is an overwhelming number of Iraqis as compared to the population at large, and those who are fully invested in the fight. The relatively number of casualties, when compared to historic conflicts in our nation’s history may also bring about this feeling. It was hard to not see the clear and present danger when 100,000 US servicemen died, were wounded, or captured in a two month span in the Ardennes Campaign, but when the number is 3,000 men over four years, the personal qualities of each death, and please understand this is in no way slighting the families which have made so costly an offering on the altar of their nation, and I would add my prayers that God would comfort you through your loss, tend to magnify each death, and in effect give it a pseudo feel of a death in the family, when in previous wars, that feeling was not a mere sentiment, but very often a harsh reality.

Perhaps the message to Mr. Bush, Congress, and the American people should be: If this fight is worth doing, if America truly has an unquestionable moral imperative to win, then wage it with everything you’ve got. Otherwise, why is America there?

Here here! However, this is a case of the national will, where all Americans, are partially invested in this war, even if by a sharing of economic hardships so that filling SUV’s or taking that family vacation is a hardship and not a considered extension of the pursuit of happiness. Perhaps a reconsideration of conscription is a reality that Congress needs to consider for the good of the nation. The Spartan women understood that concept.

When the Spartan soldiers of old left the city, the mothers and sisters of the city would go out and accompany them. However, it was not to give them a last kiss goodbye, it was a prayer of sorts, but one that I’m not sure America is ready to say over her sons and now daughters, “Come home with your shield or on it”, the meaning being that the soldier was to return home either victorious (with his shield) or dead – i.e., carried away from the battlefield (on his shield), rather than fleeing the battle and dropping his shield (as it was too heavy to carry while running).

These women knew what would befall them should their husbands, sons, and brothers fail them in war, and again, the difficulty is not at all the fault of the soldiers, but in many ways failures of policy, and a failure of the national will. These women knew that the infants of the city would be pitched from the walls of the city by their enemy. They also knew that they would be raped and forced to marry or be enslaved by those who had conquered them. Hence, the prayer to those who carried the life of the city away with them, hence the ability of the Spartans to man for man be among the greatest formations in the history of combat. The culture understood the stakes. Americans either don’t believe in the danger, or fail to see the threat that radical Islam may wish to bring forth upon this nation, and until such a time, this war will be nothing more than something that is supported in deed by the placing of a yellow ribbon on an SUV and defined by a luke warm commitment to a concept that folds its tents and buries a collective head in the sand.

This war’s failure at this point is a failure of policy. It’s also a failure of the American people to truly understand the consequences, or to believe in the reality of them. If they were believed, more sacrifice would be welcome, as it stands, get the hell out not now but yesterday remains the cry of many in the nation.

If this latter assessment is true, America may someday wish to the gods that they had 300 Spartans, but by that time the same public will have what they deserve, which is a culture of let someone else do the dirty work.



  1. Great post. Hopefully the American people (and the rest of the world) begin to get the picture soon. As McCain said…

    “There is no guarantee that we will succeed, but we must try. As every sensible observer has concluded, the consequences of failure in Iraq are so grave and so threatening for the region, and to the security of the United States…”


    Comment by libertas01 — April 17, 2007 @ 11:20 am | Reply

  2. My husband and son went to see “300” They said it was definitely a “guy movie”, but from some of what they told me about it, I was inspired evem without seeing it myself. Sometimes I wonder where the “real” men and women have gone.

    Most of them are in our military fighting for all the wimps back home.

    I liked what the Spartan queen said in the movie (according to my husband). Spartan women only give birth to “real ” men.

    Comment by Ms. Green — April 17, 2007 @ 2:03 pm | Reply

  3. Re Spartans: The U.S. Marines are often referred to as THE Spartans of America!

    Thers another GreekOde, I think it’s called, or maybe two ofthem re the Shield: Fromtyhe Mother: “Don’t come home with out your shield!” and another from a Returning Greek Soldier: “Here I am! With out my Shield! I ran away and left the damned thing there!”
    or as The Bard had Falstaff say after he got faraway and hidden from the battles: “Better a live coward on Tuesday than a dead warrior on FRiday!!”and went onto say something thedead don’t know or appreciatethe Glories praised on them by thosse who avoided all the battles! Clyde D Beaty SSGTUSMCRET.

    Comment by Clyde D Beaty — October 25, 2008 @ 1:07 am | Reply

    • was your dad william c beaty from ky ,your grandmother elizebeth,

      Comment by Donna Beatty Hammon — April 10, 2013 @ 12:18 am | Reply

  4. Re Spartans: The U.S. Marines are often referred to as THE Spartans of America!

    Thers another Greek Ode, I think it’s called, or maybe two of them re the Shield: From the Mother: “Don’t come home with out your shield!” and another from a Returning Greek Soldier: “Here I am! With out my Shield! I ran away and left the damned thing there!”
    or as The Bard had Falstaff say after he got faraway and hidden from the battles: “Better a live coward on Tuesday than a dead warrior on FRiday!!”and went on to say something I think, or believe myself, the dead don’t know or appreciate the Glories praised on them by those who avoided all the battles! Clyde D Beaty SSGTUSMCRET.100% SC Disabled from war wounds in Korean Conflict 1951

    Comment by Clyde D Beaty — October 25, 2008 @ 1:10 am | Reply

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