But who is the most well-known soldier of the Iraq
war? Private Jessica Lynch, whose claim to fame is having been captured and
rescued, stirring the hearts, as they say, of the whole country.
Why aren't the exploits of Captain Zan and his men
better known? Reporters were embedded with his unit, witnessed the victory,
and wrote about it. And yet, the popular culture has ignored him and many,
many like him whose feats matched the heroics of earlier wars in favor of a
slip of a young lady who evokes sympathy rather than admiration.
Nothing against Private Jessica, who has suffered for
her country. The fact is, the reaction of Americans to the men and women
stationed in Iraq is overwhelmingly one of sympathy, of weepy commiseration
for their plight, for the danger they are in, for having to be away from
their families, and for having to have lived through such horrible
experiences. While they deserve our concern for these sacrifices, what
happened to our appreciation for the martial virtues, courage, toughness,
victory, that the members of our military have been displaying every day?
This is the point of an article by Jonathan Eig in The
Wall Street Journal. "Since the Vietnam War," he writes, "much of the
country has tended to venerate survivors more than aggressors, the injured
more than those who inflict injuries."
In World War I, Mr. Eig points out, Americans were
stirred by the exploits of warriors like Corporal Alvin York, who
single-handedly killed 25 Germans and captured 132 more. In World War II,
the whole country feted Lieutenant Audie Murphy for killing 240 of the
enemy. But today, we seldom honor soldiers for killing, for being warriors.
Even our war movies tend to be antiwar. "When
Hollywood makes a war movie," observes Mr. Eig, "it often focuses on saving
American lives, Saving Private Ryan, Black Hawk Down, Behind Enemy Lines,
not killing others."
"We want to fight wars but we don't want any of our
people to die and we don't really want to hurt anybody else," says military
historian John A. Lynn. "So Private Lynch, who suffers, is a hero even if
she doesn't do much. She suffered for us."
Treating the members of our military as victims,
rather than as warriors, allows politicians to say that they "support our
troops," meaning that they want to bring them home.
Is this because of the feminization of the culture,
that while we can still produce macho fighters like Captain Hornbuckle, the
culture as a whole only wants to nurture them? Has our culture become
pacifist at heart, feeling so guilty at the violence of war that we cannot
celebrate actions that violate our ethic of niceness?
Our culture may have channeled all of its warlike
values into sports. Here, at least, we still value toughness, strength, and
aggression. In sports we still allow ourselves the thrill of victory. But
sports are nothing more than play time. In reality, we draw back.
Perhaps our sensitivities are the sign of a refined
and peace-loving civilization. But we had better make no mistake about it:
Our enemies do not share our sensitivity. Those who want to kill us despise
our niceness, and they see our squeamishness about casualties, both our own
and those of our enemies, as a weakness.
This in fact motivates terrorists, the conviction that
if a few Americans are killed, or even if too many of our enemies are
killed, we will feel a national tidal wave of compassion, guilt, and regret.
Then we will call our soldiers home, where they will be safe, enjoying our
self-righteousness as the terrorists enforce their will on those whom we
This trust in American sentimentality, reinforced
every time the terrorists read our editorial writers or listen to a
Democratic presidential candidate, encourages them to set bombs and take
potshots at our troops. In this case, the warriors really are turned into
By Gene Edward Veith,