"Duty, Honor, Country" is the West Point motto, but it seems to have lost what once was its compelling power over the men of the Long Gray Line, as they pursue the military careers that follow graduation. I am not speaking primarily about the marital and extra-marital entanglements of the generals and naval flag-officers who enjoy the luxuries, and there are many, that accompany the duties of assuring the American nation's security.
I am thinking of the fact that these generals and admirals do not win any wars anymore. The last real victory was the Second World War, actually won (in the common view of historians) by the Soviet Army -- which admittedly would probably not have succeeded had it not been for the second and third fronts provided by
After that came the war with
The most recent American-led victory was the 1990-'91 Gulf War, but that was a big coalition against a small country with a foolish Arab dictator, who more than a decade later, and after another allied coalition war, was found hiding in a hole in the ground.
In between were Operation Urgent Fury, the invasion of
After that, in 1989, there was Operation Just Cause, when American combined forces captured
Then came the
Gen. Petraeus updated it, for which he won much praise, incorporating "Lessons Learned" in British and French colonial wars and the
Petraeus became head of Central Command in
Petraeus today finds he has company in his notoriety. The
Others under current or recent investigation for misconduct or improprieties are the head of the newly established Army Africa Command; the deputy commander of the
As a former serviceman, I have been long bemused by the proliferation of ribbons and other decorations on the chests of today's high-ranking army officers. Petraeus, who left the military academy in 1974, now is entitled to wear 45 ribbons and 10 metal ornaments on his military blouse (other than unit patches, and parachute and similar badges). He has seen active combat only as commander of the 101st Airborne in the Iraq War. His only combat decoration is the Bronze Star with V (for valor). He wears the prized expert infantry badge, but without the wreath indicating participation in infantry combat.
Possibly a brilliant officer, if a very imprudent one, he has not demonstrated that he is the "American Hero" (and potential president) press and politicians have been celebrating.
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