Victor Davis Hansen wrote an extremely important piece last week on D-Day. As the preeminent historian of our time, he reflected on D-Day and he legitimately highlighted, in spite of all of the hype about its successes, that on many levels D-Day was not the huge success that it is acclaimed to be. He cites failed topographical analysis, the ultra-human expectations that planners demanded of tactical units, and the everyday confusions and cross-ups that occur in major operations. He reminds the reader of the realities of the day, and that the utter randomness of combat can make a slot machine look like a sure thing.
His message was that the trial and tribulations we are experiencing in Iraq do not sit in solitary isolation in our military history, but that they may indeed be more indicative of our military operations than we either know or care to believe.
In short, he did not sugar coat the ultimate success that was D-Day by leaving out the bad parts. He did not hide the horrible miscalculations of the day in the bright light of our ultimate success. He leaves the reader with the reality of D-Day, not the lore, not the myths. It was published in the Papersaurus edition of the Oregonian last Saturday, a shock in and of itself.
And because it ran here in Portland it was no surprise that on Sunday, many readers responded with letters to the editor. The first line of one caught my eye,
“Our military has not suffered many debacles in its history…” It went on to explain how our effort in Iraq was, by far, the worst political and military debacle in our history.
I was reduced to mouth-breather for several minutes; perhaps I damaged my jaw when it hit the counter. To the non-historian, to the non-military student, to the casual observer, to the blind partisan, to the unstudied, to the myth believer, this may seem true; but it is false on dozens, if not hundreds of counts.