When General Douglas MacArthur delivered his farewell address to Congress in April of 1951, after President Truman had fired the general during the Korean War, he gave advice that yet can be of value both to President Bush's Democratic Party war critics, and to President Bush and his generals: "[In war], there is no alternative than to apply every available means to bring it to a swift end. War's very object is victory, not prolonged indecision. In war there is no substitute for victory."
At the time, MacArthur was criticizing Truman's decision not to seek victory in what was technically called a United Nations "police action" in Korea. While playing "what if" games with history is destined to be mere speculation, it is worth noting that if victory had been gained over North Korea in the early 1950s, we probably would not be facing a nuclear standoff with North Korea in 2006. Of course, we will never know what price we would have paid in blood and lost life for such a victory back then. And unless and until the nuclear day with North Korea (or the terrorists it sells its nukes to) comes, we will not know the price of not gaining victory in the 1950s. The river of historical consequence runs deep and long.
Today, we are faced with another so far inconclusive war effort, this time in Iraq. On Monday, President Bush continued to articulate the MacArthurian objective in the following language regarding troop levels: "That decision will be made by General Casey, as well as the sovereign government of Iraq, based upon conditions on the ground. And one of the things that General Casey assured me of is that, whatever recommendation he makes, it will be aimed toward achieving victory. And that's what we want."
But note that the president's statement was in response to press reports that General Casey is recommending up to two brigades being withdrawn within six months and perhaps 30,000 more by the end of next year. While all of these Pentagon plans for troop reductions are publicly conditioned on Iraqi forces being able to pick up the slack, nonetheless the generals are giving the strong impression to reporters and other Washington insiders that they have a strong urge to draw down troops. They don't manifest nearly as strong an urge to obtain that for which there is no substitute. (Note that our fighting troops very much do manifest a powerful will to gain victory -- even at the price of their own blood and lives -- God bless them.)
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.