William F. Buckley

"The stakes are pretty big in Washington, and elsewhere. There are -- you know this, corporal -- outfits determined to discredit the war. They'll seize on any remark made that contributes to their story: that this is a losing war, badly conceived, incompetently executed. That General Petraeus is a windbag, doing political favors rather than using his own experience to give the American people an honest evaluation of the war. These folk will construe any criticism of the war by a soldier as one more sign of weakness, of doubt, of subjective recognition that the war should not have been fought in the first place."

"Sir?"

"Yes, corporal."

"Would it be OK to say that I, Corporal John Landers, would agree with that appraisal?"

"No, corporal. It wouldn't be OK, not so long as you're in uniform. You have your own thoughts, and inevitably you will share them with the soldiers in your unit. But you have to be governed by having something to do with the prospects of an enterprise that is a commitment of the government of the United States. As long as you are a soldier, you are a functioning part of that enterprise."

"And when I leave the army?"

"You will be free to explain that if General Petraeus had just been a little wiser, he'd have followed your advice."


William F. Buckley

William F. Buckley, Jr. is editor-at-large of National Review, the prolific author of Miles Gone By: A Literary Autobiography.

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