- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 3, 2001

Nobles: America's actual generals. They are the rare individuals whose tongues have the power of life and death. Each day, they must decide which Americans they will send into the Taliban's line of fire and which Americans may well be added to the long gray line of fallen defenders of freedom.
If they choose wisely and if they are blessed with skillful pilots, working weapons and incredible luck, then only their enemies will be killed they will lose neither a brief acquaintance nor a brother officer. If they are even luckier, then no innocent lives will be lost as a result of their orders.
Yet, they cannot allow fear to interfere with their selection of targets, no more than they are supposed to permit personal considerations to interfere with operational planning. After all, theirs is not only a battle to execute, but a war to win. Their goal is not to conduct a campaign of zero casualties, but rather to kill as many of their enemies as possible, and to topple all of the enemies' means of support even if it consumes America's only true national treasure, the blood of her citizens.
So far, they have been successful at both. Only two Americans have been killed during operation Enduring Freedom, and few civilian lives have been lost. The systemic campaign against the Taliban is proceeding properly, even if it has excited the impatience of pundits.
While the longstanding security of America's citizens will be the only true determinant of their success, America's actual generals have so far earned the stars and bars that they proudly wear. They are the nobles of the week.

Knaves: America's armchair generals: They are the all-too-common individuals whose windy excoriations of America's actual generals fill the airwaves and news sections of media outlets. A tour of Gettysburg 20 years ago and a recent glance at the cover of a Steven Ambrose best-seller has convinced them that they know more about military strategy than individuals who have been training in combat fatigues for decades.
Some are demanding that ground troops be dropped into Afghanistan immediately. Others believe America must do more on the propaganda front, or be more aggressive in selecting targets, even while being cautious enough to avoid any additional collateral damage. Still others think we should be bombing Baghdad and perhaps Damascus, even before we've finished with Kabul and Islamabad.
It shouldn't come as a surprise. After all, pundits and politicians, professional pontificators both, pay their bills by putting their words on a line, knowing the most that it will cost them is a cash-generating controversy. Unlike their actual military counterparts, armchair generals won't have to write a bereavement letter to a widow or an orphan when their opinions are wrong.
A stirred-up controversy is their only sure marker of success. For short-sighted thinking and long-winded talking, America's armchair generals are the knaves of the week.


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