- - Tuesday, August 2, 2016

In serving as commander in chief, the president’s character, actions and words are pivotal to military morale and victory.

Napoleon advised, “An army’s effectiveness depends on its size, training, experience, and morale, and morale is worth more than all of the other factors combined.”

President Abraham Lincoln’s profound respect for the sacrifices of Union soldiers and families boosted morale and helped defeat the Confederacy. In his Gettysburg Address, Lincoln diminished his immortal words and elevated what soldiers had done on the battlefield:

“…we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.

Lincoln held a public reception at the White House after his second inauguration. Two of the visitors were Army nurse Adelaide W. Smith and Lieutenant Gosper, using a crutch because his leg had been shot away in a skirmish before Petersburg. As recounted in Carl Sandburg’s Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years and the War Years, Lincoln stepped out before the two of them, took the hand of the Lieutenant, and in an unforgettable voice said, “God bless you, my boy.”

The visitors moved on with the Lieutenant beaming and saying to Ada Smith, “Oh! I’d lose another leg for a man like that.”

In little more than a month, Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Court House.

Let us consider Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, respectively, as commanders in chief, and assess their probable impact on military morale — the cornerstone of military victory according to Napoleon.

Mr. Trump mildly supported sending men and women to Iraq to risk that last full measure of devotion prior to the March 2003 invasion. On September 11, 2002, during a Howard Stern radio interview, he was asked whether he supported the impending war. Mr. Trump responded: “Yeah, I guess so.”

One of the men Mr. Trump approved dispatching to Iraq was Army Capt. Humayun Khan. He had enrolled in the ROTC at the University of Virginia before the 9/11 abominations. From Iraq, Army Capt. Khan spoke to his mother on Mother’s Day 2004. He gently rebuked her plea to eschew risks with words which should live for the ages: “Mom, these are my soldiers, these are my people. I have to take care of them.”

Capt. Khan was later killed by a car bomber outside the gates of his base attempting to save his soldiers and innocent civilians — perhaps his finest hour. He was the type of soldier Lincoln had immortalized at Gettysburg, and was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

In a recent ABC interview, Mr. Trump insinuated that sacrifices that he had made were comparable to the ultimate sacrifice of Capt. Kahn: “I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices. I work very very hard. I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs.”

If there are better ways to deflate the morale of the armed forces, they do not readily come to mind. Brian Duffy, the national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, commented: “There are certain sacrosanct subjects that no amount of wordsmithing can repair once crossed.” Compare Lincoln’s letter to Mrs. Bixby who had sacrificed five sons in the Civil War:

“Dear Madam,—
“I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.
“I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.
“I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.”

Donald Trump would be no Abraham Lincoln as commander in chief.

As for Hillary Clinton, Capt. Kahn would never have died in Iraq if it were not for the gratuitous, multitrillion-dollar ongoing war that she jump-started with her 2002 vote in the U.S. Senate. She sent American soldiers into harm’s way with the irresponsibility of Marie Antoinette. She neglected to read the 92-page National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction that had helped to persuade Sens. Bob Graham (Florida Democrat) and Patrick Leahy (Vermont Democrat) to oppose the Authorization to Use Military Force Against Iraq. She errantly insisted that Saddam Hussein’s possession of WMD and harboring al Qaeda were undisputed, when the NIE she had neglected to read challenged those conclusions.

Mrs. Clinton argued: “In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members, though there is apparently no evidence of his involvement in the terrible events of September 11, 2001.”

Thirteen years later in 2015, Mrs. Clinton grudgingly conceded that her Iraq vote was a “mistake.” In her earlier intellectually benumbing “Memoir, Hard Choices,” she defensively asserts: “I thought I had acted in good faith and made the best decision I could with the information she had.” Her recollection was faulty. She chose not to read the 92-page NIE in her possession, which might have persuaded her to oppose the Iraqi war.

After learning that her twin factual premises for the Iraqi war were false, and that the prospect of making Iraq a bellwether democracy in the Arab Middle East was delusional, Mrs. Clinton refused to advocate an end to our military engagement there to avoid new Capt. Khans. As of this writing, there are approximately 5,000 U.S. military personnel in Iraq, and Mrs. Clinton is clamoring for more. Last March, Staff Sgt. Louis F. Cardin was killed defending an autocratic, Shiite Iraqi government that is closely allied with Iran and at war with Israel. Mrs. Clinton can’t even define what victory in Iraq would look like beyond the obscene blather of “I’ll know it when I see it.”

If she were genuinely concerned with military morale, Mrs. Clinton would be emulating Congressman Walter Jones (North Carolina Republica), who similarly regrets his vote to support the multitrillion dollar Iraq war caper. The congressman has written more than 2,000 letters to the families of U.S. soldiers, sailors and Marines killed in the ongoing conflict, which he vocally opposes. He writes additional letters every Saturday, alone in his office in Greenville. He related to Mother Jones magazine: “I can do four or five letters, and then I have to stop and do something else. And then I come back and do another five.”

Outside his Washington office on the third floor of the House Rayburn Office Building, Congressman Jones pays additional homage to American soldiers killed in Iraq by displaying their photographs.

I am certain that American military officers and enlistees would, to borrow from Lt. Gosper, lose another leg for a man like Walter Jones as commander in chief. Do you think they would do the same for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton?

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