The Cowboy War

I didn’t watch much TV as a kid (so that explains it…) and so I’m not sure if the stereotype of the TV cowboy hero who always aims for his opponents gun, and manages to subdue the six or seven bad guys with his fists and a handy lasso was really a television character or just a caricature of one.

But it appears that the stereotype lives, in more ways than one, as we try and judge the progress of the war.

Because not only is the war effort being judged against the schedule of a 115-minute Hollywood feature, but we seem to expect that it will be managed according to the precision of a script written in Los Feliz, not in any reality anyone lives in.

Norm Geras writes (once again) the post that’s been kicking around in my head for a few months.He says, in reading the Atlantic interview with Wolfowitz:

But reading this interview brought something home to me. It brought home to me that I have never seen, in all the voluminous discussion since the liberation of Iraq from Saddam Hussein’s rule, anything from the anti-war camp (perhaps I just haven’t read widely enough) that made a distinction between mistakes and avoidable mistakes, or mistakes and culpable mistakes. Plainly what happened at Abu Ghraib was culpable and was worse than a mistake. But on the sundry other matters, unless you have a distinction between avoidable and culpable mistakes and other kinds of mistake, including for example mistakes understandable in the circumstances, unless you allow that some of the mistakes may have been due to the scope and nature of the undertaking itself, it suggests one of two things: either that the undertaking could have been carried out altogether smoothly and unproblematically; or that the criticism of mistakes is motivated more by an impulse to oppose than by a desire for the undertaking to succeed.

He doesn’t quote a key Wolfowitz quote from the article though:

“A fundamental flaw in the 9/11 report, absolutely fundamental, is that it assumes that if we had had perfect intelligence, we could have prevented the attacks. Therefore what we need is perfect intelligence. Instead of recognizing that you’ll never have perfect intelligence, which takes you down an entirely different policy route.”

On one of my email lists (which I don’t have enough time for either) a discussion devolved (as they tend to do) into 9/11 vs. Abu Ghraib. And one of those who wave prisoner brutality said:

I like the America where we’re the good guys. Not the America where we’re the not-as-bad-as-the-REALLY-bad guys. There’s a big difference.

To which I replied:

So that’s the fantasy America, then?

Because in the reality-based America where I live, we do bad things all the time. The good news is that we tend to do a far better job of self-correcting (note that the Abu Ghraib folks were already or about to be indicted when the story broke – the military justice folks had received the info, acted, and were busting the perps – one of whose lawyers released the imagery as a negotiating tactic) than, for example, the Greenpeace-killing French DSGE do.

I don’t know – Habeas Corpus and Andersonville in the Civil War, internment and slaughtered Dachau guards in World War II, I can think of lots of things that we’ve done in the past that I might wish – in a perfect world, with the benefit of the victory won and the luxury of hindsight – had not happened.

And I realized that there’s a basic issue – one that I’ve posted about before as I’m trying to work the issue out.

And it’s this: All actions and systems involve mistakes, are imperfect, have undesirable unforeseen consequences. We’re human, and fallible. We have imperfect information, we often act out of fear or prejudice or laziness or greed. This has been a part of the human condition as long as there has been a human condition to have. It is the root of tragedy, the most human of art forms.

The problem is that – at any level, from helping a child make a bed to making war – there are whole forests of bad outcomes along the trees of alternate future.

Are we more brutal to our prisoners than I wish we were? Absolutely. Are we too casual to collateral damage done in the pursuit of our military objectives? Assuredly. Do too many people die in freeway accidents? Of course. Do many people die because we have inadequate healthcare for poor people? yup.

I could go on.

The issue isn’t that litany of sad facts. It’s the basic question – as I once asked concerning Niall Ferguson’s silly column – Compared to what?

In an imaginary world in which we were omnipotent, yes, none of this would happen. We could identify our opponents with perfect accuracy, and disarm and restrain them without harming anyone. Once restrained, our procedures would be firm, gentle, and correct in every degree.

It’s funny, but I pretty much think that’s what we’re doing now, with a massively narrow span of error.

There have been what – 120 deaths of prisoners in Iraq? Out of perhaps 40,000 – 50,000 (I can’t find a hard number but this seems like the best I can assemble – if you have a source on this, leave it in the comments) who have been taken captive? So that’s a death rate of what – .3 percent?

1% of the German troops in Allied hands in World War II died. Some 1.3% of the Allied troops in German hands died, while 30% of the Allied troops in Japanese hands died.

Some 14.8% of the American troops held by the North Vietnamese died.

Am I happy about the .3% in Iraq? No. Not at all. Some folks on our side deserve to go to jail,and some will.

Am I happy when our troops make an error and brutalize, wound, or kill someone who doesn’t deserve it? No. But I’ll bet that we’re doing less of it than almost any army ever has in the past.

I’m happy that .3% are dying, rather than 1%. I want it to be 0%, but I recognize that we can’t achieve that level of perfection in our own jails.

No human social system can or is likely to achieve that level of perfection.

So what we have isn’t planning, it’s carping. And I use that belittling term deliberately; because they lack the courage to simply stand up and say the war is wrong, and because it’s wrong any outcome that flows from it is bad. Instead they take the very real .3% – the very real, ugly, brutal and wrong .3% – and say that “if only…”

If only doesn’t count.

What prisons would be if they were built in sound stages doesn’t count.

What war would be if John Milius and Oliver Stone wrote it doesn’t count.

Why do we take that fantasy into account? Because on some basic level, we assume that we’re the TV cowboy, and that the bad guys can fire all the bullets they want and the only thing that will happen is that our authentic Western sidekick will get a hole in his hat. They assume that we’re omnipotent and omnisicent.

We’re not.

We’re never good enough to be perfect.

But we are good enough to win, and to be worth winning for.

27 thoughts on “The Cowboy War”

  1. A.L.,

    This NYT article claims 26 homicide investigations. You may be correct about 120 having died in custody but expected morbidity within a population of 50,000 individuals at age 25 would be about 50 per year in the US. In Iraq under Saddam it may have been a bit higher.

    The Pentagon number of those in custody is 50,000 so the percentage would be .24% rather than .3%. Your point about comparatives leads to a “never in history has any army” phrasing. It’s not carping. It’s sedition.

  2. I find myself continually surprised that, for a segment of the population, anything that even slightly discomfits an enemy prisoner is evidence of a brutal American regime… while at the same time, in our own prisons, it’s almost a byword that a significant proportion of the population will be sodomized by other prisoners. And cheered, if the perpetrator is a white-collar criminal!

    So which is it? Either there’s a large population of Islamic prisoners who are curiously reticent about complaining about being raped by their fellow inmates, or the military is actually doing a really good job compared to the civilians who run prisons.

  3. Armed, you reminded me of this “amritas post”:http://www.amritas.com/050625.htm#06210436

    “Tokusatsu is generally darker than its American counterpart in this respect. *While American superheroes uphold codes against killing, Japanese heroes kill all the time. Not because they enjoy it, but because they have to. The truly evil are not open to negotiation. They must die.* (Now you can see where I get my foreign policy stance from.)

    A lot of American superhero comics seem to be overly elaborate games played between guys in costumes. I don’t care for games, and neither do my favorite tokusatsu heroes. They wage war. For ‘real’.”

  4. Too many on the left believe in a utopian, socialist, ideal world which requires fundamental ignorance of, or change in, human nature. Ignorance of human nature leads to their ongoing support of the worst brutes in history (Castro, Hussein, Mao) while attempting to change human nature has lead to some of the worst brutality in history (Pol Pot, the Gulags). I suspect many on the left are unaware of the way in which their politics depends on the fantasy of a perfect wortld, but we see it everyday in the demands for perfection from our military, rather than recognizing, as AL makes the point, that we are imperfect, make mistakes, sometimes do evil things, but try to self correct as much as possible.

  5. It’s not just the war either. We are living in an environment of people second guessing the decisions of; police, lawyers, politicians. These people who are doing the carping all seem to get their ideas about gun play, about how the courts work, how political deals are made, from tv shows. It’s an interesting phenomena to be sure, but it’s playing havoc out there.

  6. AL,

    Geras is getting at the difference between being wrong and being negligent: the first carries, in principle at least, no penalty in our legal system. And telling the difference between the two is essential: a negligent leader MUST be driven from office or removed from command, but a wrong one shouldn’t be unless there’s some reason to think someone else would be wrong less often. “Who dares, wins,” but those who dare will be wrong a certain amount.

    The difference has, I think, been blurred a substantial amount in our culture; anyone who gets hurt demands compensation, and will probably get it, even if the injury is a foreseeable risk and the responsible party took all reasonable precautions.

    It’s only natural that our popular legal culture’s failure to distinguish between wrong and negligent should leak over into politics as well.

  7. AL:

    General Myers says *68,000*:

    bq. We’ve had 68,000 detainees since this conflict against violent extremism started. We’ve had 325 investigations into alleged abuse. We’ve had 100 cases of substantiated abuse and there are 100 individuals that have had some sort of action taken, either court-martial or administrative action,” Gen. Myers said.

    “Washington Times”:http://washingtontimes.com/national/20050530-124306-4730r.htm

  8. About the number of deaths among captives, Leon H. of Redstate recently wrote an illuminating post that I highly recommend.

    Of note:
    108 prisoners have died while in US custody.

    At least 26 have been investigated as criminal homicides involving possible abuse.

    At least 29 are attributed to suspected natural causes or accident.

    22 died during an insurgent mortar attack on April 6, 2004, on Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

    At least 21 are attributed to “justifiable homicide,” when U.S. troops used deadly force against rioting, escaping or threatening prisoners and investigations found the troops acted appropriately.

  9. The Army investigation report is also a good source of “statistics.”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/nation/documents/usa_crim_investigation_command.pdf (pdf)

    * 27 deaths arising from 24 incidents have been determined to be homicides or suspected homicides.

    * 12 of the 24 incidents occurred at the point of capture.

    * 8 out of the incidents are still being investigated by the Army, while 5 have been referred to other agencies for investigation(Navy, etc.)

  10. Of course those who believe in central planning as the path to their ideal society will believe you should run a perfect war – they’re two sides of the same rotten coin.

    Throw in their basic hostility to the military and the USA as a whole, and you get a self-reinforcing feedback loop between their delusions of control and their hates. The one is used to justify the other, and vice-versa, and around it goes…

    “Ralph Peters has it exactly right in ‘Gitmo Cocktail'”:http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/1424450/posts?page=16 – and columnist “Mark Steyn backs it up nicely:”:http://eddriscoll.com/archives/007246.php

    bq. “So, until Guantanamo, America was “viewed as a leader in human rights”? Not in 2004, when Abu Ghraib was the atrocity du jour. Not in 2003, when every humanitarian organization on the planet was predicting the deaths of millions of Iraqis from cholera, dysentery and other diseases caused by America’s “war for oil.” Not in 2002, when the “human rights” lobby filled the streets of Vancouver and London and Rome and Sydney to protest the Bushitler’s plans to end the benign reign of good King Saddam. Not the weekend before 9/11 when the human rights grandees of the U.N. “anti-racism” conference met in South Africa to demand America pay reparations for the Rwandan genocide and to cheer Robert Mugabe to the rafters for calling on Britain and America to “apologize unreservedly for their crimes against humanity.” If you close Gitmo tomorrow, the world’s anti-Americans will look around and within 48 hours alight on something else for Gulag of the Week.”

    All from the same people, of course, who did everything they could to suppress or ignore the real Gulags of the Soviet Union – and continue to do so for their counterparts in Cuba, China, North Korea et. al.

    This is not a rational phenomenon. It will not be solved by persuasion, any more than the Klan was solved by persuasion.

    It will be solved, instead, by relentlessly pressing on to victory. Victory in the war abroad. And victory at home that extends beyond the political sphere, to brings key American institutions back into balance with America’s public.

  11. The Red State post is good. I think it uses older numbers than my Army report. One disagreement though. This issue is talked about generally as a prison abuse issue, but as the subsequent Army report indicated, roughly half of the deaths occur at the point of contact (combat). Red State suggests a desire to see a comparison with the U.S. civilian prison population, but the more accurate comparison would be deaths from the point in time the police take a suspect into custody, up to, and including permanent prison placement.

    The data is available. In 2002, prison inmates died at a rate of 246 per 100,000 inmates (0.246%) “pdf”:http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/hivpj02.pdf Most of these are probably dying of old age, so its really a different population to compare.

  12. I should clarify, the data on prison deaths is available, which is what I cited. I am not aware of data on deaths during police custody (or temporary incarceraton awaiting trial).

  13. bq. “So what we have isn’t planning, it’s carping. And I use that belittling term deliberately; because they lack the courage to simply stand up and say the war is wrong, and because it’s wrong any outcome that flows from it is bad. Instead they take the very real .3% – the very real, ugly, brutal and wrong .3% – and say that “if only…””

    You’re putting an awful lot of words in the other side’s mouths here… which is not typical for you, AL.

    By and large, this is a superbly written, heartfelt post, but at its core it has this odd bit of reasoning which suggests that the _real_ reason people are upset about (what, exactly? Iraq? Abu Ghraib? Gitmo?) doesn’t have to do with the mistreatment itself, or with sneaking suspicions that the administration is endorsing this stuff, but because they’re just sniping away at the war while being too chicken to challenge it directly. I’d think you’d want to give your opponents the courtesy of making that stand themselves, rather than reading their minds for them.

    Beyond that, your post seems a bit dangerous because, although everything you say about the impossibility of perfection is true, none of that in and of itself is an _excuse_ for imperfection. When you sit around quantifying prisoner deaths in terms of tenths of a percentage, and lamenting the left’s inability to understand human fallibility, you’re losing focus on what the real goal should be. More importantly, even if you’re not on the slippery slope the left seems so hyped up about, you’re putting ourselves in a position where it _looks_ like you are.

  14. But Chris, that’s exactly what I’m criticizing them for. Instead of standing up and triggering an honest debate – which would put us back to the “how else do you derail Islamofascism?” question, their response is – “well, you’re doing it badly…” …as if were conditions in Guantanimo perfect in every way, their objections to the war would vanish (hint: I don’t think they would).

    Nothing in my post is intended to excuse imperfection or belittle the real moral and physical damage it does. But I’m also calling for a – realistic – assessment of what that damage is, and for doing so by asking “compared to what?”

    A.L.

  15. bq. “But Chris, that’s exactly what I’m criticizing them for. Instead of standing up and triggering an honest debate – which would put us back to the “how else do you derail Islamofascism?” question, their response is – “well, you’re doing it badly…” …as if were conditions in Guantanimo perfect in every way, their objections to the war would vanish (hint: I don’t think they would).”

    I had a bit of a hard time parsing through this paragraph. That said:

    – I realize what you’re accusing them of, I just don’t like the fact that you’re attributing motives to them that you haven’t fully supported.

    – That said, yes, almost assuredly some (but not all) of the people arguing against mistreatment are against the war. However, given that the honest debate (or as near as possible) was had in the 2004 election, and they lost, what else is left for them to do but talk about this kind of stuff? And does the issue become less valid depending on the motives of the person who brings it up?

    bq. “Nothing in my post is intended to excuse imperfection or belittle the real moral and physical damage it does. But I’m also calling for a – realistic – assessment of what that damage is, and for doing so by asking “compared to what?””

    The _realistic_ assessment of what that damage is is that we’re far superior to our foriegn enemies, both now and in the past. The conduct of the US is also, in most respects, better than the country’s conduct in wars past… although it’s not being percieved that way by many people inside and outside the US, and that’s a problem, regardless of if the perception’s accurate or not.

    But the answer to “compared to what?” is “compared to what else we could be doing.” And while we can’t always do more to fix things, I think in this case we can. My personal take is that free Korans, decent meals and arrows pointing to Mecca are all well and good, but regardless of how blameless the administration actually is, the war could be prosecuted more effectively if the administration took steps to quash any appearance that they were condoning anything close to torture.

  16. “Plainly what happened at Abu Ghraib was culpable and was worse than a mistake.”

    Get off it. What happened at Abu Ghraib was a misdemeanor and not much of one at that. It was the same sort of hazing that goes at College Fraternities and S&M parlors all over all the time.

    Here is a description:

    “Over the course of this lengthy scene, the king feasts serenely on a banquet as five bound infidels lie naked and quivering in front of his table. Executioners duct tape the mouths of the captives and then slowly douse them with gasoline. They are then strung up by their ankles and hoisted high in the air, spinning precariously as they go. The executioners spark their lighters, raising them up toward their dangling prey as the curtain falls. …

    … The Pasha Salim drags the captured heroine Konstanze around on a leash and locks her in a cage. Osmin slits the throat and cuts off the nipples of a prostitute. There is rape and masturbation, drugs, suicide and the drinking of urine. …”

    Of recent Opera Productions in Berlin!

    If it was so trivial, why the attention to Abu Ghraib. Why did the official newspaper of the Democrat Party (the NYTimes) run 45 front page articles about it?

    The question answers itself. The sole purpose of the MSM and the Democrats has been to delegitimate the Administration, the Military and the GWoT. And they do not care what the consequences are. For them it is rule or ruin and they pray for the former, but would rather have the later rather than see their opponents in power.

    And that is all there is to it.

  17. What’s fascinating about the polling that shows only a small fraction of the American public thinking the detainees at Guantanamo are being mistreated is that this result occurs despite the full court press by the media and Democrats exaggerating reality and the failure of the administration to do any significant PR responses.

    Another failed strategy of the Democrats.

  18. Maybe we should hand all of this over to the A-Team. They always won and the death ratio on both sides was always 0. They might not provide enough boots on the ground, but I bet they would be cheaper. This is about a realistic as most of the Left’s ideas.

    Scott

  19. _” have never seen, in all the voluminous discussion since the liberation of Iraq from Saddam Hussein’s rule, anything from the anti-war camp (perhaps I just haven’t read widely enough) that made a distinction between mistakes and avoidable mistakes, or mistakes and culpable mistakes.”_

    Worse yet is the characterization of *mistakes* (the failure to find WMDs) as _lies._ This inability to make this distinction completely degrades civil discourse, making our politics increasingly poisonous. While some surely desire that, I suspect most of us do not. Yet this language makes it impossible to have a rational discussion with someone who opposes the war.

  20. Chris (and A.L.)

    I see what Chris is after but I do not think that A.L. is really “losing focus on what the real goal should be.” He’s made it clear that he’d like to see continuing improvements in the system by which prisoners are collected and housed. Equally clear, however, is that by comparison with any previous real-world prisoner detainment efforts, the Coalition has done extraordinarily well. And yet Gitmo – where *no one* has died in custody – is being compared often and loudly by significant figures on the Left to some of the worst atrocities in history.

    I don’t think it is at all unreasonable to put “words in the other side’s mouths here” when their behavior simply denies any other explanation. If 0.3% of prisoners perish during capture or housing when America acts (and we investigate each case and punish wrongdoing where found) then it seems clear that the we are NOT systematically abusing prisoners.

    By what rational standard can Gitmo thus be compared to the Soviet Gulag or the Nazi concentration camps where the vast majority perished? None! There can be only one explanation for the rage-filled denunciations of America: these attacks have little to do with the expressed cause (prisoner abuse) and everything to do with the political motivations of the protesting party. It is simply naive to believe otherwise.

    The only question, then, is which individuals are motivated by base political opportunism, which are simply ignorant, and which of these people are really trying to forge an Islamofascist / Hard Left alliance to bring down liberal democracy. As incredibly uncomfortable as it is to face, I cannot help but conclude that significant portions of the hard left harbor the same reactionary hatred for modernity that the Islamic Jihadists do. They simply have a different set of tools and methods to express their Jihad.

  21. bq. I don’t think it is at all unreasonable to put “words in the other side’s mouths here” when their behavior simply denies any other explanation. If 0.3% of prisoners perish during capture or housing when America acts (and we investigate each case and punish wrongdoing where found) then it seems clear that the we are NOT systematically abusing prisoners.

    Wildmonk-

    This is incorrect on two counts. First, there are certainly other explanations for the arguments of the left. I know people across the whole spectrum of the left (and across the spectrum of the right.) While it is true that blind hatred of the President increases the further from the middle you go, the overriding concern for the vast majority of people I know concerned about torture isn’t some secret cabal of resistance to the war, but simply concern that their country is doing things that (perhaps out of naivete) they never thought it would. You and AL can suppose whatever you like, but I know it’s not the case.

    Second, it’s simply logically incorrect to say that a low percentage of prisoner deaths means that no systematic abuse is going on: abuse doesn’t necessarily lead to death.

    And last, it’s my opinion that when you start talking about a “Hard Left/Islamofacist” alliance, you’ve crossed the line into a conspiracy theory, just as much as those who suggest that GWB really “knew” about 9/11 ahead of time. Let’s keep to productive areas of discussion.

  22. Robert Schwartz (comment #19) you are absolutely correct. In my opinion, the real crime committed at Abu Ghraib was the taking of photo’s and their subsequent publication. Whoever did that deserves to spend many, many years in Leavenworth.

  23. Geras makes a very good point about culpable mistakes and inadvertent miscues that are part of any complex undertaking. However, I think this whole discussion is giving liberals much more credit than they deserve. How many liberals made public statements of concern about collateral damage in the bombing of Serbia? How about the caravan of refugees on the bridge that were mistaken for a military column? How about bombing the Chinese Embassy? I did a Lexis search on those events and there wasn’t a single Democrat/Liberal who publicly criticized any of those “mistakes” and, at least in regard to the Chinese Embassy, they were culpable mistakes. If the President were a Democrat liberals would be defending the low mortality rate in our military prisons. I don’t believe there is an ounce of sincerity in the public statements made by Democrats. They want to harm George Bush anyway they can and if the interests of the country are also harmed as a result, so be it.

    This applies even to moonbats like Susan Sontag before she passed away. She wrote an article for the New Yorker explaining why Kosovo was a just war and that the harm to civilians was a necessary evil in pursuit of the greater good of stopping ethnic cleansing. Then she was an outspoken opponent of the Iraq war even though the number of people killed by Saddam was ten times larger than the number of people killed in ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. Susan Sarandan and Tim Robbins didn’t say boo about civilian casualties in Serbia. As much as it pains me to do so, I have to give credit to the one exception that proves the rule. Michael Moore made several public criticisms of the war in Kosovo. At least he is consistent sometimes.

  24. VDH had a very good essay on this topic, as he discussed “the many intel failures, blunders, et. al. one must expect in wartime:”:http://www.nationalreview.com/hanson/hanson200407160827.asp

    bq.. “Pre-invasion intelligence — despite ULTRA and a variety of brilliant analysts who had done so well to facilitate our amphibious landings — had no idea of what war in the hedgerows would be like. How can you spend months spying out everything from beach sand to tidal currents and not invest a second into investigating the nature of the tank terrain a few miles from the beach? The horrific result was that the Allies were utterly unprepared for the disaster to come — and died by the thousands in the bocage of June and July.

    …Prewar America had the know-how to build big, well-armored tanks, with diesel engines, wide tracks, and low silhouettes. Yet General George Marshall had deliberately chosen lighter, cheaper designs — the idea being that thousands of mass-produced, easily maintained 32-ton Shermans could run over enemy infantry before encountering a rarer, superior 43-ton Panther or 56-ton Tiger. Should he have been removed for such naiveté, which led to thousands of American dead? Whom to blame?

    Similar blunders ensured that Americans had inferior anti-tank weapons, machine guns, and mortars when they met the seasoned Wehrmacht. On the Normandy battlefield itself, on at least three occasions, faulty communications, tactical breakdowns, bad intelligence, and simple operational laxity resulted in Americans blown apart by their own heavy bombers as they were trying to facilitate breakouts. Almost as many Allied soldiers were casualties in a collective few hours of misplaced bombing than all those killed so far in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    …The subsequent Battle of the Bulge was a result of a colossal American intelligence failure. Somehow 250,000 Nazis, right under the noses of the Americans, were able to mount a counteroffensive with absolute surprise. For all of our own failure to account for the missing WMD, so far an enemy army of 250,000 has not, as it once did in December 1945, assembled unnoticed a few miles from our theater base camps. Whom to blame?

    We know about the horrific German massacres of American prisoners, but little about instances of Americans’ shooting German captives well before the Battle of the Bulge. Such murdering was neither sanctioned by American generals nor routine — but nevertheless it was not uncommon in the heat of battle and the stress of war. No inquiry cited Generals Hodges, Patton, or Bradley as responsible for rogue soldiers shooting unarmed prisoners. Whom to blame?

    …I could go on, but the point is clear. War is a horrendous experience in which the side that wins commits the fewest mistakes, rather than no errors at all.

    In the short period between June and August 1944, military historians can adduce hundreds of examples of American amateurism, failed intelligence, incompetent logistics, and strategic blundering — but not enough of such errors to nullify the central truth of the Normandy invasion. A free people and its amazing citizen army liberated France and went on in less than a year to destroy veteran Nazi forces in the West, and to occupy Germany to end the war. Good historians, then, keep such larger issues in mind, even as they second-guess and quibble with the tactical and strategic pulse of the battlefield.

    We should do the same.”

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