The crucible

For the past two or three years, as I liberal commentators have complained that the war in Iraq is “breaking” our army, I’ve wondered whether the war isn’t producing an offsetting advantage — the experience and knowledge our troops and their commanders are obtaining. The U.S., of course, would never fight a war for that reason, and even the most rabid left-wing conspiracy theorists have not suggested (to my knowledge) that we are doing so. But it seemed to me that a fair-minded analysis of the cost to our military of fighting in Iraq should also consider this potential benefit.
Today, Victor Davis Hanson describes part of that benefit — the ability to identify, and promote to the rank of general, the colonels who have excelled in Iraq. Noting several recent such promotions, and urging that there be more, Hanson writes:

It is often said that the military is worn out from the near continuous deployments to Iraq. Perhaps. But one way we can partially rectify that terrible burden, and gain advantage from that sacrifice, is to ensure over the next few years, that we promote to generals a cohort that proved itself repeatedly in battle in Iraq. We can ill afford to lose thousands of aggregate days of combat experience that may guide us in the future. That way the United States military for a generation will have sober, experienced, and savvy generals, who have served in the worst sorts of circumstances, to advise how and how not to approach any future conflicts.

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