Just Because It’s Symbolic Doesn’t Mean It Isn’t Important

In this post I write about two quite different things, united by the theme of the importance of symbols. First, Taliban fighters took American Army uniforms left behind in Joe Biden’s disorganized skedaddle from Afghanistan and used them to create a mocking image of Iwo Jima:

You can say that this is “only” symbolic, that we haven’t really been humiliated by a bunch of primitive terrorists. But symbols can be powerful, and this one is especially galling because it capitalizes on the fact that the Biden administration couldn’t even be bothered to bring our war-fighting materiel with us–not just uniforms, but airplanes, helicopters, guns, ammunition, night-vision goggles, and so on–when we bugged out of Afghanistan. To the victor goes the spoils, but the spoils didn’t have to include millions or billions of dollars in military equipment.

Then we have the inflation in military honors. Increasingly, it seems that the fewer battles military commanders have won, the more medals adorn their chests. A friend sent this graphic, contrasting the medals worn by Dwight Eisenhower, victor of the Second World War and organizer of the Normandy invasion, still the greatest logistical feat in world history, with those that adorn David Petraeus, architect of our Afghanistan strategy:

One thinks too of Ulysses Grant, my favorite historical figure, who habitually wore a private’s shirt with stars on his shoulders, and no other decorations. When you win the Civil War and preserve your country, you don’t have to look for extra ribbons to bedeck your uniform.

To be fair, if you do an image search you can find a photo or two of Eisenhower wearing a few more medals, although still nothing remotely like the modern standard, as exemplified not only by David Petraeus, who I think had considerable merit, but also by Mark Milley, current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs who was in charge of the Afghanistan fiasco. Milley, in my view, should resign forthwith:

Has Milley ever been a successful commander? Ever won a battle? I don’t know, but I will say with confidence that he is no Dwight Eisenhower, and certainly no Ulysses Grant. Inflation of military honors is symbolic and some may consider it unimportant, but I think it is part of the general deterioration of standards that we see everywhere in our country.

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