At least since (arguably) the most significant battle in Western Civilization, the Battle of Salamis, nearly 2,500 years ago, military commanders have disagreed as to tactics. While historians herald Themistocles’ success in defeating the Persian armada, we all too often forget that before leading the Greeks to victory, that great leader had to first overcome the opposition of the Spartan commander Eurybiades. As anybody who has watched the movie Patton knows, two of the greatest (and most successful) generals of the Second World War, the American George S. Patton, Jr. and the British Bernard Law Montgomery frequently disagreed on how to prosecute the war.
Perhaps the The New York Times should have borne this in mind before choosing to place its article on retired generals calling for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation in a multi-column above-the-fold headline last week. To be sure, this is news, but not Page One news. It is important to know that not all military leaders support the Defense Secretary — and to understand their reasons for opposition. But, when its reporters suggest that this poses “a significant challenge to Mr. Rumsfeld’s leadership,” the New York Times attempts to make an everyday occurrence into and earth-shattering event.
Just as well-intentioned military commanders have disagreed throughout history, so have otherwise successful generals failed to meet the expectations of their nations and made significant mistakes on the road to victory. Although Churchill was initially disappointed by Montgomery’s “lack of success” in North Africa, that British General later succeeded in driving the Nazis off the continent. Before capturing Atlanta in the Civil War, General William Tecumseh Sherman ordered the tragic assault on Kennesaw Mountain. Similarly, we should not judge Rumsfeld’s entire record by his failure to meet each and every expectation and by blunders he and his subordinates have made in Iraq (and elsewhere).
Instead of understanding the reality of military history, the New York Times spins military commanders’ routine disagreement to fit its own view of the War in Iraq, that it is another Vietnam, a quagmire where the U.S. is doomed to defeat. While the Times and other critics of the Administration jump on this handful of critical commanders, others, retired generals and other senior officers as well as military scholars and pundits have risen to defend the Defense Secretary. Thus, it appears that their criticism, while representing (in most cases) a legitimate evaluation of our strategy in Iraq is not the consensus view of military leaders (current and retired) and other martial experts.
By the same logic that assumes those Rumsfeld critics to speak for the whole military, we (Bruce and myself) speak for the entire gay community. Like those generals, we have good intentions in criticizing the current leadership (in our case, of national gay organizations). In putting forward our point of view, we have made solid arguments based on the facts. And while we believe that our ideas are the best ones for the betterment of the community, our critics will remind us that most gay people, particularly gay activists, disagree with us. They are probably right.
But, if a handful of thoughtful, but disgruntled, generals can speak for the entire military, then a couple of thoughtful, but iconoclastic, gay conservatives can speak for the entire gay community. Joe Solmonese, you’re fired!
-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com