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As Long as We Remember...

February 15, 2007

Learn From History - or Repeat It

Chris Cavey

While reading a book about Gen. George Washington's trials and tribulations during the Revolutionary War and the battles which were fought, parallels came to mind while thinking of our current war in the Middle East. The thoughts were disturbing.

The British were arguably the most powerful nation on earth in 1776. Soldiers were well equipped for the era with long rifles that carried 18-inch bayonets. The British Navy was big, fast and powerful. War ships numbered in the hundreds and some carried up to 96 cannons ready to bombard a weaker enemy.

Their troops were battle hardened. Officers were well trained, formally educated; and most were in career service to their king and country. Yet, as we know, they lost the prolonged war waged an ocean away.

Conversely, General Washington had a rabble of unorganized, unkempt, and at many times undernourished men under his command. His officers were dedicated, but mostly inexperienced in the art of battle, although they understood how to hunt wild animals for survival. Washington's advantage, however, was two-fold.

First, he had a home field advantage. He knew the lay of the land or, at minimum, many of his men knew the nooks and hamlets of their own backyard. He knew who within each town were Tory sympathizers, who could be trusted and who could act as his spies to gather intelligence from within the enemy's ranks.

Second, the valiant patriots who fought did so driven by a near religious passion. Their desires to defeat their British foes ranked higher in importance that devotion to their families.

Perhaps most importantly the patriot rabble did not play by the conventional rules of war. They attacked by night. They hid and ran after shooting their prey. Patriots were not in traditional battle formation and rank. The British considered them savages.

Those who currently serve and have served in our military are the most honored of Americans. To defend and protect our country's values and honor is the highest of duties. We as a government survive only because of the sacrifice of our military.

My fear is that we are in a similar trap as the one the British faced in 1776. We are the most powerful nation on earth and have war capabilities unlike any other nation: educated troops, the latest weaponry, and instantaneous intelligence just to name a few power advantages. Yet we continue to be at war with a presumably weaker enemy, which we consider rabble.

Like the British of 1776, we are not fighting the same war even though we are on the same foreign battleground as our known enemy. Our war is a distant war of economics while our enemy's war is one of religious zeal. We must realize that the history lesson of 1776 shows passion will defeat duty, if we are not careful.

Political leaders must take the non-political correct stand of winning a war regardless of the cost to our enemy. That is what war is about. No war is nice, clean or politically correct. War is an abomination, which at times man must suffer through because man brings this fate on himself.

We must sift through the mysteries of government and collectively make a decision to allow our courageous armed forces to win this war, rather than linger the slow deaths of our troops and our economy. We must understand that our enemy fights for the destiny of their immortal life and not out of duty to their commander-in-chief.

Today we need to bring up the "ships with 96 cannons, set our 18-inch bayonets, and use our long rifles" to defeat our enemy in the Middle East. If not, we will suffer the same fate as British General William Howe at the Battle of Long Island in August 1776.

George Washington's troops could have been captured and defeated at that perilous point of the war. Instead General Howe's uninformed arrogance and the bravery of the men from "the Old Line State" allowed the small army of American patriots to slip away by night to fight another day.

We know the eventual outcome of Howe's mistake, the unwashed rabble known as "Americans" went on to win their first war - driven by their passion without regard to the British political correctness of the day.

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