The Beholder and You
I hope you’re all preparing for the next Tet Offensive in Iraq. We’ve had about fifteen or twenty so far, and I’m expecting the next one will occur over the three weeks (or so) leading up to the Iraqi elections at the end of January.
And, as many have already pointed out, it was sixty years ago that the Germans launched their Ardennes counter-offensive, which history usually refers to as the Battle of the Bulge. (Link via Intel Dump.)
In 1944, the German army, portrayed by many to be on it’s last legs, struck unexpectedly and quite successfully, knocking a huge salient into our lines.
In 1968 something similar (big-picture thinking, here, folks…don’t comment or email me to point out that the VC didn’t use Tiger tanks or some such…) happened in Vietnam.
In both cases the Allies were surprised and knocked for a loop. In both cases our forces (and/or the forces of our allies) suffered severe casualties. In both cases if we had been more prepared, if we had had more troops in the right place at the right time, if we had equipped the troops involved more fully, if our intelligence had been better, maybe things would have been different.
But, again in both cases, at the conclusion of the battle the enemy forces were shattered and our armies firmly in control of what the enemy sought to take from us.
Yet one battle was a storied victory and the other a crushing defeat.
Every Tet Offensive so far in Iraq has ended in US victory, though some more storied than others. Why aren’t these spates of enemy activity called Ardennes Offensives?
Because it’s in the eye of the beholder.
No. Not you. You’re simply a viewer of a finished product.
The beholders whose eyes count are those that interpret events and pass them on to you for digestion. Dan Rather, CNN, and Murdoc Payday Online are all beholders.
A few rebels among you insist on thinking for yourselves. Some of you agree with some of the beholders. Some of you don’t.
So when you hear about the next Tet Offensive, remember the previous Tet Offensives. The original wasn’t a loss because we were defeated on the field of battle. It was a loss because we were told by the beholders that we had been defeated. And we believed them.
And many of them are still trying to play that game. In fact, you can find message boards and blogs that very clearly express their deep-rooted HOPE that the Tet Offensive mentality catches on. And you don’t have to look very hard to find them.
In late December of 1944, if CNN and their ilk had had correspondents at the front or in surrounded Bastogne (sort of an accidental Khe Sahn), things would have looked grim, indeed. Do you think that Americans might have heard about the lack of cold-weather clothing or winter camouflage? Do you think that maybe Americans would have heard about our airpower advantage neutralized by something as mundane as foul weather? Do you think Americans would have heard all about the poor Belgian citizens who had it hard enough even before the clashing armies decided to battle in their fields and cities? Valid points, to be sure.
But the war was proceeding toward victory. Certainly full of blood and gore and misery and tragedy, as wars are wont to produce such things, but proceeding toward victory nonetheless.
If and when someone screams that the latest Tet Offensive has begun, remind them that maybe, just maybe, it’s the latest Ardennes Offensive instead.