Captain Ed has this piece on Eason Jordan in the Weekly Standard.
This blog began on February 17, 2003, exactly two years ago today.
Now that Michel Thomas has died, Roy Rivenburg feels free to “set the record straight” about Thomas’s claims of various wartime feats. (Via L.A. Observed.)
There has been a fair amount of shrill rhetoric directed against me due to my denunciation of Gen. Mattis’s counterproductive remarks about the joy of shooting wife-beaters. Most of it I won’t dignify with a link; it consists of people who got an emotional kick out of getting up on their virtual soapboxes and telling me off on this issue — and in the process twisted what I had said beyond all recognition.
To hear some of these folks tell it, all Gen. Mattis ever said was that he took a grim satisfaction in killing terrorists and murderers — as opposed to what he really said, which was that it’s “fun to shoot” men who slap around their wives. According to some, my condemnation of his remarks demonstrated a desire to emasculate our military, and turn them into a bunch of politically correct automatons.
But somewhere in all that noise, there have also been one or two reasonable people who have made a good case that I was too harsh in calling for some form of further discipline for the general.
Armed Liberal said that General Mattis’s remarks made him “wince . . . deeply,” but added:
I’ve met Gen. Mattis, shaken his hand and sat with him and discussed what he hoped to do when the 1st MEF returned to Iraq. And it was clear to me that he ‘got it’; that he was going to stop the bad guys and defend the good guys – who included the brutalized Iraqi people.
I had no doubt that he was a warrior, and all warriors have some germ of Genghis Khan in them, some desire to see their enemies trampled underfoot, their cities brought down amid tears.
But he knew, I felt then, how to place that impulse in context, and I continue to believe, based on the performance of his Marines, that he knew how to place that context into action, even when faced with a brutal enemy.
I think he slipped when he spoke, and while I disagree with Patterico and don’t believe an official reprimand was remotely called for, I do believe that a general officer ought to know better.
Fair enough. I have reflected on these comments for a few days.
I have also taken into account a comment from Dan at Riehl World View. His initial post had an element of the soapbox quality of the numerous posts that have attacked me. He called me “some dilettante typist with a blog and a law degree” and mocked the idea of winning hearts and minds. This is a milder version of the sort of invective I have seen in numerous right-wing blogs over the past few days.
But when I explained my position in a comment, Dan’s comment in response had a different tone from the post to which it was appended. I thought he made a reasonable argument. Here is the end of it:
War is ugly and brutal but also a reality, however grave. And I believe men returning from war are entitled to be treated and judged with “realistic” expectations under the circumstances. Consequently, while I may well agree with you that under general or common circumstances the types of statements made could be termed unnecessary and potentially counter- productive, I do not choose to apply such a standard to this individual at this particular time given his recent and positive contributions to the overall war effort.
In short, cut the guy a break. We asked him to travel halfway around the world and kill people for us. He did. That in and of itself is more than any man should ever be asked to do for his country, let alone potentially actually dying for it himself. Is it really necessary that we now ask of him just all that much more in service to his country at this precise moment in time? When I weigh all the factors in my mind – the answer for me is “no.”
I don’t entirely agree with this. I think that Gen. Mattis’s position as a general imposes on him the necessity for a higher degree of circumspection in his public remarks than we would expect from Marines of a lower rank. And I continue to believe that his remarks — as he phrased them — were entirely counterproductive. I think our government was right to quickly denounce them.
But I also think I may have been a little hasty in calling for harsh discipline for the general. Armed Liberal says that the general is truly a man who understands our need to wage an effective public relations campaign. This is a concept that many bloggers have brutally mocked in recent days, but it’s also a concept that we are stuck with, whether we like it or not. If Armed Liberal is right — and knowing him and his judgment, I believe that he is — then Gen. Mattis is just a man who slipped up in public remarks. Perhaps I should have cut him some more slack, as Dan suggests.
Gen. Mattis has been told he should have chosen his words more carefully. He has agreed. Perhaps that is enough.