[Marxism] We lack panache

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Nov 26 07:04:13 MST 2003

Hats Off to Our Boys
Joe Klein’s headgear solution for the counterinsurgency.

Just as I was about to give up all hope of ever figuring out why our 
occupation of Iraq isn’t working, Time magazine last week stepped in to 
save the day. In the Nov. 24 issue, legendary columnist Joe Klein–best 
known as the temporarily anonymous author of the temporarily sensational 
Primary Colors–informs us that the reason things aren’t going so rosily 
over there is that our fighting force is insufficiently dashing:

"We may now be at the beginning of a protracted global contest against 
Islamic radicalism, a conflict that will require more subtlety and 
sophistication than the planning for the occupation of Iraq. At a 
similar moment, in the 1960s, when the front lines of the cold war had 
spread from Germany to the Congo and Vietnam, John F. Kennedy announced 
his support for an augmented counterinsurgency Force–and gave those 
soldiers real panache by allowing them to wear headgear frowned upon by 
the traditional military: green berets."

The entire army wears berets now, and there’s a lesson in that.

So that’s the problem! We lack panache!

Klein makes a good point, of course. Without Kennedy’s brilliant 
innovation, we might never have won the Vietnam War. While it is true 
that we were beaten on the field of battle there by a gang of 
rice-eating midgets in pajamas, in the arena that matters–haute 
couture–we were the clear victors. The communists may have won Saigon 
and Haiphong, but what is that compared to Milan and Paris?

Klein’s argument, of course, is not that mere fashion superiority will 
lead to victory in Iraq. What he is trying to say is that creating a new 
elite corps of fighters–one with superior panache and, one would assume, 
better hats–would allow the government to attract a higher quality of 
young American to military service, one more capable of finishing the 
job over there. Here’s how he put it:

"Call them Extreme Peacekeepers or the Freedom Corps or whatever, but 
seek out the sort of people who aren’t normally inclined to join the 
military–idealistic college students who hope to become doctors, 
lawyers, politicians or engineers and are eager to do something noble 
(and burnish their resumes) by serving their country."

This one passage of Klein’s says just about everything you need to know 
about why the war effort in Iraq isn’t "working." Our current pro-war 
crowd simply doesn’t understand the emotional imperatives required of a 
conquering military society. You cannot lead people into the breach for 
the cause of "Freedom…or whatever." Language is more important than a 
hat. If you want to get people to run through gunfire and sulfur smoke 
with knives in their teeth, you need appropriate slogans: "Destroy the 
Seventh Snake!" "Ya Basta!" "Victory or Death!" Klein wants to use the 
language of a liberal arts college brochure to build a warrior society.

full: http://www.nypress.com/16/48/news&columns/cage.cfm


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