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Friday, April 15, 2011

Do the Republican Generals Have the Stomach for the Fight?

“The opportunity to secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.” — Sun Tzu

A few years ago my brother and I spent a week touring some of the Civil War battlefields in Maryland and Virginia. One of those battlefields was Antietam. he Battle of Antietam (also known as the Battle of Sharpsburg, particularly in the South), fought on September 17, 1862, near Sharpsburg, Maryland, and Antietam Creek, as part of the Maryland Campaign, was the first major battle in the American Civil War to take place on Northern soil. It was the bloodiest single-day battle in American history, with about 23,000 casualties.

After pursuing Confederate General Robert E. Lee into Maryland, Union Army Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan launched attacks against Lee's army, in defensive positions behind Antietam Creek. At dawn on September 17, Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker's corps mounted a powerful assault on Lee's left flank. Attacks and counterattacks swept across Miller's cornfield and fighting swirled around the Dunker Church. Union assaults against the Sunken Road eventually pierced the Confederate center, but the Federal advantage was not followed up. In the afternoon, Union Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside's corps entered the action, capturing a stone bridge over Antietam Creek and advancing against the Confederate right. At a crucial moment, Confederate Maj. Gen. A.P. Hill's division arrived from Harpers Ferry and launched a surprise counterattack, driving back Burnside and ending the battle. Although outnumbered two-to-one, Lee committed his entire force, while McClellan sent in less than three-quarters of his army, enabling Lee to fight the Federals to a standstill. During the night, both armies consolidated their lines. In spite of crippling casualties, Lee continued to skirmish with McClellan throughout September 18, while removing his battered army south of the Potomac River.

Despite having superiority of numbers, McClellan's attacks failed to achieve force concentration, allowing Lee to counter by shifting forces and moving interior lines to meet each challenge. Despite ample reserve forces that could have been deployed to exploit localized successes, McClellan failed to destroy Lee's army. Nevertheless, Lee's invasion of Maryland was ended, and he was able to withdraw his army back to Virginia without interference from the cautious McClellan. Although the battle was tactically inconclusive, it had significance as enough of a victory to give President Abraham Lincoln the confidence to announce his Emancipation Proclamation, which discouraged the British and French governments from potential plans for recognition of the Confederacy.

President Lincoln was disappointed in McClellan's performance. He believed that McClellan's cautious and poorly coordinated actions in the field had forced the battle to a draw rather than a crippling Confederate defeat. Historian Stephen Sears agrees. “In making his battle against great odds to save the Republic, General McClellan had committed barely 50,000 infantry and artillerymen to the contest. A third of his army did not fire a shot. Even at that, his men repeatedly drove the Army of Northern Virginia to the brink of disaster, feats of valor entirely lost on a commander thinking of little beyond staving off his own defeat.”

General McClellan also failed to maintain the trust of Lincoln, and proved to be frustratingly derisive of, and insubordinate to, his commander-in-chief. After he was relieved of command, McClellan became the unsuccessful Democratic nominee opposing Lincoln in the 1864 presidential election. His party had an anti-war platform, promising to end the war and negotiate with the Confederacy, which McClellan was forced to repudiate, damaging the effectiveness of his campaign. He served as the 24th Governor of New Jersey from 1878 to 1881.

Lincoln replaced McClellan with General Burnside who Lincoln replaced after the slaughter of the Union Army at the battle of Fredericksburg. It was not until Lincoln appointed General Grant with his total war concept that the Union Army began to decisively defeat the Confederate forces and bring the Civil War to close and preserve the Union.

Jonah Goldberg writes in the National Review Online regarding the President Obama’s budget speech on Wednesday and the poor performance of the Republicans in sticking to their guns for a $61 billion cut in the budget; “The only good news to come from all of this is that the battle is now joined. The president has staked his banner in the soil of reactionary liberalism. Good. By setting his fortifications so far to the left of the middle ground, he gives the forces of reform room to advance far.”

“The rank and file are ready for battle, with the tea parties at the forefront. The only question is whether the GOP’s generals have the stomach for the fight. And that question raises as much dread as hope.”

The question I pose is are our Republican generals (Boehner and McConnell) up to the task of leading the nation to victory over the progressive leftists policies and budget busting spending of Obama and the Democrats. Or they like McClellan cautious and unwilling to commit their forces to total warfare.

Like, Lincoln, I am fearful that they are not bold leaders we need at this point in our nation’s history. They are allowing the opposition to control the battlefield of public opinion. Their enemies are not only the progressive, left-wing Democrats but also their sycophants in the media. These are well financed, motivated and disciplined forces. They speak with one voice and are marshaled under one determined ideological leader, Barack Obama.

Since Democrats took over Congress in 2007, the annual federal budget deficit has quadrupled. Democrats continue to talk about fiscal austerity, but if left to them, these gargantuan deficits would continue for years to come. In February 2010, Barack Obama made a farce of creating a bipartisan debt commission and tasking it to make recommendations for reining in federal spending. The commission did so in December and he promptly ignored them, introducing a 2012 budget that included none of its recommendations and continues to drive spending through the roof.

Then came Wednesday's speech at George Washington University, a presidential do-over in response to his $3.73 trillion FY 2012 budget having been laughed out of town two months earlier. In the speech, Obama suddenly remembered his commission and promised budget cuts. In doing so, he read this laugh line from his teleprompter: "We have to live within our means." This from the guy who continues to propose that we borrow 40 cents for every dollar spent.

Right from the start, Obama sounded as if he were on the campaign trail rather than making a serious policy speech. He invited Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), chairman of the House Budget Committee, to take a front-row seat for the event, then promptly savaged Ryan's proposal to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion in 10 years. "Those are both worthy goals for us to achieve," Obama offered, "but the way this plan achieves those goals would lead to a fundamentally different America than the one we've known throughout most of our history." Actually, it would derail Obama's agenda to "fundamentally transform the United States of America" to match his socialist preferences.

Obama's speech then devolved into a class warfare screed. "Worst of all," he said, "this is a vision that says even though America can't afford to invest in education or clean energy; even though we can't afford to care for seniors and poor children, we can somehow afford more than $1 trillion in new tax breaks for the wealthy." He asked sarcastically, "That's who needs to pay less taxes?"

“The immediate political goal was to inoculate the White House from criticism that it is not serious about the fiscal crisis, after ignoring its own deficit commission last year and tossing off a $3.73 trillion budget in February that increased spending amid a record deficit of $1.65 trillion. Mr. Obama was forced to make a tactical retreat to George Washington University [Wednesday] because Mr. Ryan and the Republicans outflanked him on fiscal discipline and are now setting the national political agenda. Mr. Obama did not deign to propose an alternative to rival Mr. Ryan's plan, even as he categorically rejected all its reform ideas, repeatedly vilifying them as essentially un-American. 'Their vision is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America,' he said, supposedly pitting 'children with autism or Down's syndrome' against 'every millionaire and billionaire in our society.' The President was not attempting to join the debate Mr. Ryan has started, but to close it off just as it begins and banish House GOP ideas to political Siberia. Mr. Obama then packaged his poison in the rhetoric of bipartisanship — which 'starts,' he said, 'by being honest about what's causing our deficit.' The speech he chose to deliver was dishonest even by modern political standards." [Wall Street Journal]

Obama, Like Robert E. Lee at Antietam, made a tactical retreat to regroup his forces. Boehner, like McClellan did not commit his full force in the battle of the continuing resolution. Had General Boehner stuck to his guns and not given in to the threat of a government shutdown he could have inflicted a defeat on Obama. Instead he snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and ended up with a $38.5 million cut rather than the $61 billion they promised in January.

Like McClellan Boehner was timid during the negotiations. He had support in the House and from the Tea Party, folks who were willing to take on the battle. Like McClellan he allowed the enemy, who was boisterous and equipped with the arms of demagoguery to seize the initiative. In this battle with the progressive left we must be willing to take casualties if we wish to win. And one of those causalities might be Boehner himself. He must take the fight, with a unified force, to the American public and debunk the demagoguery of the left with the truth.

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