Cowardice in Battle: Can We Trust Our Allies?

by Robert Arvay, Contributing Writer

When Japan attacked the United States in World War II, they knew that the U.S.would eventually have an overwhelming superiority in material terms, yet they were confident of victory. Why? The Japanese leaders pointed out that the Japanese had the warrior spirit, and would prevail in battle, while the Americans, they thought, would run and hide, and meet certain defeat, well before American industry could come to the rescue.

Of course, the Japanese could not have been more mistaken. Even when outgunned and outnumbered, the Americans proved to be every bit as brave and dedicated as their Japanese enemies. The tradition of American valor in combat has continued unbroken from 1776 until today.

Not everyone has the warrior spirit. In recent weeks, we have seen the Iraqi army wilt in the face of brutal attacks by the terrorist army known as ISIS. Reports coming out of Afghanistan presage a similar outcome there. As American and British troops withdraw, there seems little doubt that the Afghan army will soon run and hide from the Taliban terrorists. Indeed, in large measure, they are already doing so, according to American soldiers on the scene.

All the while, Kurdish resistance to ISIS is so fierce that even Kurdish women are fighting in the front lines.

Why? Why are some groups of people courageous in battle, while others cower in fear at the first sound of gunfire?

Two factors come immediately to mind. When I was in the armed forces, I always knew that if I were wounded, even grievously, I would receive medical care for the rest of my life. (I was unaware that the Veterans Administration was infested with corruption.) If I were killed, my wife and child would receive compensation and assistance from the government.

The second factor was (and is) that I am convinced that the United States, with all its flaws, is a good and just nation. When we win, things are always better, both for us and for our defeated enemies, than if we lose. The principles of the Constitution are, and this should not be a statement taken lightly, worth dying for.

The Iraqi army collapsed under fire in part because its Sunni Moslem soldiers knew that they would get no support from their Shia Moslem government. If wounded or killed, they and their families would be abandoned, without so much as a ‘thank you.’

In Afghanistan, the second factor seems to predominate. Afghanistan is not a unified nation, but an assortment of competing tribes that distrust each other, often for good reason. Its constitution is not considered, by its people, worth dying for. As a consequence, many Afghan soldiers (with some commendable exceptions), cower, hide and run, at the first sound of gunfire.

There was a time when I feared that Americans were losing the basic character of courage. While in the armed forces, I noticed that quite a few of the new recruits were of such poor quality that they were more of a burden than a blessing to the mission. On the other hand, I noticed that those who were good soldiers were more than merely good, they excelled. In other words, Americans could no longer be graded on a smooth scale from worst to medium to best. The medium was gone. Only the lowest rung of the ladder, and the highest, remain. I feel intense pride for our present day heroes.

I estimate now that about half the American youth are utterly unqualified for military duty, many for physical reasons such as obesity or drug use, but also, because so many of them are ideologically warped. Many of them actually sympathize with our enemies.

Someone recently stated, borrowing from the last lines of our national anthem, that we are the ‘land of the free,’ precisely because we are ‘the home of the brave.’

Courage is not bravado. It does not boast, taunt, or persecute a defeated enemy. Instead, courage is the end product of faith, commitment and selflessness.

Courage cannot be taught, but only developed through a lifetime of tradition and context.

The next time we pick an ally, let’s apply some common sense.

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