United States General of the Army Douglas MacArthur had a long and brilliant career in the service of his country. From 1898 when he entered West Point until he was fired by President Truman in 1951 during the Korean War, he served with distinction in all of the many theatres of war in which his country was involved. In the annals of military service he was truly a giant of his profession.
Among his many oft-quoted observations, the one that is most fondly remembered with approval is, "In war, there is no substitute for victory."
When he was turfed by Truman, the old soldier was seventy-one years of age and not looking for any career change. Alas, he had locked horns with "Give 'em hell Harry," over conflicts in strategy in the Korean War. Truman, being the feisty and decisive decision maker, canned him for insubordination. The dismissal has stood the test of history as the classic example of the principle that military commanders are subordinate to civilian leadership.
MacArthur, licking his wounds in the wake of being bounced, gave his most memorable line near the end of a dramatic speech to a Joint Session of Congress: "Old soldiers never die; they just fade away."http://www.rightwingnews.com/speeches/macarthur.php
Well, I guess times have changed. Our Chief of Defence Staff General Rick Hillier, at the tender age of 53, has recently announced that he is packing it in this summer. By contrast, George S. Patton was 60 years old and still an active General of the Army when he died from injuries sustained in an accident days after the end of World War 2. As to his future intentions, Hillier intoned, "I don't want to sit on the couch scratching my belly in my underwear watching the soaps."
Hillier's stentorian parting statements for the history books included: "I can only repeat what one of my commanders once said when he noted we're not trying to be one of the big boys, we are one of the big boys and we have to start acting like it. That's a good comment because that reflects our place in the world. Canada has had a significant reprofiling in the world. We're one of the big boys now."
In Hillier's world then - unlike MacArthur's - there is a substitute for 'victory.' That substitute is for Canada or the Canadian military - through the shedding of the blood of its young - to become one of 'the big boys.' In other words, young lives are sacrificed these days - not for victory. This is quite obvious given the nature of the conflict in Afghanistan, where only a few empty headed Conservatives talk of 'victory.' No, in Hillier's world our young lives are sacrificed so that Canada becomes one of the 'big boys' - meaning of course the big military powers such as the United States, the UK, Germany, France and the like. In other words, meaning the important member states of NATO.
Yes, our boys and girls are fighting so that Canada is one of the 'big boys' of NATO - an organization that increasingly shows itself to abhor any bloody conflict in which the bleeding is suffered by NATO member states. Although NATO has no trouble drawing blood from the enemy from 35,000 feet in the air, to lose its own in the grunt work on the ground . . . . well, no thanks. To muster up an extra 1000 men from NATO countries to help Canadians in southern Afghanistan, has been like pulling teeth. In fact, though Canada has pleaded with its NATO partners for many months for the extra thousand, they still haven't arrived. Big boys indeed!
Finally, is this old Canadian soldier - at 53 - likely to just 'fade away,' as MacArthur would say? Not bloody likely. Look for him to cash in on the rubber chicken circuit spinning the yarn about how he stuck it to the civilian leadership and forced them to get Canada a place among the 'big boys.' Victory, be damned.