The American Horizon: Top Military Men

Dillon Zhou

What defines the merit of a soldier? Is it the number of kills on the battlefield? Or is it the highest rank he obtains? Perhaps it is the depth of strategy employed in the field. The answer lies in the final result that a soldier produces for the security of his country; such a thing does not lie solely on the war front or on the status of an individual serviceman.

To answer this question with a philosophical tone, we can look to the wisdom of the ancient world. There is a proverb in the Bhagavad Gita, a sacred Sanskrit Hindu scripture, on this very matter. “Valor, glory, firmness, skill, generosity, steadiness in battle and ability to rule – these constitute the duty of a soldier. They flow from his own nature.” This phrase is very fitting for America’s current predicament in its military operations in the Middle East and Central Asia. President Obama has chosen two top-grade men for achieving this goal: Robert Gates and Eric Shinseki.

The Gates to Progress

The US needs to carefully disentangle its involvement in Iraq by establishing a stable and independent government in Iraq – alongside with a self-sustaining economy to insure relative social harmony among the Iraqi people. If the US can achieve this objective, it can free the American troops stationed there. The sixteen-month timetable that President Obama promised during his campaign may not stick, because his recent meeting with top men from the Pentagon has suggested that he must form the strategy in line with advice from the military.

Meanwhile, the resurgent Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan needs a stepped up commitment from the US and NATO to insure that the Karzai government is given time to make the necessary reforms needed to build a prosperous nation in troubled Central Asia – especially when compared to Pakistan.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is an excellent choice for leading the US Armed Forces toward these complicated objectives. As the former Director of the CIA from George H.W. Bush years, Mr. Gates is well acquainted with applying practical and logical approach to military operations, through his understanding of the Gulf War, and handling chaos through his handling of the Soviet Union’s collapse.

The 2007 troop surge appears to have produced fruit for Gates through General Petraeus’ professional management of the extra support US Central Command received. Furthermore, he seems more personable and generous to many observers (as shown through his photos with the troops, which include some from his alma mater Texas A&M) when he’s compared to his predecessor.

In a recent press conference, Gates promised to be proactive in the handling of America’s withdrawal process in Iraq and vowed not to be a mere “caretaker” when it comes to Afghanistan. Indeed, this man possesses the fortitude and humanity to lead our men and women to an honorable conclusion in both countries.

A Veteran Returns

What of the veterans returning front? Will they continue to suffer as they did under President Bush’s lackluster care? No. President Obama has ensured that these wounded soldier will be shepherded and tended to by someone who was also a casualty of America’s “War on Terror,” the honorable Eric Shinseki.

He was not only the former Army Chief-of-Staff during the first phase of the Iraq War and campaign in Afghanistan, but also a soldier from the US Army Medical Corps. Shinseki was also a graduate of West Point and has demonstrated his ability to lead our troops through his many years of military service to his country.

I firmly believe Shinseki’s experience will suited to his duties as the Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs. As someone who has spent most of his life in the US Army, he can relate to the wounded servicemen and women who return from war to into his jurisdiction.

He is a veteran of the Vietnam War, where he was wounded in the jungle. Furthermore, his stance against the misguided policies of the Bush Administration gives him an intimate understanding of what went wrong and what he can do to correct those mistakes.

A wounded, but well-seasoned soldier returns to the fray to help his brothers and sisters-in-arms.

Closing Thoughts

Both of these men belong to the highest echelons of America’s soldiers and have demonstrated “valor, glory, firmness, skill, generosity, steadiness in battle and ability to rule.” They have the temperament and wisdom to lead America to a brighter and more secure future as a direct result of their rich experiences. Only history can determine whether or not they succeed in their heavy duties.