Hyperbole and where it gets us

Professor Hanson (December 23, 2007, In War: Resolution. The Claremont Review) starts a lecture on the history of war with the hyperbole of the politicians who demand perfection and condemn in absolute terms a lack of perfection.

what loses wars are not the inevitable mistakes, but the failure to correct them in time and the defeatism and depression (because errors occurred at all) that we allow to paralyze us.

But more likely the American public, not the timeless nature of war, has changed. We no longer easily accept human imperfections. We care less about correcting problems than assessing blame — in postmodern America it is defeat that has a thousand fathers, while the notion of victory is an orphan. We fail to assume that the enemy makes as many mistakes but addresses them less skillfully. We do not acknowledge the role of fate and chance in war, which sometimes upsets our best endeavors. Most importantly we are not fixed on victory as the only acceptable outcome.

What defines victory in the current era is not a common goal. To some, victory is a defeat of the political enemy and the military effort is seen simply as a tool for political and propagandistic manipulation. The binary argument – any flaw destroys an entire viewpoint – is used both to rationalize or defend a state of mind and pretend that the ‘opposition’ is wrong. Reality looses, intellectual integrity suffers.

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