Sometimes, current tactical logistical weaknesses must not be used as an excuse for, or a signal of, strategic failure. In 1861, newly elected President Abraham Lincoln faced such a dilemma over the siege of Ft. Sumter. He had decided to ignore his military advice to surrender the fort. While the final published version of his explanation for this decision in his July 4, 1861 Message to Congress did not reflect his personal anxiety in coming to that decision, it might be useful to President Bush to read Lincoln’s first, unpublished, draft — which did reflect his mental anguish as he tried to decide. All his military advisers, after due consideration, believed that Fort Sumter had to be evacuated. But Lincoln’s first draft read:

 

“In a purely military point of view, this reduced the duty of the administration, in this case, to the mere matter of getting the garrison safely out of the Fort — in fact, General Scott advised that this should be done at once — I believed, however, that to do so would be utterly ruinous — that the necessity under which it was to be done, would not be fully understood — that, by many, it would be construed as a part of a voluntary policy — that at home, it would discourage the friends of the Union, embolden its foes, and insure to the latter a recognition of independence abroad — that, in fact, it would be our national destruction consummated. I hesitated.” (see “Lincoln’s Sword,” pp 79-80; by Douglas Wilson).

 

Lincoln was alone in the self-same rooms now occupied by George Bush. All his cabinet and all his military advisors had counseled a path Lincoln thought would lead to disaster. He was only a month in office and judged by most of Washington — including much of his cabinet — to be a country bumpkin who was out of his league, an accidental president. Alone, and against all advice he made the right decision — as he would do constantly until victory. ~Tony Blankley

By “disaster” in this case, of course, Mr. Blankley means the peaceful severance of the Union, which is a disaster only to friends of consolidation and nationalism, and by “right decision” he means the decision to plunge the peoples of America into bloody slaughter for four years.  What the modern parallel might look like is not exactly known, but there will be one grim similarity: a considerable number more Americans killed for a bad cause in a war that should never have been started in the first place. 

Refusing to heed people who know what they were talking about (or who at least know more than you do) and going with your gut is not a sign of great leadership.  It is a sign of willful pride and folly.  Pretty clearly, Mr. Lincoln made the wrong, provocative decision that brought on a worse crisis.  If Mr. Bush has ever ignored anyone’s advice with the kind of bullheaded stubbornness that only he can muster, this is the advice to ignore.

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