Hanson is a giant. A long read, but very good. - NT The following is adapted from a lecture delivered on July 23, 2004, on board the MV Heidelberg during a Hillsdale College cruise on the Rhine and Moselle rivers. What can we imagine George Patton might say about the present war? Lots. Based on what he himself said and wrote, his record in the field, and what scholars have written about him, I think we have some reasonable ideas. I'll begin with Patton's strategic thinking, then follow with suppositions about tactical and operational doctrine. Patton was not merely a great tactician, as Eisenhower seemed to think in deprecating his larger advice about the nature and purpose of World War II. Indeed, he understood far more about strategy and global politics than either Eisenhower or Bradley. A fine illustration of his superior insight arose over disagreement regarding the "endgame" in Europe: When the so-called Big Four - Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin and Chiang Kai-shek - apparently decided in late 1944 and early 1945 that the Allied demarcation line was to be at the Elbe River rather than Berlin or the Polish border, news quickly leaked out. As Patton was barreling through southern Germany, he sensed quickly that the German armies in April and May were preferring to surrender to Allied troops and thus fleeing toward the Western front. Would an Allied capture of Berlin ahead of Russian troops really become Eisenhower's and Bradley's predicted bloodbath if Germans were assured that the city would end up in the American sphere of postbellum influence? Patton listened to the BBC almost nightly; he spoke pretty good French; during the war he read Rommel, the memoirs of Napoleon and Caesar's Gallic Wars. He was a learned person despite purportedly being dyslexic. In any case, based on his extensive studies of European history, news reports and meetings with those who had worked with the Russians, he believed firmly that the Allies were making a horrible mistake by not driving on to Berlin to bring all of Germany behind Anglo-American lines. If we could paraphrase his thinking it might go something like this: We had fought World War II in part to ensure that Eastern Europe, i.e., Poland and Czechoslovakia, did not remain under the domination of Hitler's totalitarian regime; yet our policies at war's end were guaranteeing that those countries would fall under Stalin's equally evil domination. In 1945, the U.S. was providing annually the equivalent of several billion in today's dollars to the Soviet Union. Patton understood that in war one is forced as a matter of practicality to make such odious alliances. But postwar peace, whose future parameters would be adjudicated while the war was still on, was an entirely different matter. The idea of a United Nations organization was developing; and although many in the U.S. knew that Stalin had institutionalized mass murder, such concerns were muted because it was thought at worst that he was an aberration in an otherwise peaceful - and currently allied - Soviet system. Patton wanted nothing of that naiveté, and instead loudly reminded all that decisions made in 1945 would alter the future security of the U.S. Montgomery in this case was in agreement with Patton, as was Churchill, who likewise saw that the end of World War II might be the beginning of World War III. All three shared a common desire: to take Berlin and extend democratic government to the Russian border. In a famous exchange, Eisenhower asked, of Patton's request to move eastward immediately, "What in the world for?" Patton without hesitation replied, "You shouldn't have to ask that. History will answer for you, Ike." Bradley protested and offered up the standard American fear of taking 100,000 casualties. Of course, the Russians did take over 100,000 casualties storming Berlin, a fact later used to argue for Eisenhower's prescience. But again, the Russians suffered such casualties because the Germans were fighting ferociously in order that everybody behind them might surrender to the West. Had the Germans known that the Allies were going to take Berlin, the city might have fallen after brief resistance in the manner that other German strongpoints had fallen in the west. What later became West Germany would have extended to Berlin, the allies would probably have occupied Czechoslovakia where the Third Army finished the war, and we would not have had to make later concessions to Stalin to save Austria and Greece. Patton had the further idea that after defeating the Nazis, we should not destroy Germany's armored forces and dismantle its strategic forces, but instead use them as a basis to re-arm the Wehrmacht for the purpose of stopping the Soviets, who enjoyed an enormous superiority in respective land forces on the continent. This was blasphemy to most experts in the U.S., made worse by Patton's often puerile and offensive slurs about Russian primitivism and barbarity. As a result of his uncouth pronouncements, Patton's otherwise astute and vocal anti-communism found little support, and indeed gave him very little margin of tolerance when his proconsulship of Bavaria later ran into trouble. Yet this very idea of German rehabilitation would - within months after his dismissal - turn out to be the basis of NATO. Patton always realized that armed forces serve political ends and create an immediate reality on the battlefield that politicians argue over for years - that there are times when audacious commanders can create favorable diplomatic situations impossible to achieve by politicians even after years of negotiations. Well before Roosevelt or Eisenhower, he understood that the new Germany was an ally, and the old Soviets were now the new enemy of freedom. Applying Patton's thinking to today's situation, we can first recognize the so-called "war on terror" as a misnomer. There has never really been a war against a method other than something like Pompey's crusade against the pirates or the British effort to stifle the slave trade. In fact, we're no more in a war against terror than Patton was fighting against Tiger and Panzer tanks. Patton, who understood the hold of a radically triumphalist Nazism on a previously demoralized German people, would have the intellectual honesty to realize that we are at war with Islamic fascists, mostly from the Middle East, who have played on the frustrations of mostly male, unemployed young people, whose autocratic governments can't provide the conditions for decent employment and family life. A small group of Islamists appeals to the angst of the disaffected through a nostalgic and reactionary turn to a mythical Caliphate, in which religious purity trumps the material advantages of a decadent West and protects Islamic youth from the contamination of foreign gadgetry and pernicious ideas. In some ways, Hitler had created the same pathology in Germany in the 1930s. Because of the Internet and globalization, Islamic youth have first-hand knowledge of the U.S. - its splendor, power and luxury - that both attracts and repels them, creating appetites forbidden in traditional and tribal society. Thus the fascist terrorists, to be successful, and cognizant of this paradoxical envy and desire, offer a mythical solution in lieu of real social, political and economic reform that in short order would doom the power of the patriarch, mullah and autocrat: Blame the imperialist Americans and the Zionist Israelis who cause this self-induced misery. Even those who don't join the extremists, like most Germans of the late 1930s, don't mind - albeit on the cheap - seeing their perceived enemies take a fall, as long as the consequences of terrorism are mostly positive in a psychological sense without bringing them material suffering in recompense. Patton would also agree that the remedy for this disease includes aid and reconstruction - helping the defeated to re-build under democratic auspices that would allow real reform. In fact, he was sacked as pro-consul largely because he was said to be too interested in jump-starting German reconstruction at the price of accommodating Germans once affiliated with the Nazi party. But Patton would insist that it is only by military defeat and subsequent humiliation first that the supporters of terrorism against the West will understand the wages of their support for Islamic fascism. Once people in the Middle East, like the Germans, see that the Islamic fascists are defeated - and that all who support and condone that ideology are synonymous with it and thus must pay for their complicity through some measure of sacrifice and suffering - radical bellicose Islamicism really will end. Patton was quite clear about defeating, humiliating and then helping Germans - the proper order of such a progression in attitude being absolutely critical. Applying these lessons to the first Gulf War, Patton perhaps would have thought it mindless to mobilize an entire expeditionary army - a rare event for a democracy - and then confine it to the Kuwaiti theatre of operations, given that the problem was never merely the occupation of Kuwait, but the tyrant in Baghdad who had a prior record of frequent aggression. From the moment he took command in Normandy, Berlin was on Patton's mind as the only ultimate goal. As far as encouraging allies to go along, again, Patton always talked more in terms of a fait accompli: The general's job is to create favorable conditions on the ground that his politicians can deal with from a position of strength, rather than vice versa - an American army that achieves victory will have more allies than it knows what to do with. Go to Berlin if Berlin is the problem. Confront the Soviets if the Soviets are the problem. Don't refuse to take Berlin and then try to negotiate with the Soviets over Berlin. Hesitancy does not earn advantage. Similarly in Iraq today: If our goal is to give President Bush leverage with the Europeans and the tyrannical Middle East, then we should continue to destroy the power of the insurgency in Iraq, proving to friends and enemies alike the consequences and advantages of American power.