America Loves a WinnerIsn't it interesting how character traits can both be one's greatest strength, and at the same time one's greatest weakness. This extends to national character as well.
Patton's famous speech to 3rd Army:
"Americans love a winner. Americans will not tolerate a loser. Americans despise cowards. Americans play to win all of the time. I wouldn't give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed. That's why Americans have never lost nor will ever lose a war; for the very idea of losing is hateful to an American."
One of the Republican/Neocon's greatest arguments against the Clinton administration (and even a failure of the Reagan years) was cutting and running when things got tough. Obvious examples are Somalia and Beruit. These moves were considered to "embolden" our enemy. There is no way the current administration will ever accept a strategy that could be considered the same mistake. Instead, they will drag on the decision to withdraw leaving it to the next administration who they will blame for failing to “stay the course.”
We must “win”, or we will not leave. We can say it is ego, we can say it is pride, but we can also say it is national character and psychology to the point of flaw. What the smart politicians are trying to do is redefine what "win" means. Which side of the isle one sits will greatly impact that definition. This is why we saw all three Presidential candidates make a rare reappearance in Washington this week.
McCain finds himself inescapably intertwined with the current policy and therefore his definition of winning must be compatible (i.e., security, political reconciliation, etc).
How will Democratic leadership define “winning?” Will winning simply be defined as “winning” the White House? Maybe winning will be redefined as Obama states in yesterday’s Senate hearing, as “a messy, sloppy status quo but there's not huge outbreaks of violence, there's still corruption, but the country is struggling along, but it's not a threat to its neighbors and it's not an al-Qaida base.”
What ever the definition, and whatever the politics, Patton’s words ring true today as they did 50 years ago. Americans love a winner, and will not tolerate a loser. Whichever candidate that can best portray themselves as having a winning strategy, or at least best cast blame for losing on someone else, will have an advantage in the upcoming election.