Peggy Noonan has a good column on the recent meltdown of Herman Cain, who thought that the Libya Campaign (which took place over the last few months) was somehow too arcane to warrant his attention. I also like the bolded observation below, which strikes me as true and important and something that presidents must recognize and also sometimes fight against:
Later, with an almost beautiful defiance, Mr. Cain told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “I’m not supposed to know anything about foreign policy.” That’s what staffers are for. “I want to talk to commanders on the ground. Because you run for president [people say] you need to have the answer. No you don’t! No you don’t!”Yes you do. It was as if history itself were unknown to him, as if Harry Truman told Douglas MacArthur, “Do what you want, cross the Yalu, but remember to tell me if we invade China.”
As for the commanders on the ground, Mr. Cain clearly doesn’t know something crucially important about modern American generals: that they tend to be the last to want to go to war and the last to want to leave. They’re the last to want to go to war because they know what war is—chaos, destruction, always “a close-run thing.” And they know the politicians who direct them to go to war often don’t know this, or know it fully. But once action has been taken—once they’ve fought, seen their men die, planned, executed, taken and held territory—generals tend to counsel against leaving. Because they’ve worked with the good guys and seen the bad guys, and know what they’ll do on our departure.
A candidate for president ought to be at least aware of this dynamic, and many other dynamics, too. To know little and to be proud of knowing little is disrespectful of the democratic process, and of the moment we’re in.