I am the Infantry, Queen of Battle! I sit tight, stoned out of my squach while my country’s representatives meet the enemy face-to-face and will-to-will across the peace table. For two centuries I have been the weak link in our nation’s defense, I am the Infantry! Follow Me?
Both easy victories and well-covered-up defeats I have known. Frankly, I owe a lot to friendly historians.
In the Revolution I spent most of my time slinking around out of uniform taking potshots at British troops from behind rocks. I invaded Canada, and even that was a failure. My best general went over the British. For a while there I didn’t know whether to shit or wind my watch, but the French navy pulled my chestnuts out of the fire. I took on Britain again in 1812 thinking she’d be too busy with Napoleon to notice. I invaded Canada again and got beaten again. On my way out, I cravenly put the torch to the House of Parliament and then screamed like a stuck pig when the British burned Washington. New Orleans, the only battle I won, was fought after my gallant negotiators in Paris had signed the peace treaty. Incidentally, I won it with my usual tactic of hiding behind some rocks and taking potshots at the British troops.
After that I vowed to pick fights only with unusually weak, stupid, or backward peoples. The Indians fit the bill nicely. Generally speaking, I bought them off, bullied them, or got them drunk, but occasionally I had to fight it out, with a numerical superiority of only ten to one and nothing but my self-loading rifle to stand against their fierce spears and arrows. What’s more, cowards that they were, they often hid behind rocks and took potshots at me. But I persevered, and in fifty-five years victory was mine (except for the Seminoles).
Mexico also fit the bill. I did a lot better there than in Canada. By the way, if you’re thinking of building a military tradition, I really recommend your Spanish speaking countries. In the Civil War, I fought on both sides. Toward the end I changed sides. In the North I fielded two dozen of the worst generals in the history of modern warfare, and if the British had come to the aid of the South the way I did later in South Vietnam, there’d be Customs officials on the Mason-Dixon Line right now. Once I had it won, I marched to the sea in a cowardly and wanton punitive expedition that held the record for atrocities committed against civilians for half a century, after which I won it again in the Philippines.
I went back to massacring Indians for a while, just to keep my hand in and added the Little Big Horn to my list of showy defeats. If you know what you’re doing, you can make routs like that and the Alamo and Pickett’s Charge into “heroic stands” or “glorious doomed fights”. Anyway, I wised up after that and just surrounded Indian villages and fired into their teepees with cannon from four miles away.
Then, I handily beat Spain’s seventeenth century army in Cuba while my naval comrades sunk her twelfth-century fleet in Manila. Along the way I turned a major military blunder, the costly charge up the wrong side of San Juan Hill, into a famous victory. I picked up Panama at an auction and spent fifteen years pacifying the Philippines with the .45 caliber automatic, the Gatling gun, and the Krag buffalo rifle. I went into Mexico again after Pancho Villa, but they’d picked up the knack of hiding behind rocks, so I said the hell with it.
I waited just as long as I decently could before getting into World War I, buy my valorous historians made my six months of fighting sound like the major event of the war. Australia, New Zealand, and Canada had ten times the troops fighting eight times as long, and you never heard of them, right?
I pulled the same trick in World War II, but the Japanese forced me into it about three years early when my commander in chief left the entire Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor with a “Bomb Me” sign on it. I actually had to do some fighting, but fortunately I’ve always had some pretty sharp scientists to back me up. Let me tell you, it helps to have the technological edge, whether it’s Winchesters over arrows or grapeshot over musket fire. They came up with napalm, the Norden bombsight and the atom bomb, and got me off the hook.
In Korea I managed to blow a sure thing when my commanders forgot that rivers like the Yalu turn into roads at 32 degrees Fahrenheit – and that China wasn’t a Spanish speaking country.
Since then I’ve taken on Lebanon and the Dominican Republic, and Grenada, and backed out of the Suez and Cuba. In Vietnam, I used all my tricks picking on small, primitive countries, taking potshots from the air (my scientists built sort of a flying rock to hide in), shelling villages from four miles away, pretending that mistakes like Hamburger Hill were great victories, all of it. It didn’t work. I lost, and everybody knows it.
The success in the first Gulf War may be attributed to the fact that there were no rocks for the Iraqi’s to hide behind. Just remember, one of the perquisites of the Presidency is that you get to have your very own war. Since 1932 only Jimmy Carter has forgone this perq.