On war heroes

A colleague pointed out this interesting post from M.J. Rosenberg at Talking Points Memo:

You would never know it from the media coverage but John McCain is not one of America’s greatest war heroes. He is a former POW who survived, heroically. He deserves to be honored for that heroism.

But one thing distinguishes McCain from other war heroes, the kind whose heroism changes history rather than their life stories.

America’s two greatest war heroes were Ulysses Grant and Dwight Eisenhower. Grant saved the union. And Ike saved civilization.

And neither one ever bragged about their experience. (Can you imagine Ike smacking down Adlai Stevenson by saying that while Adlai ran a nice medium-sized state, he was the Supreme Allied Commander who ran D-Day, defeated Hitler, and liberated Europe?).

Impossible. Like Grant, Eisenhower did not brag.

Actually, modesty about military accomplishments is typical of war heroes and not just here. In Israel, it is unheard of for great military leaders to brag about their service.

Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak was the most decorated soldier in Israel’s history (he was a commando who, among other amazing feats, dressed as a woman — with a handful of soldiers — invaded a terrorist stronghold in Beirut, killed the terrorists, and then fled to a waiting dinghy and headed home). Yitzhak Rabin led the IDF in its Six Day War victory. Ariel Sharon saved Israel from destruction in 1973 when he snuck up behind the Egyptian army and encircled them in the Sinai.

None of these guys talked about it. McCain does. Continuously. His lack of modesty — about something war heroes tend to be modest about — does not become him.

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September 5, 2008. Election 2008, Heroes.

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