Category Archive 'David h. Petraeus'

13 Apr 2008

Fashion Critiquing General Petraeus

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General Petraeus
has received a lot of the sort of service awards which senior officers accumulate simply as a result of having occupied important posts, but he has also been awarded the Bronze Star (with “V” device signifying it was awarded for valor), presumably in connection with his leading the 101st Airborne in the 2003 drive on Baghdad.

Members of the United States Marine Corps are wont to comment negatively on the abundance of badges and awards displayed by US Army personnel. References to alleged prizes for spelling and deportment are not unusual. But when the kind of badinage normally occurring in the context of interservice rivalries starts coming out of the mouths of liberal sissies who probably flunked their physicals for the local cub scout pack, it is time to be outraged.

First, Matthew DeBord, best-known as a wine writer, in the LA Times, has the temerity to offer General Petraeus fashion advice on how to wear the uniform when delivering testimony to Congress:

Gen. David H. Petraeus may be as impressive a military professional as the United States has developed in recent years, but he could use some strategic advice on how to manage his sartorial PR. Witness his congressional testimony on the state of the war in Iraq. There he sits in elaborate Army regalia, four stars glistening on each shoulder, nine rows of colorful ribbons on his left breast, and various other medallions, brooches and patches scattered across the rest of the available real estate on his uniform. He even wears his name tag, a lone and incongruous hunk of cheap plastic in a region of pristine gilt, just in case the politicians aren’t sure who he is.

That’s a lot of martial bling, especially for an officer who hadn’t seen combat until five years ago. Unfortunately, brazen preening and “ribbon creep” among the Army’s modern-day upper crust have trumped the time-honored military virtues of humility, duty and personal reserve.

This civilian wine expert is obviously unacquainted (probably because the US military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was too upsetting) with the fact that the correct uniform and the display of medals and decorations for various occasions are prescribed. Soldiers do not, in fact, while dressing in the morning, get to reflect, “I’m a bit out-of-sorts today, and don’t feel like getting all dressed up. I think I’ll just wear my fatigues.”

Superannuated television personality Dick Cavett (famous back when the Beatles were the coming thing) emerges from the assisted-living home to bring his 1960s perspective to the matter.

I can’t look at Petraeus — his uniform ornamented like a Christmas tree with honors, medals and ribbons — without thinking of the great Mort Sahl at the peak of his brilliance. He talked about meeting General Westmoreland in the Vietnam days. Mort, in a virtuoso display of his uncanny detailed knowledge — and memory — of such things, recited the lengthy list (”Distinguished Service Medal, Croix de Guerre with Chevron, Bronze Star, Pacific Campaign” and on and on), naming each of the half-acre of decorations, medals, ornaments, campaign ribbons and other fripperies festooning the general’s sternum in gaudy display. Finishing the detailed list, Mort observed, “Very impressive!” Adding, “If you’re twelve.”

There are regrettably some people in this country, so self-obsessed and so utterly removed from reality, that they are able to believe that their own third-rate careers in the entertainment industry place them in a position to sneer at men who have devoted their careers to defending their country, and who have on occasion placed their lives in hazard to preserve this country’s freedom and institutions. If military service and its symbols fail to impress the likes of Mort Sahl and Dick Cavett, that is a reflection on them and not upon the soldiers they have the unmitigated indecency to mock.

Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap.

–Kipling


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