What Do We Do Now?

"Our instructors at the Marine Officers Basic School were handpicked from among the finest young officers in the Corps. Almost all had been in combat, and many bore visible scars. As the months at school went by, they repeatedly and unendingly challenged us with an age-old mantra: What do you do now, lieutenant?

Just before we graduated, a tough but insightful lieutenant colonel who had fought in World War II, Korea and Vietnam gave us a speech, a warning that echoes in my memory almost every day. He recounted a story of a fight in Korea that went incredibly bad—where, for all his experience, he made an error in judgment.

“I had the enemy pinned down on a ridge,” he said. “I set up a base of fire and sent 13 Marines into the tree line in order to envelop the enemy. Thirteen Marines went into the tree line, and all 13 were killed. And, gentlemen, there is not a day that goes by when I don’t think of that.”

The colonel then spoke of the inalienable bottom line of combat leadership: While all Marines are equally in harm’s way, it is the leaders who must make the decisions about what to do, then live with the results. What he may not have realized is that he also spelled out the responsibility that sits on the shoulders of all leaders."

"...Our country is in the middle of a profound crisis. This crisis has many causes, but much of it has been brought about by poor leadership decisions at every level of government. In addition, our electoral process is dominated by financial interests that are threatened by the very notion of reform.

Elections shouldn’t be media circuses, nor should they be auctions where a candidate sells himself to the highest bidder. They should be moral contracts between those who wish to lead and those who are consenting to be led.

What, then, must we do?

In one form or another, this question is asked daily in every community and in almost every household around the world. In authoritarian societies, it’s whispered; in others, it is debated. In America, we quite frankly find ourselves doing a little of both.

Our challenges lie in improving the way we’ve been selecting our leaders. To the American voters, I offer this advice: Be as shrewd and ruthless in your demands on our leaders as the wizards running campaigns are in their strategies to get your vote. Do your part to send to Washington people who truly want to solve the problems of this country from the bottom up.

You won’t regret it. You will benefit from it. And the stakes could not be higher. Sometimes the business of politics seems silly. It can also be infuriating. But you must stay in the game, because you and your grandchildren will be the inheritors of both our successes and flaws."

Senator Jim Webb
A Time To Fight

Rollingstone: Virginia Senator James Webb: Washington's Most Unlikely Revolutionary .

Parade: What It Means To Be a Leader by Jim Webb.

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