THE BLOG
02/04/2007 05:39 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Give Me Some Men Who Are Stout-Hearted Men

I never considered Oscar Hammerstein a military strategist, but he laid down an extremely worthy bit of advice to Presidents, Pentagons, and General Officers when he wrote:

"Give me some men who are stout-hearted men

Who will fight for the right they adore

Start me with ten who are stout-hearted men

And I'll soon give you ten thousand more-ore"

In 1961, John F. Kennedy enlarged and transformed the "Special Forces" a relatively small, elite U.S. army unit and christened it the "Green Berets." They did so well in Vietnam, John starred in a movie about them. But in 1985, an army captain writing about our errors in Viet Nam said the Green Berets were a great mistake. He thought that stout-hearted Green Berets should remain in regular army units to provide leadership and make better soldiers of the other men in their units.

By the end of the Viet Nam war, our army had fallen apart. It was undisciplined, "fragging" of officers and noncommissioned officers was not uncommon. Dope was everywhere. Had the Green Berets been spread over the general forces, would it have prevented military deterioration? Oscar Hammerstein thought so.

George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld created a new elite: mercenaries hired by private contractors. When their terms of duty expire, Navy Seals, Special Forces (no longer "Green Berets") and the British SAS are wooed by the contractors to provide security for, among other things, the rebuilding of the Iraqi infrastructure. Contracts are awarded on a cost plus basis. Contractors re-bill to us their security costs and mark them up. They can and do pay their security men six figure salaries. (Contractors say that they spend as much as thirty-five percent of their revenues on security.) Six figure salaries lure some of the best of the Special Forces from military units to private payrolls. The best of the NCOs often go there too. They've all become mercenaries.

Hammerstein's "ten men who are stout-hearted men, who will soon give you ten thousand more" are no longer in the regular army. Most of the troops that remain are ordinary soldiers, who lack the leadership qualities of "stout-hearted men," the men who had the ability to lead by example, the ability to turn average soldiers into heroes.

It seems to me that Oscar Hammerstein had a far better understanding of male psychology than JFK, George W. Bush or Secretary Rumsfeld. Men are at their best when competing, when trying to outdo others, trying to prove they are the best. No man wants to seem a coward. "Stout-hearted men" do not turn and run. If the bravest are fighting for Halliburton, who will turn waverers into zealots?

Hammerstein opens "Give Me Ten Men" with:

Hearts can inspire others hearts with their fire

For the strong obey when a strong man shows them the way

He ends with:

There's nothing in the world can halt or mar a plan

When stout-hearted men stick together man to man

Maybe, if we'd spread our bravest, Iraq would have gone another way.