Ralph Benko

The GOP has relapsed into a potentially fatal business-as-usual complacency. The recommendations contained in its high profile but anodyne “autopsy” represent, at best, a band-aid for a party hemorrhaging from a much more fundamental wound: being out of touch with the needs, values, and dignity of the American people.

The GOP high command today resembles nothing so much as our Generals who botched the Vietnam War, betraying our troops, humiliating America, and handing the Soviet Union a victory in the Cold War. The GOP “forensic audit,” like those reports of the Army’s whitewashing its losses in Vietnam, declares “there’s light at the end of the tunnel.” It is a false light indeed.

The Vietnam Army brass bitterly clung to a fundamentally losing doctrine long after its futility had been demonstrated by defeat after defeat. While our troops fought valiantly they were led to perdition by the thoroughly falsified doctrine of “victory through firepower.” Long afterwards, the visionary, courageous, and stubbornly brilliant General David Petraeus transformed the Army back into a winning force.

The GOP super-consultants similarly rationalize the ongoing political humiliations made inevitable by faulty doctrine. Until the GOP learns the lessons that Petraeus taught the Army the Grand Old Party will be operating under a heavy and quite likely politically fatal, handicap. These are lessons that the left fully has internalized.

What are these lessons?

The first rule of the new style of war, as of the new politics (wars being, as Clausewitz observed, politics by other means) is “You’ve got to have the people on your side...if you want to win". This was voiced by the character Pierre Raspeguy in a novel about the loss of French Indochina, The Centurians by Jean Lartéguy. That novel, in the hands of David Petraeus (and many other counterinsurgency military theorists), helped redefine modern American military doctrine. It holds the key lesson.

That lesson — You’ve got to have the people on your side … if you want to win — applies with equal force to politics. The national GOP is losing by old fashioned bad policy and bad politics: failure to champion a practical recipe for equitable prosperity for working people, failure to champion civil liberties, and failure to stand for (small r) republican principles. The GOP thereby lost, and continues to lose, the hearts and minds of the people. Instead of confronting this fact, the Republican Party elites now are focusing on...weaponizing bytes.

Ralph Benko

Ralph Benko, author of The Websters’ Dictionary: How to use the Web to transform the world. He serves as an advisor to and editor of the Lehrman Institute's thegoldstandardnow.org and senior advisor to the American Principles Project.

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