In a women’s varsity soccer conference tournament, Cary High School lost 3-0 to Apex.  During the regular season, Cary had tied Apex 1-1, then beat Apex 1-0.  I have figured out why Cary lost in this final match-up. 

I listened to Cary Coach Norcus’ talk with his team at half time: “Okay, women, I’m going to talk to Apex Coach Middleton. I am going to tell him that we are not going to finish this game until we know how many goals Apex is going to score in the second half. We are down by two. We need a clear line on Apex’s plans so we will know how many goals to score. 

“Another thing. We are not sending any of you women into harm’s way,” Coach Norcus said.  “There is entirely too much pushing and shoving in the game. I am going to let that Apex coach know that his team is not to hurt you at all.”

“But, Coach,” said Mary Lou. “We have been training all year to tangle with the Cougars.”   

“Well, this is a new day, and there are different rules. I do not believe in letting any of you get hurt. If Apex doesn’t like it, they can find someone else to play with. 

“I’m going to talk to the ref. We need an exit strategy. When the game is over, we need to know how we are going to get out without getting mobbed by all these crazy fans. If the ref can’t give me an exit strategy, we are not playing.” 

This isn’t exactly why Cary lost to Apex. But it illuminates why the American government — despite having an overwhelming technological, material and training advantage — has problems dealing with international crises. 

In 1996, Coach Bill Clinton was befuddled. Saddam Hussein had figured him out and played Bill like a yo-yo. Saddam let us lob million-dollar cruise missiles at $50,000 targets in southern Iraq that can easily be replaced. In return, we did not even attempt to stop his slaughter of Kurds in northern Iraq — abandoning those who had been working with us for years. 

President Clinton considered sending troops to Zaire. Television reports from Fort Bragg treated us to the spectacle of parents and spouses complaining that Thanksgiving and Christmas  was no time to send out the troops. What an embarrassment to our brave soldiers. 

Following the Bill Clinton model, Presidents Obama, Trump, and Biden each set timetables and exit strategies in Afghanistan. In January 2021, then President Trump ordered his generals to get everybody out of Afghanistan within weeks. The generals refused. Biden refused to follow the advice of his generals in August 2021, with disastrous results. 

I prefer a different philosophy of struggle. It was said in 991 AD by a hard-pressed soldier facing an onslaught of Danes at the Battle of Maldon Bridge: 

Hearts shall be bolder, 

Harder be purpose, 

More proud the spirit 

As our power lessens. 

Minds shall not falter 

Nor mood waiver 

Though doom come 

And dark conquer.