What civilians don’t get about Eddie Gallagher
The case of Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher continues to draw interest. Where possible, this sort of thing should be handled quietly and off to the side to avoid public opinion influencing decisions. You risk being too harsh or not harsh enough, based on the slings and arrows from the many who have opinions based on ideology rather than evidence, witnesses, experience, and informed psychology.
When a subordinate officer was accused of similar behavior to Gallagher’s, George Patton called it “chickens s—,” and I agree with him. You have to rein in the shoot-’em-up cowboys who want to ride in with guns blazing, killing and maiming indiscriminately, but you don’t want to deflate the hard chargers who might get carried away in the heat of the moment. These latter are the ones who win battles and save American lives. You can never have too many of them.
From what I’ve read, Eddie Gallagher was one of these.
Men cannot pump up the adrenaline and emotion to fight for their lives and then un-pump all at once. It takes time to decompress and re-establish a more normal state of mind. Sometimes the latter can take hours. This physio-psychological fact has to be taken into account when judging actions taken under the stress of combat and even up to hours later.
Even so, outright murder cannot be allowed to go unaddressed. Respect for innocent or unarmed life mustbe enforced, always and ever, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because failing to enforce such respect demoralizes your own side. You have to go into battle convinced of the moral rightness of your fight, and unpunished murder by your own side tears at the moral certainty of men who otherwise brave death with a clear conscience.
Extenuation and mitigation of misconduct can be argued and accepted up to a point, and it needs a deep understanding of men in combat along with a fine sensibility to detect where that point is. When the facts come out, some cases, such as My Lai, are relatively easy to decide, while others, such as the Gallagher case, are fraught with ambiguities that don’t always admit of outright approval or condemnation.
President Trump did the right thing by involving himself in this affair. When there’s doubt, and there was doubt throughout this case, uncertainties should always be resolved to the benefit of the American fighting man. Eddie Gallagher was such a man, and from what I’ve read, he was an excellent one. He should be thanked, not punished.