Gutknecht: Demand an Exit Strategy

Millions of our countrymen have lost their jobs. Tens of thousands of small businesses are hanging by their fingernails. They expect answers and a responsible plan. They need them now. 

How we end a war is as important as how we got into it. There are several worthwhile lessons to be learned from our long and expensive wars in the Middle East. First, we should clarify what victory will look like. This needs to be done as early as possible. Second, clearly define who the enemy is. Finally, what is the exit strategy? Without clear answers, we can wind up in an endless, expensive war.

Defining victory is critical for a variety of reasons. How can you hit a target you’ve never established? Success in almost every human endeavor requires having clearly defined goals. Once the objective is established, plans and strategies can be developed to achieve victory.

We know who this enemy is. The biggest mistake made by the Bush 43 Administration was that they created the amorphous term “war on terror.” Terror is a tactic. It’s not an enemy. Maybe they didn’t want to admit that the real war was (is) against militant Islam. The leaders of the jihad declared war on us years before we mobilized against their tactics.

Landing on an aircraft carrier with a big sign that says Mission Accomplished is foolish if our commanders never clearly defined the mission or how we would know that it had been accomplished. Failure to have an exit strategy only makes a bad situation worse. The staggering costs in blood and treasure of our longest wars will be debated for decades.

Once again we find ourselves engaged in a war launched in a sneak attack by a mysterious enemy. Like Pearl Harbor and 911, we were caught by surprise. This is a different enemy and a very different war than we’ve ever faced. For our purposes, let’s stipulate that this is a war.

This time we have clearly defined who (what) the real enemy is. Within days our scientists had a 3D image and even broken down its genetic code.

In this war, medical experts quickly assumed the role of our Field Generals. Since neither our elected leaders or the general public knew much about this enemy, we became overly dependent on their expertise and advice. Civilian Commanders allowed these experts to chart the battlefield and estimate the potential casualties. The experts originally advised that “we need not worry, risks to the general public are low.” Remember.

They were wrong.

The enemy broke quickly through our first line of defense. Once there was evidence of community transmission, the field generals began to panic. Experts revised their models. KIA estimates ballooned to over two million. In a matter of days, we went from sanguine to scared spitless.

The Generals ordered everyone to their bunkers. The Blitz was upon us. We needed to stay in our shelters for weeks, maybe months. Close down over half the economy. Enforce social distancing. The Generals insisted that the price had to be paid to “flatten the curve.” Of course, the enormous cost was not their problem.

Without a peep, like ducklings, we followed their lead.

Experts have now dramatically lowered their casualty estimates and taken credit for their shelter-in-place strategy. We can’t blame them or second guess. But, haven’t we flattened the curve? Hospitals are empty. Some are closing.

We’ve reached a point where it is incumbent upon the Field Generals in this war to provide us with a map of the road ahead. Generals are required to provide more than just dire casualty reports and demands for more money and equipment.

As commander in chief, President Trump must insist upon answers to important questions:

What does victory entail? Waiting a year for a vaccine is a non-starter.

What is your exit strategy?

Millions of our countrymen have lost their jobs. Tens of thousands of small businesses are hanging by their fingernails. They expect answers and a responsible plan. They need them now.

It is time to demand a specific plan to get our economy rolling again. Otherwise, Americans will simply ignore the experts and begin to resume normal lives. We cannot live in a risk-free world. The current situation is unsustainable and we will not tolerate Marshall Law indefinitely.

After all, we are Americans, not ducklings.



Gil Gutknecht

Gil Gutknecht is a former Republican congressman from Minnesota.