I'm Not One Of Those Insecure Generals Who Needs To Win A Lot Of BattlesCommentary • Opinion • military • Competition • ISSUE 45•16 • Apr 16, 2009 By Gen. Edward P. Montgomery Another crushing defeat at the hands of the enemy. After four long years, our righteous struggle has come to a bitter end. But fear not! Unlike a lot of leaders, who have to go out and conquer half of Europe to feel good about themselves, I'm not going to let one little misstep get me down.You see, I've never been the kind of general who gets all bent out of shape when he's not victorious.Oh, don't get me wrong. I still wish we had taken their capital. It's a real bummer. But I know better than to let this loss affect my self-worth. Because when all the cannons have been fired, all the swords have been sheathed, and the control of our government has been handed over to our sworn enemies, war isn't really about who won or lost. All that matters is that I never gave up until they had us completely surrounded.A general less confident than myself might really take a brutal defeat like this to heart. He might spend the rest of his days reliving every maneuver, trying to figure out what he did wrong; trying to make sense of the carnage, the wasted young men lying forever still in their foxholes. Me, I live in the moment and take each new battle as it comes.I'm secure enough in my manhood to know that my resounding failure here today has no bearing on my skills as a leader.To be sure, there are a lot of high-ranking generals who would have turned in their stars long ago if they had my battle record. Not that I have any idea what my record is, since I never keep track. Why should I? The success of a military career isn't measured by the number of battles won, or lives lost, or territories ceded to enemies, or personal tactical blunders immortalized for all time in every strategic textbook in the country. It's about being able to look back on what's left of your battalion and say, "I did my best."Hey, remember earlier in the battle, when we found that really tall hill, and we all climbed up there, made camp for a few days, and spent the whole night around the fire, talking about what things were like when we were kids, what our dreams were, what we wanted to do after the war? Those were pretty good times, right? Sure, the enemy eventually spotted the smoke rising from our position and attacked, forcing us to retreat into the woods with countless casualties, but is that what's important? We should try to recall the rewarding parts of this conflict, too, instead of getting all hung up on the fact that it was me who yelled, "Surrender!" there at the end.Besides, 50 years from now no one's going to remember who won or lost this war anyway.You know who I really feel sorry for? Genghis Khan. Man, did that guy ever need constant external validation. His empire might have spanned Asia from the Pacific Ocean to the Caspian Sea, but could he ever look in the mirror and be happy with what he saw? Probably not. I guess that's the difference between Genghis Khan and me.In all my years leading our military forces to victory or showing subservience to our new overlords, the most important lesson I've learned is this: You win some, you lose some. And believe me, you will lose some. Plenty. Maybe hundreds of losses. But the trick is just to brush it off and remind yourself that they wouldn't have put you in charge after the last general was killed without warning if they didn't think you were the best man for the job.My new strategy? Just relax and enjoy the ride. Besides, if you let your whole life get wrapped up in war, it will kill you.