Former Senator Jim Webb has worn many hats in his long career: U.S. Senator, Secretary of the Navy, best-selling author and officer in the Marines.
He is also an Emmy-winning journalist, thanks to a special report he produced for “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour” in 1983.
Webb was sent to Beirut in September of that year to offer his perspective on the U.S. presence during the Lebanese Civil War. Anchor Jim Lehrer introduced the video essay as “personal, a commentary.”
Now, as Webb explores the possibility of a presidential bid in 2016, his 30-year-old segment offers some insight into his views of governmental leadership. In particular, Webb returns to the disconnect that can exist between those who make policy in Washington, and those who implement it militarily.
“The military does not make policy. That responsibility belongs to members of Congress and, of course, the President,” he said in the essay’s outset. “The military simply implements their policy, often at great cost. A politician might suffer bad press or a lost election if things go wrong. The military man suffers the loss of his friends, early and often.”
He also speaks about a politician’s responsibility to American service members and veterans.
“I and many of my fellow Vietnam veterans still feel the pain of having made greater a commitment than the political process was willing to uphold,” he said. “These men are trusting their very lives to the wisdom of our leaders. Our government’s obligation to them … is to proceed with a clarity of purpose that matches their own trust and commitment.”
A week after his essay aired, 241 Americans were killed in a suicide bombing at military barracks there. Webb returned to the program to reflect on those events.