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Grange: Bush helps boost troop morale

Retired Brig. Gen. David Grange
Retired Brig. Gen. David Grange

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(CNN) -- Seeking to rebut critics who have questioned his administration's war plan in Iraq, President Bush was mostly optimistic in a speech Wednesday at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida.

But Bush tempered his words, saying the war "is not easy and it may be long." (Full story)

Retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. David Grange, a CNN military analyst, discussed the president's influence on troop and public morale:

GRANGE: President Bush spoke at the MacDill Air Force Base not just as president of the United States but also as the commander in chief of the U.S. armed forces. As the senior military leader in a coalition, he spoke also of his responsibilities, to some extent, for the lives of coalition forces.

Talk of commitment like President Bush expressed [Wednesday] encourages troops from all services and nations of the coalition. The biggest problem in past wars is that there has been no resolve for commitment.

Commitment convinces the troops that, if someone dies, they did not die in vain. It's important that a leader expresses a sense of accomplishment of the mission.

I believe the morale is high in the coalition forces. There are going to be pockets where morale is low -- that's to be expected. When you're in a unit that experiences death or injury, or periodic letdowns in the operation, it affects your morale. But if the leadership expresses resolve and commitment to the cause, the units pick up pretty quickly and continue to drive on to their objectives.

As for the public's opinion, the United States is a nation of expectations, where objectives are accomplished swiftly. In other words, Americans have a 100-meter dash mentality, instead of a marathon mentality, especially when it comes to conflict and war.

And these commitments, at times, take awhile. I believe the combat phase of the Iraq war won't take a long time, but there will be hostile requirements that probably must be taken care of for some time to come -- just like they are in Afghanistan and in peacekeeping operations in the Balkans.

These requirements are sometimes hard to grasp in American society. But it is important for the president and the senior leadership of the United States to continually explain the need to the American people.

Retired Brig. Gen. David Grange was in the U.S. Army for 30 years. He last served as commanding general of the 1st Infantry Division, the "Big Red One." In that position, he was in Germany, Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia. During his military career, Grange was a Ranger and Green Beret. Grange is an executive vice president and chief operating officer at the Robert R. McCormick Tribune Foundation in Chicago, Illinois. He is one of CNN's military analysts, along with retired U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark and retired Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd. Their briefings will appear daily on CNN.com.

EDITOR'S NOTE: CNN's policy is to not report information that puts operational security at risk.


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