Things We Love About America, Part XII

Democracy in wartime (from "American Caesar", by William Manchester):

One evening at dinner the chief of staff (Richard Sutherland) argued that America should abandon democracy in wartime, that congress wasted too much time debating, that elections should be abolished and a dictatorship proclaimed. According to another officer:

General MacArthur listened for a while and then told Sutherland he was wrong; that democracy works and will always work, because the people are allowed to think, to talk, and keep their minds free, open, and supple. He said that while the dictator state may plan a war, get everything worked out down to the last detail, launch the attack, and do pretty well at the beginning, eventually something goes wrong with the plan. Something interrupts the schedule. Now, the regimented minds of the dictator command are not flexible enough to handle quickly the changed situation. They have tried to make war a science when it is actually an art. 

He went on to say that a democracy, on the other hand, produces hundreds and thousands of flexible-minded, free-thinking leaders who will take advantage of the dictator's troubles and mistakes and think of a dozen ways to outthink and defeat him. As long as a democracy can withstand the initial onslaught, it will find ways of striking back and eventually it will win. It costs money and at times does look inefficient but, in the final analysis, democracy as we have it in the United States is the best form of government that man has ever evolved.

He paused and said, "The trouble with you, Dick, I am afraid, is that you are a natural-born autocrat."