Daniel Inouye, R.I.P.


Scholars and practitioners debate what makes a good leader, whether leaders are born or made, and what virtues a leader should possess. What no one has done is formulate a satisfactory definition of what leadership is.

I prefer the older way of examining these questions — the method proffered by the Greek historian Plutarch two millennia ago. Among his many works, Plutarch compiled a series of capsule biographies of famous Greeks and Romans. By studying and comparing the lives of eminent figures of the past, readers could glimpse the traits they should emulate or shun to live well.

A famous American, Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, shuffled off his mortal coil this week. Inouye’s life is worthy of a Plutarch. Three things stand out for me. First, he displayed valor in combat during World War II. He served in the European theater after enlisting in the U.S. Army’s 442d Regimental Combat Team, a predominantly Japanese-American unit. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for clearing three German machine-gun positions near San Terenzo, Italy, and for doing so while suffering life-threatening gunshot wounds.

Second, he took an avid interest in naval and military affairs once elected to Congress. The roster of lawmakers with military experience and expertise dwindles further with his passing, impoverishing the legislature’s oversight function.

And finally, Senator Inouye fearlessly championed American purposes and power in the Asia-Pacific, where his native Hawaii remains the strategic lynchpin it has been for over a century. I met the senator only once, last year, at a Washington Navy Yard event celebrating Naval War College graduation. He delivered a refreshingly tough-minded speech portraying China’s confrontational actions toward its neighbors as an effort to expose weaknesses in the U.S.-led alliance system.

This is a test the United States must pass. Inouye warned Americans to gird themselves for strategic competition with China. That sort of candor befits a soldier, Medal of Honor recipient, and elder statesman.

Plutarch would approve. R.I.P.

Chris Weuve
December 21, 2012 at 07:29

An interesting comment, seeing that no "dark side" was exposed.  Apparently telling the truth is "unwarranted and inappropriate"?

James Hollifield
December 21, 2012 at 03:21

Hey, young man, be gentle.  Don't become over-sensitive to any mentioning of China.  Everyone can have their day.  

December 21, 2012 at 01:33

I don't know what planet you are on John, but comending a person bravery and their strategic foresight is in no way an exposure of their "darkside".
As for advancing "American imperialism", your juvenile attempt at propaganda by repetition is not effective on the informed readership of this Journal. 

filipino defender
December 21, 2012 at 00:25

Do every stop with your lies and bad mouthing JC have little respect for the dead and you and your kind are advocate of chinese imperalism so that's that !
Anyway Mr. Inouye thank you for supporting the Filipinos and we are honored that you are a honorary son of two filipino provinces your legacy is forever sir god bless

John Chan
December 20, 2012 at 08:53

James Holmes, the author of this article, must be reprimanded for misbehaving in an inappropriate occasion. To commemorate someone RIP is the time to remember something good in him only, it is not the time to expose the dark side of the person.
The author uses this solemn occasion to advance American’s imperialism is unwarranted and inappropriate. The author’s work now makes a lot of people feel Daniel Inouye not a man for peace.
Hope the author can leave his political hat at the door when he writes next piece of commemoration.  

December 20, 2012 at 05:13

I came across Inouye's name while reading about the Italian campaign of WW2. And learned that in proving their loyalty to their country, Inouye's unit became the most decorated in the war. His was a well-lived life. May he rest in peace.

Chuck Hill
December 20, 2012 at 04:37

Where is the "Like" button?

December 20, 2012 at 01:27

R.I.P Senator Daniel Inouye!! Go for broke!!!

Share your thoughts

Your Name
Your Email
required, but not published
Your Comment

Sign up for our weekly newsletter
The Diplomat Brief