The price of quagmires.

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Ed.: 070917b – Words: 1547 – Audio: 11:25

Now, unlike many critics of wars in general I do not lavish blame on the military industrial complex.  They are a conduit for fighting the war.  The money they make creates jobs, employs Americans, advances technology, and helps grow the economy, even in peacetime with arms sales.  Is there some super secret group of “deep state” industrialists that just go around planning the next war just to make money?  With the leaks in Washington we would have heard of that by now.  BUT… there is a part of me that recognizes the need for some level of the military industrial complex to exist in order for our nation to be prepared, and ready to kick-start a ready defense, rather than spend valuable time converting the economy from butter to guns, like we had to do to gear up for WW2.  Have wars been started for not-so-noble or moral reasons?  Absolutely.  A number of our nation’s 18th and 19th  and early 20th century military adventures you can trace to specific economic businesses and simple greed, under the guise of some greater moral obligation.  We need to monitor that.. and when I say “we” I mean, “We, the people.”

Here’s an example of nonsense.  Remember Grenada?  If not, look it up.  Reagan sent in the military to “rescue” a bunch of American medical students (who allegedly were dropouts from American med schools) at a local medical school from Cubans assisting a renegade government ruler.  Uh huh.

Look, I’ve been a history nut most of my life, especially the wars.  When Vietnam came around a part of me actually wanted to go over there simply to see for myself (yes, we doubted the press back then too); hell, it was the war in my generation and I knew it at the time (I was number 52 on the last draft.. and destined to get called).  I didn’t have any romantic view of warfare by any means.  I disliked the anti-war protests by the hippies… and me and a couple other guys would don our flag patches and position ourselves around the campus flagpole just to make sure none of those “godless guitar-twanging pinkos” tore down the flag (and none did on my watch).  But, anti-war or not.. we were all just stupid kids.. me in my late teens; I was very “America, love it or leave it” kinda guy.  Even today, on the rare occasion someone my age might confess to having been a full-fledged anti-war hippie back in the day, a little nerve will ping in my head that I have to shake off (although, I gave huge credibility to returning GI’s who had fought and returned with strong anti-war sentiments.. because they were there first hand and deserved that respect).

I ended up enlisting in the Air Force as a kind of last minute avoidance to combat.  As fate and the generals had it, I ended up never going to Nam.  Likely if I had I might not be here today, for the many reasons other than KIA… or I’d be combat disabled.  Also had I gone I might have returned very anti-war; watching people die can do that to you..   Yet a part of me wishes…. because it was the war of my generation.  By comparison I recall my ex-father-in-law lamenting years past his deep regret for not being able to serve in WW2 because of hearing problems.  He had four brothers who served, and survived.  It bothered him until the day he died.  But that was a “different” war; the kind you win.

Most, if not all, of us have changed since those days.  I’m no longer the gullible republican teenager (more an aging gullible liberal conservative).  I like to think I know better.  Then something like 9/11 happens and like many Americans I also wanted to strike back at something.  It’s called patriotism.  You rally around your president, you look to him for leadership… when the day before you were bitching about his latest political fiascoes.  The thing is… he’s still the same president, with the same foibles.  Now you are swearing your patriotic allegiance to him.. and down the line he abuses that respect, likely out of misplaced ideology rather than overt disregard, and we find ourselves in a “forever war”.. and then again by the next president.  The beat goes on.

I don’t believe in being anti-war simply for the morality of not engaging in war.  I’m way too human to think I am above wanting to fight when necessary.  I believe each “new” war should be judged on it’s moral merit, knowing with absolute surety Americans will die.

I do firmly believe we need to have a basic trust and faith with whomever is in the presidency so I hesitate to severely limit the president’s option to use force up front… when waiting for Congress to debate just isn’t practical.  Perhaps we build in safeguards where a president has to get some level of Congressional approval to continue an operation, and that approval is contingent on solid goals and objectives.  I also understand in saying that, given I totally have NO confidence with the current president, that there’s a risk his inexperience could lead us on another forever adventure… like in Syria.

There are a number of those WW2 combat photographs showing wounded Marines, and dead Marines floating in the water off some beach like Guadalcanal or Saipan, that Roosevelt had censured from public view for fear the public would lose confidence and focus in winning the war, thinking it was their bloated loved one bobbing face down in the waves.  Likely that would not have made any difference in the conduct of that war because it was an all out national effort.  Our wars now seem more… elective in nature.  More a by-product of American good intentions rather than American strength, fighting spirit, and commitment to the end.  So when the flag-draped caskets arrive in Dover the impact is greater because our commitment is less defined.  Decisions to go to war or not cannot be made soley by the parents or spouses of the military deceased.  As citizens of course they have a voice… but not because of their loss.  Their loved one died in the service of their country; service that was by choice by that person.. knowing full well the risks. I don’t see it a family responsibility to change that memory by assigning that death to a political viewpoint likely not shared by the deceased.  If I died in battle in a war I firmly believed was necessary I’d not want my loved ones becoming anti-war about it as some remembrance of me.  They are welcome to be anti-war on their own memory.

That does not mean we should not challenge why we might go to war somewhere without a plan to win the battle, win the peace, and then get the hell out.  In contemporary terms… if we are not in Syria for a specific reason and objective, then let’s get the hell out.  Just going in to kill a few Isis fighters that do NOT represent a clear and present danger directly to America is not a reason for a forever war.. or flag-draped caskets arriving in Dover.

I have little moral objection to America taking the lead in being the world’s policeman.  This is what leadership is all about.  Americans have the might and moral will to want to help the less fortunate.  But moral will can lead to American deaths. It’s also to our own security to get involved given our economic presence around the world.  This by no means suggests we do not demand from our politicians and military leaders clear and concise objectives before engaging.  This by no means suggests we do not demand from our allies, who are unable to do military things on their own, that they don’t provide some level of contribution to the effort or even provide a favored trade status.  But that part is up to the politicians and diplomacy… not the American GI fighting house-to-house to save the less fortunate from an oppression represented by the guerilla in the next room brandishing an AK-47.

Here’s the wake up call… we end up in these forever wars because We, the people, allow it to happen.  Oh, sure.. you can initially blame the current president, the last president, five presidents back, having too much power to decide to use the military.. hidden agendas… yada, yada… but in the end the people have to speak up through Congress.  We know this can work.  Just look how pissed Americans get at town halls about medical care.  If we only demonstrated that much concern about new military interventions… and future quagmires…


Carry On, America.