Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Meaning of War for the US

I am a Baby Boomer (I really hate that phrase - it doesn't quite fit the grey hair). In my 20s, like many of my generation, I signed petitions, attended mass rallies to end the war, and generally postured and lectured my elders about the need to end war forever.

Then the war actually did end. And into the vacuum of resistance, the Viet Cong poured. And slaughtered innocent civilians. And destroyed the South's economy. And imposed "re-education", a euphemism for "tortured until you would have shot your own mother as a traitor".

Initially, I interpreted the take-over as vindication of my pacifist beliefs. If the South couldn't hold out by themselves, they didn't deserve to rule.

Then, things happened. I changed. I grew, as my experience deepened. Eventually, I came to recognize my part in the betrayal of democratic ideals in Vietnam. For that, no apology can ever make up for my actions. The only thing that can help is to speak the truth, loud and often.

Curmudgeonly & Skeptical, points to a posting that addresses the issue of a seemingly endless and pointless war. It's a post by a military man, who points out that:
Most countries don’t get the choice of whether or not to lose their wars - it is imposed upon them. Almost uniquely in human history though, we’ve made a recent habit of picking fights we eventually decide not to win. As we spin up to do it one more time, it’s important that we carefully weigh our choices against the potential outcomes, with those consequences in turn weighed against the likelihood of their occurrence.

Because as tempting as it might be for some to see Mr. Bush lose his little war, it doesn’t end that cleanly. In order for him to lose, someone or something else has to win. And just because things are bad now does not mean that they can’t get worse.
The full post is here.

The anti-war left sometimes acts as though all combatants will lay down their arms, and beat their swords into plowshares. Sure, some will.

But, especially in the case of Middle Eastern countries, eager to regain what they consider their rightful place in the world (you think the US was arrogant with their "USA, USA" chants - wait until you get sick of "Allahu Akbar" - endlessly shouted in your face), winning this war would be just the beginning.

I've spent time this school year re-reading Winston Churchill's "The Gathering Storm". It's a chilling behind the scenes story about the prelude to WWII. Nick by nick, Hitler inserts tiny blades into the European carcass. When they don't react, or initially protest, then withdraw, he becomes emboldened. Just as a thug on the street tests your response to see whether you'll make a good target; those who response defensively are left alone. Those who show fear and a disinclination to fight back are selected for the next step.

It's not that I want a fight. It's not that I want a world empire or world domination.

It's just that the other side does. And, will continue the fight, on a thousand fronts, against innocent civilians, until we squarely face the bully, and bump back.

It may take quite a few years. It may take more than 1 showdown. The lesson may need to be repeated several times. But failure to continue may very well lead to unimaginable horrors. Do we really want another Rwanda? Or many?

No comments: