Only someone who has failed at diplomacy and never experienced war would have the gall to redefine war as an extension of diplomacy.
War accepts violence as a solution. Like the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s, individuals have turned to violence after war. Jesse James continued to fight society for 17 years after the South surrendered.
I was taught not to hit my siblings and not to play with guns. Then I was sent to Viet Nam to kill. Kill them, but don’t call them names.
The price of war is much greater for our nation then the soldiers we sacrifice. The loss of life, the loss of body parts, and the loss of sanity is everything to the families but only the down payment for the nation.
The cost of war is more than the treasure we spend on the battlefield. It includes the neglected infrastructure at home and the destruction of the infrastructure in the “host” nation. It includes the disrupted lives of the soldiers and their families on both sides. It includes radiation poison from the atomic bombs we dropped, cancer or a deformed baby from Agent Orange, Gulf War Syndrome or Post Traumatic Stress. I experienced constant fear, which changed my life forever.
I believe failed diplomacy compromises the moral values of a nation. We finger point at other nations for murders they committed in war a hundred years ago. Our nation has committed murder many times in war. (My Lai in Viet Nam and the bridge at No Gun Ri in Korea.) We continue with Blackwater operations in Iraq.
We redefine torture to pretend that it is legal. We train soldiers to torture prisoners and then condemn the soldiers. We form a new category of prisoners that is not protected by our criminal statutes guaranteeing a trial or by the Geneva Convention protecting soldiers.
In the Mexican War, Archibald Yell gave up his seat in Congress and joined the soldiers on their march to the Buena Vista Battlefield. Today saber rattling diplomats refuse to deploy to war zones.
War destroys the concept of loyal opposition. It is difficult to oppose the policy of war without opposing the soldier we send to fight the war.
We burden the soldier with winning the hearts and minds of the enemy. Winning hearts and minds is a mission to be accomplished by diplomats before war or after victory. War is about winning or losing, living or dying. It is not about right and wrong. There is no right or wrong way to kill the people who are trying to kill you. The soldier’s solution is to “kill ‘em all let God sort ‘em out.”
Last month we threatened war with Turkey, China, North Korea, and Iran. When your only tool is a hammer, you hit stuff. When your tool is the military, you kill stuff.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.