Monday, October 10, 2011

Honor, Duty, Country

"Stand with anybody that stands right, stand with him while he is right and part with him when he goes wrong."

--Abraham Lincoln

"My country...right or wrong."
--Stephen Decatur

"A very few, as heroes, patriots, martyrs, reformers in the great sense, and men, serve the state with their consciences also, and so necessarily resist it."
--Henry David Thoreau

"You're not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can't face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who says it."
--Malcolm X

So, I have opposed these wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, just as I opposed the war in Viet Nam, and for many of the same reasons: A war fought for a bogus reasons, with a "Mission" at best ill conceived and at worst, phony.

Actually, I was less adamantly opposed to Afghanistan at first because I was willing to suspend judgment given there was a plausible, if not fully believable story that Osama Bin Laden, who may well have been the instigator, if not the operational commander of the attack on 9/11, may have been sheltered there.

But once the man was killed, I saw, and still see no reason to risk the loss of a single American life in that land.

Certainly, we have no business trying to build a single school or library, no business trying to change those people in any way. They live by their own rules and they suffer the consequences, and we have no business trying to whip any American values on them.

I can understand the psychology of winning. But that does not mean I'm blinded by it. In a previous posting I said my brother was not downhearted about our loss in Viet Nam, having served there. He has since corrected me. He was unhappy about that outcome. He developed no abiding affection, apparently, for the Cong, who fired rockets at him. It's tough, apparently, to remain objective about the motivations of someone who tries to shoot you. He knew and served with people who had died there and it disturbed him their deaths were in a losing effort.

I was arguing however, about Marvin Kalb's punditry in which he echoed that absurd narrative that our country behaved as a defeated man, confidence shattered, head down, never the same man again. Baloney. Our country is too big, and there were as many reactions to that outcome as there were people. Fact is, there were never any vital American interests in Viet Nam and we could simply walk away from that bad mortgage with no damage to our credit.

One of my best friends--I was best man at his wedding--is a career naval officer and he's done several tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. I can't really talk to him any more about my opposition to those wars. He thinks the effort is FUBAR (Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition.) He has the grunt's eye view: Stupid orders from stupid people who don't understand as the grunts on the ground what needs to be done. But he wants to continue the fight. Because, as Slim Charles says in The Wire, "That's what war is, you know. Once you in it, you in it. If it's a lie, then you fight on that lie. But you got to fight."

I don't feel that way. I never got my own nose bloodied in Viet Nam or Iraq or Afghanistan, and that gives me, I submit, an opportunity to be a little more objective. I can understand once you are bloodied, you have to be pulled off your adversary. You are no longer thinking dispassionately. In fact, you stop thinking, once your blood is up.

But somebody has to pull Sonny Corleone off the guy he's wailing on. Someone who has a cooler head has to be in charge. Sonny flies off and gets ambushed at the toll booth. He's volatile. He's easy to predict, and thus easy to defeat. A leader has to remain cool, to calculate, to be subtle, when it's necessary.

For me question is, how does this war help America?

The answer, once Osama is dead, is then there is no way anything else over there should interest us.

We should be out of there, yesterday.

And don't give me that stuff about denying "them" a safe haven. We could wipe Iraq and Afghanistan off the face of the earth and there would still be Somalia, and Indonesia and some apartment in Berlin or some hotel in Florida or some farm in Oklahoma where Al Queda can train and plot and launch an attack.

Beyond the loss of life, beyond the ruined lives of the amputees and the brain injured, there is the cold hard calculation of the damage these wars have done our economy.

That is where Osama had his real success. He may have killed three thousand on 9/11, but his greatest victory would be he knew his adversary. He knew George II would come out with both guns blazing and George would shoot his own country not just in the foot, but in the gut, and send the economy to the intensive care unit on life support.

We have to be smarter than that.

We have to serve our country with our minds, not as wind up wooden soldiers, but as thinking, smart grown ups.

Or, as Stringer Bell would say, "We got to start acting like businessman. Sell the shit. Make the profit. And later for that gansta bullshit."

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