War: The Necessary Insanity

The final line from an episode of "Black Sheep Squadron" has the TV show’s star saying, “Have we all gone crazy?” It is spoken after a battle in which the famous World War II fighter pilot is lamenting the loss of American lives, and by implication, even the lives of enemy Japanese.

When contemplating the massive loss of life in that war, and the terrible toll from other wars, it should give anyone pause before advocating armed conflict. The costs will be real, and they will be awful.

Vietnam was the first war in which television viewers witnessed almost first hand (or so it felt) civilian casualties, the so-called collateral damage. Especially poignant was the widely disseminated, front page image of a Vietnamese child running terrified and naked from a napalm strike.

By contrast, in more recent years, war has seemed to become almost a spectator event, with bombs and missiles raining down from far away. Those who launch such weapons are usually at a safe distance. Our own casualties have become so few that we wince at any report of American military deaths. What would we do if in one or two days, we lost five thousand or more soldiers killed, as we did in earlier wars?

Moreover, in the present lifetime of all Americans, we have never had major military battles on our own soil. The advent of global terrorism is changing all that, but even the great loss of life on September 11, 2001, occurred before today’s young adults can clearly remember it. Vast oceans have been a barrier to enemy invasion.

In recent months, however, we have begun to take seriously the rantings of a man who would otherwise be an obscure (albeit brutal) dictator in North Korea. Suddenly, he is on the verge of obtaining intercontinental missiles that can reach across the ocean -- the ocean that has been our main wall of defense, Pearl Harbor aside. Worse yet, North Korea’s leaders have consistently shown themselves to be at least a few cards short of a full deck. Unprovoked attacks, including an artillery barrage on a South Korean fishing village, have demonstrated their willingness to not only rattle their sabers, but to cut and slice human flesh with them, risking all-out war for the sake of showing off.

Add Iran to the mix. Its projected status as a nuclear-armed nation is not an idle threat. Its mullahs eagerly anticipate the return of the Twelfth Imam, who will make of planet earth an Islamic caliphate, but only after worldwide destruction, which the mullahs firmly believe that they are duty-bound to hasten. They aren’t kidding.

So, to answer Pappy Boyington, the Black Sheep squadron commander, no, we have not all gone crazy -- only some of us have. But they are getting nukes.

While there is no record of the first ever war, we can reasonably guess that it involved two competing clans facing starvation, where the land could support only one group. In such a war, everyone was directly and personally involved. The complex issues of geopolitics were millennia away. One would have had to have been mad to let his family starve without a fight. War in such a case might have been considered insane, but it was a necessary insanity.

In subsequent millennia, wars were not about eating versus starvation, but rather, about one king’s avarice over another’s. The men who did the fighting usually knew nothing of the real reasons they fought.

Today’s wars are far less direct, and the vast majority of Americans never experience combat. Protesters had a heavy hand in ending the Vietnam War, but as soon as involuntary conscription ended, the demonstrators went home, to leave the Khmer Rouge to torture and massacre over a million Cambodians. All the high-sounding rhetoric of the so-called anti-war activists proved empty. (Yes, that includes you, John Kerry.)

All of which gives context to the present moment. America’s enemies are emboldened by eight years of cowardice in the Oval Office. Our allies have become distrustful of us. To reverse all that, President Trump has sent a clear signal to the world, but it will take more than a few bombs to deter the madmen who intend to kill us. It will take popular support from Americans, support for a massive commitment to battle, and, if it comes to that, the endurance of tens of thousands dead. Is that insane?

Half of all Americans are already more on the side of the enemy than on the side of freedom.

Theirs is the true insanity.

The final line from an episode of "Black Sheep Squadron" has the TV show’s star saying, “Have we all gone crazy?” It is spoken after a battle in which the famous World War II fighter pilot is lamenting the loss of American lives, and by implication, even the lives of enemy Japanese.

When contemplating the massive loss of life in that war, and the terrible toll from other wars, it should give anyone pause before advocating armed conflict. The costs will be real, and they will be awful.

Vietnam was the first war in which television viewers witnessed almost first hand (or so it felt) civilian casualties, the so-called collateral damage. Especially poignant was the widely disseminated, front page image of a Vietnamese child running terrified and naked from a napalm strike.

By contrast, in more recent years, war has seemed to become almost a spectator event, with bombs and missiles raining down from far away. Those who launch such weapons are usually at a safe distance. Our own casualties have become so few that we wince at any report of American military deaths. What would we do if in one or two days, we lost five thousand or more soldiers killed, as we did in earlier wars?

Moreover, in the present lifetime of all Americans, we have never had major military battles on our own soil. The advent of global terrorism is changing all that, but even the great loss of life on September 11, 2001, occurred before today’s young adults can clearly remember it. Vast oceans have been a barrier to enemy invasion.

In recent months, however, we have begun to take seriously the rantings of a man who would otherwise be an obscure (albeit brutal) dictator in North Korea. Suddenly, he is on the verge of obtaining intercontinental missiles that can reach across the ocean -- the ocean that has been our main wall of defense, Pearl Harbor aside. Worse yet, North Korea’s leaders have consistently shown themselves to be at least a few cards short of a full deck. Unprovoked attacks, including an artillery barrage on a South Korean fishing village, have demonstrated their willingness to not only rattle their sabers, but to cut and slice human flesh with them, risking all-out war for the sake of showing off.

Add Iran to the mix. Its projected status as a nuclear-armed nation is not an idle threat. Its mullahs eagerly anticipate the return of the Twelfth Imam, who will make of planet earth an Islamic caliphate, but only after worldwide destruction, which the mullahs firmly believe that they are duty-bound to hasten. They aren’t kidding.

So, to answer Pappy Boyington, the Black Sheep squadron commander, no, we have not all gone crazy -- only some of us have. But they are getting nukes.

While there is no record of the first ever war, we can reasonably guess that it involved two competing clans facing starvation, where the land could support only one group. In such a war, everyone was directly and personally involved. The complex issues of geopolitics were millennia away. One would have had to have been mad to let his family starve without a fight. War in such a case might have been considered insane, but it was a necessary insanity.

In subsequent millennia, wars were not about eating versus starvation, but rather, about one king’s avarice over another’s. The men who did the fighting usually knew nothing of the real reasons they fought.

Today’s wars are far less direct, and the vast majority of Americans never experience combat. Protesters had a heavy hand in ending the Vietnam War, but as soon as involuntary conscription ended, the demonstrators went home, to leave the Khmer Rouge to torture and massacre over a million Cambodians. All the high-sounding rhetoric of the so-called anti-war activists proved empty. (Yes, that includes you, John Kerry.)

All of which gives context to the present moment. America’s enemies are emboldened by eight years of cowardice in the Oval Office. Our allies have become distrustful of us. To reverse all that, President Trump has sent a clear signal to the world, but it will take more than a few bombs to deter the madmen who intend to kill us. It will take popular support from Americans, support for a massive commitment to battle, and, if it comes to that, the endurance of tens of thousands dead. Is that insane?

Half of all Americans are already more on the side of the enemy than on the side of freedom.

Theirs is the true insanity.

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