Monday, May 27, 2019

A Proper Memorial

     Notwithstanding the quibbling over the differences among “wars,” “police actions,” and “operations,” here is a partial list of the military actions in which Americans have fought:

  1. The Revolutionary War
  2. The War of 1812
  3. The Mexican-American War
  4. The Civil War / War Between The States
  5. The Spanish-American War
  6. World War I
  7. World War II
  8. The Korean War
  9. The Vietnam War
  10. The Grenadan Invasion
  11. The Panamanian Invasion / Operation Just Cause
  12. Persian Gulf War I / Operation Desert Storm
  13. The Afghan War / Operation Enduring Freedom
  14. Persian Gulf War II / Operation Iraqi Freedom

     Those are merely the ones I can remember at this early hour. There have been others.

     Four of the clashes enumerated above involved fighting on American soil. If the fourth is eluding you, it was World War II. Hawaii was an American protectorate even then, and the Japanese did assault Attu and Kiska in the Aleutian Archipelago as well. The other ten, and the smaller military operations whose names are absent from the list owing to my inability to remember them, were fought elsewhere.

     Many of the public service pitches about Memorial Day include statements that Americans who fought in our wars did so “to protect our freedom.” Even if we leave aside the question of just how much freedom remains to us in this Year of Our Lord 2019, it is morally imperative that we ask, seriously, and with due consideration both for possibilities that did not materialize and for the feelings of those who lost family members in them:

How do you figure that?

     America’s armed forces are the finest that have ever existed. The young Americans who populate it, regardless of their individual reasons for taking the oath, are the very best of us. When called upon, they go where they’ve been sent and do what they’ve been told – superbly. In every combat action on record they’ve performed prodigies that have baffled the military minds of other lands.

     We’ve lost a great many of those young lives. If the Civil War be included, the count is well over a million. Any decent person must pray that they were not wasted, in some ultimate sense. And to be perfectly fair, most of the combats in which American forces have taken part were more popular than not. Yes, even World War I and Vietnam.

     But it takes a severe stretch of the terms involved to propose that the World Wars, the Korean and Vietnamese conflicts, and the later actions were “to protect our freedom.” They may have been geostrategically wise, though there is legitimate disagreement about several of them. They may have protected various extraterritorial interests, or the interests of nations allied to us. But they correlate with the diminution of Americans’ freedom, not with its preservation…and certainly not with its expansion.

     If the subject of interest is the motivation behind American engagement in those combats, let it be said, plainly and at once: the protection of Americans’ freedom was nowhere near the minds of those who sent them forth to do battle.

     Over and over, our men at arms have gone forth. They fought, suffered, bled, died – and prevailed. Words cannot express the praise and honor we owe them. But the political classes that dispatched them to foreign combats cannot reasonably be thought to have been concerned with Americans’ freedom.

     We owe our fallen men at arms a grateful remembrance on Memorial Day. But let us also be mindful of something less praiseworthy: the willingness of old men in suits, seated in comfortable chairs in places well removed from the hazards and terrors of armed combat, to send them forth for reasons about which they have been less than honest.

     The armed power of our nation is not a toy. It consists of lives: mostly young lives, filled with possibility and promise. It ought not to be flaunted or brandished for reasons not vital to our nation. It certainly ought not to be flung about for “prestige,” or to establish or defend a “zone of influence.”

     I have a number of young friends who are at arms. I don’t ever want to read about their deaths, especially not if they were sent forth for “prestige,” or for the protection of some country whose citizens disdained to defend themselves.

     Consider this powerful line from Michael Bay’s movie 13 Hours, spoken by John Krasinski playing security contractor Jack Silva:

     “What would they say about me? ‘He died in a place he didn't need to be, in a battle over something he doesn't understand, in a country that meant nothing to him.’”

     Four Americans died in Benghazi, Libya, fighting to protect the lives of other Americans. Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods were former Navy SEALs; Christopher Stevens and Sean Smith were civilians. Imagine the grief of their families. Try, though you must fail, to imagine what their families must have suffered over those deaths in places they didn’t need to be. There have been far too many such deaths, and far too many such families.

     Remember and reflect.


sykes.1 said...

You might wish to add the Indian Wars, which raged from the very founding of the colonies with the Powhatan War of 1622 until the Battle of Bear Valley with the Yaquis on January 9, 1918.

Col. B. Bunny said...

The tawdry maneuverings before some of the wars in the last century and this one have been concealed in clouds of propaganda. This massive propaganda has concealed the poisonous infiltration of communism as witness the scurillous attacks on Sen. Joe McCarthy. His and other patriots' legitimate inquiry into American communism has been turned on its head by the left's ceaseless campaign to make this inquiry into something base and anti-democratic, to wit, into "McCarthyism." The transformation of fascism into a supposed right-wing phenomenon is one of the central enterprises of our now transformed republic. Media monopolies dole out leftist drivel and, of course, make the Supreme Court's destruction of the constitutional order disappear behind smoky concepts like "our living Constitution" and emanations from penumbras.

Minority pathology and failure is painted as the failure of whites to transform their black hearts. Feminist lunacy is billed as a blessing second only to indoor plumbing. A mere 100 years after the massive bloodletting of the Great War our moron politicians and associated psychopaths float ludicrous lies about a nuclear-armed power and commit us to war, war and more war around the globe to advance vaporous "vital interests" and drain the treasury like that suction tube you encounter at the dentist.

Solzhenitsyn warned us, "Live not by lies" but our leaders shunned him when he was among us and raise lying to new heights of artistic perfection.

Master Guns said...

As a retired Master Gunnery Sergeant of Marines who served 26.5 years (1964-1990, 2003)I can only speak for what I observed during that period. I never met a Marine during two tours in Vietnam (and a brief combat tour in Africa) who wanted to die for his country; though I knew many that did. Serving as a First Sergeant of a Military Entrance Processing Station in the late 1980's, I asked many applicants for all branches of our armed services why they enlisted. The standard answer was to learn a profession. No one ever said to defend our freedoms. Major General S. D. Butler (twice recipient of the Medal of Honor)in his book "War is a Racket" pretty much summed up your fine article. Most war is about economics. Many die and a few get really rich.

Linda Fox said...

At least one of my ancestors was in every one of those. The only war my family missed was the 1st Persian Gulf war - no one was the right age or condition to participate.

Several ancestors in the Pontiac War, and other skirmishes in the Indian Wars.

milton f said...

God bless those who signed up for good intentions.

More importantly, death to tyrants.

Unknown said...

Thus always to tyrants.

B said...

Missed our first foreign "war" the Barbary Coast war, from whence the marines get the shores of tripoli.