Friday, June 4, 2010

My Memorial Day Post

As just about every living, breathing American is aware, Monday, May 31 was Memorial Day. A time when we are encouraged to remember the men and women serving and who have served in the armed forces. More specifically, those men and women who have fallen in the service of our country. It might seem a little incongruous to be writing a Memorial Day post 4 days after the fact, but I actually think this is the perfect time to do such a thing. So many Americans have forgotten what Memorial Day is about or treat it as just a blase' excuse to get drunk and sunburned or go shopping that I think it's good to do things "out of order" sometimes and force people to think about things when they aren't expecting it (and more likely to be sober and able to pay attention).

In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess that my family is one of those that does not have a strong tradition of service in the military. My grandparents on my father's side are the most recent members of the military in the family. Both served in the navy during World War II: my grandfather as a lieutenant serving as an engineering officer aboard the escort carrier Mission Bay and my grandmother as an ensign serving as a nurse at a hospital. Like many of their generation, they didn't talk about their service much, if at all. At least not to me. I wasn't even aware that my grandmother had been a navy nurse until I was in my 20s. I think my cousins got the benefit of them becoming more chatty as they became older. That, or it became more acceptable for war vets to talk about their service again in the 80s and 90s. I should note here that my mother's father was also, briefly, a member of the Army during World War II; however, the manner in which he completed his service leaves an open question as to the honorableness of that service. We'll just leave it at that for now.

Like many young men, I considered joining the military when I was in high school. Something about getting your selective service card in the mail forces you to think about it. I was your typical 17 year old, suburban  high school student at the time. I had less than half a clue what I wanted to do with my life and even less of a clue about how to go about doing it. I did have a freshly minted pilot's license in my pocket (that's another long story for another post) and a lifelong love affair with airplanes. I figured the military had all the cool airplanes. So, I visited with all the recruiters about the possibilities of a 17 year old from the 'burbs getting his hands on America's finest birds of prey.

In short, they were not good. First off, there was the long hair. All the recruiters, except for the Marine I talked to, asked me if I was on drugs and refused to believe that a 17 year old from a North Dallas suburb had never tried illegal drugs. I had no desire to do drugs then and still don't. Reality is interesting enough without recreational pharmaceuticals, and the recruiters' refusal to believe my drug free status didn't sit well with me. Second, there was the education. With the possible exception of flying helicopters in the Army (the Army has the Warrant Officer ranks which fall between the enlisted ranks and commissioned officers), I was informed that military pilots were all officers. Officer rank meant a minimum of a college degree or spending time as an enlisted person earning a recommendation to Officer Candidate School. Third, there were no guarantees. Oh, they'd tell you anything you'd want to hear to get you to sign on the dotted line; but, like the fine print says, once you're in you are government property to be used and abused as needs of the service dictate. I ultimately went with my mother's recommendation to go to college first and revisit the military question after I had obtained my degree. By the time I had graduated from college, Clinton was in office and it didn't seem like a good time to be in the military.

It's just as well. I found out a few years ago on a visit to the Naval Air Museum in Pensacola, FL that I am too tall to fit in the cockpits of most military aircraft. Which. Sucks. One dream/fantasy killed. That means I would have had to find other ways to serve in the military; or, rather, they would have found other ways for me to serve the military...most likely as cannon fodder. Let's see now...which targets are the easiest to hit in any given set of circumstances? Oh yeah, the biggest targets. The only plus I had going for me as a moving target at the time was that I was painfully thin for my height.

Now, having fully disclosed my lack of actual military experience and fairly thin family background on the subject, here's the question I would like to pose to my loyal readership on this post Memorial Day post: Is there any such thing as a Necessary War?


Obviously, there are at least two parties to every war or conflict: the aggressor or attacker and the aggressee or the victim. Think Nazi Germany and everyone else in Europe. Saddam Hussein's Iraq and Kuwait. I am asking this question from the aggressor's point of view as I think every nation that's been on the receiving end of an aggressor's attack would argue that, yes, most definitely, war is necessary. For example, I don't think that any red blooded American would argue that we should have taken Pearl Harbor on the chin and let Japan have the entire Pacific Rim and a good sized chunk of mainland Asia without a fight.  

As a student of history and human culture, the motivations or causes of war can be lumped into three basic categories: Economics (including grabs for land and raw materials), Religion (my god is bigger than your god) and Emotions (including nationalistic pride, bad jokes, love...who could forget about Helen of Troy?, etc.). So, understanding the motivations and causes of war, what legitimate justification does any aggressor have to start a war? With anybody? Is there any prize worth the destruction and loss of life involved? Is there no other way to achieve certain goals but by violence on a national scale? I, for one, cannot think of any legitimate reason to start a war.

With anybody.


Needless to say, I can think of several reasons for finishing a war someone else started.

Were your ancestors killed by someone else's ancestors a thousand years ago?  Guess what? Killing their descendants now ain't going to bring your dead ancestors back nor will it teach their ancestors a lesson. They're dead too. 

Does your nation need more oil? Buy it, drill for it yourself or figure out another energy source. My blood and the blood of every man and woman serving our country, and every other country for that matter, is worth more than any amount of oil.

Does your country need more land? Well, that is a tricky one. Last I checked, God wasn't making any more of it and it's a bit of an expensive and difficult do it yourself project. Just taking a wild guess here, I'm thinking the estimated $800 plus billion spent on the Iraq War to date by the US could go a long way towards figuring out how to overcome that challenge.

I greatly respect those who have chosen to serve in the military. It is important that every one think about the sacrifice of those living and dead who have fought for the rights and freedoms we enjoy today. Even the right to be irresponsible morons sometimes. However, I look forward to a time God has promised to come:

He shall judge between the nations, And rebuke many people; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war anymore. - Isaiah 2:4
In the meantime, remember those who serve for us now and those who have gone before. Never forget. Never take them for granted.


  1. What a wonderful story about your Grandparents! My Grandpa likes to tell people that he served in the Korean War...however he was stationed in Germany during that time and I have enough pictures of him at the pub with a frauline (sp?)on his lap to prove it! I have a soft spot for stories of other nurses, so it sounds so romantic to me.
    We LOVE the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola. We have gone there at least 4 times in the last year. It's one of our favorite places to go on rainy days.
    About your war question...I do not see that there is ever an honorable reason to be aggressive towards another person or nation without provocation. That being said, that theory only works when both nations/people involved have some sense of the word honor. History shows that to be a rare thing.

  2. Mel, meine Deutsch ist ein bischen alt und nicht so gut,aber Ich glaube dass es ist "Fraulein" und nicht "frauline". Wir sind Amerikaner, und ich weiss was du war sagen. So, es ist nicht eine problem.

    Love me some aviation museums. They have to kick me out. It's all I can do to keep from climbing in and stealing a plane or two.

    As to your response to the war question, I agree that history shows a rather decided lack of honor when it comes to the initiation of most wars; however, my focus was mainly on the necessity of war from the aggressor's point of view. War gets justified for all sorts of reasons (some honorable, some not); however, the majority of wars if not all wars, in my opinion, are unnecessary. Is it NECESSARY to go to war over scarce resources, national pride, whose God is bigger than the other, etc.? I don't believe that it is.

    Be that as it may, war seems to be a part of human nature for better or for worse until such time as God takes everyone behind the woodshed for a little correction.

  3. K- my grandfather would know exactly what you Not so much. From what I can decipher it looks like you said that your German is not so good, but you corrected my spelling but it's not a problem....close?? Maybe's been a long time since I've heard Grandpa tell dirty jokes in german so we wouldn't hear them :)

  4. Mel, you got the gist of things. German is really fairly close to English grammatically, and there are a lot of cognate words that make it a somewhat easy language to pick up.

  5. I haven't thought of war quite in those terms. I do definitely believe that there are times to end a war, or even join one, but could we stop the aggressors?

    So, really, is war (at least from the US's standpoint) a pro-active or reactive thing? Are we being pro-active in keeping the war off of US soil (was the war going to happen anyway) or are we reacting to the threat of losing our oil supply? Are we reacting (still) to 9-11?

    The sad thing is that war is good for the economy. We've got a lot of people gainfully employed because of it. What happens when suddenly there's no demand for all of the war supplies?

    Dang it, you're like that super smart friend that everyone has and it makes my brain hurt to keep up with you. :)

  6. GunDiva, I don't think it is possible to stop the aggressors except by deterrence; and, even then, your start getting into proxy wars and shadow conflicts because the underlying motivations for war don't ever really go away despite the other side waving a very large stick.

    I agree that it is sad that war is good for the economy. We had the economic problem your question implies after WWII which was only partially alleviated by Korea. I was had the opportunity to speak with a former command sergeant major from the Army Green Berets. His view was even more bleak than yours. He stated that the U.S. involved itself in minor conflicts such as Panama, Bosnia, etc. as a means of refreshing the munitions inventory (ie - expend older ordinance to create an excuse to buy new ordinance).

    War from the US's standpoint has been a mixed bag historically and you get a lot of second guessing about manufactured causes. For instance, WWII would generally be considered a reactive conflict from the US's standpoint; however, that does not stop conspiracy theorists from arguing that FDR LET the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor to give him an excuse to join the war.

    I think the doctrine of preemptive or pro-active war adds a whole other layer of dynamics to the question. Obviously, when you are reacting in defense, you do not get to choose the battle ground. It puts you behind the OODA loop curve early in the conflict which is not a good place to be. However, being pro-active or preemptive puts you solidly into the aggressor category as opposed to the defender category.

    As to 9-11, I personally think the only legitimate reaction to 9-11 was/is Afghanistan. The terrorists started the war on our territory with the tacit approval or active support of the Taliban regime. We get a free pass to finish that one. The one thing 9-11 and WWII (in certain instances) proved is that the US is not geographically protected from war on our territory.

    As to Iraq, I am not convinced that Iraq was a justified action. I don't recall the exact figures, but I seem to recall Iraq being a fairly minor player percentage-wise in the oil production business. Saddam's supposed crime (besides being a world class evil SOB and terrorist friendly supporter of very bad things) was that he was offering to sell oil in Euros as opposed to dollars as a means of destabilizing our currency. I think there was also the possibility that W wanted to finish what Daddy Bush started and wasn't allowed to finish by the GW1 coalition.

    This comment response it getting post length worth.

    Finally, as to your final comment, I appreciate the kudos, but I'm really not that smart. I just ask questions and look for answers. Some are good. Some not so good.


I am not easily offended. Please feel free to express your opinions: good, bad or indifferent. Basically, the "Golden Rule" applies. You get what you give. Treat others like trash here, and your comments will be trashed accordingly. Rudeness and vulgarity will not be tolerated.