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.
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 2:4In the meantime, remember those who serve for us now and those who have gone before. Never forget. Never take them for granted.