Future Peace Worth the Sacrifices

Sounding Board Editorial #8 (March 23, 2008)

Dennis Foster

     The previous editorial on guns ran in the paper on the weekend at the start of our spring break.  I had planned to be hiking in the Grand Canyon for some eight days, but was stymied by the snow packed roads on the north rim.  Consequently, I only ended up doing a couple of days of cross-country skiing before returning home.  I did write up a story for the paper on this mini-adventure, which they published under the title, "North Rim Skiing Likely to Last."  The bottom line here is that I was home during most of the spring break and had the opportunity to get another editorial in the paper for the following weekend.  The Iraq War had just "turned" five years old this week, and the paper ran an editorial on the conflict, lamenting on the "futility of peace" and arguing that it is time to go.  Well, we didn't have an editorial board meeting this week, so this was not a topic of discussion among the group.  And, I thought that the tenor of the editorial was totally wrong.  So, I decided to pen a counter; my editorial ran on March 23.

As General Sherman noted, “War is Hell.”  And, so it is.  Brutal, bloody, rife with paradox.  What is interesting about the American experience with war is that we don’t fight for the expansion of our territory, our acquisition of Guam notwithstanding.  While we are not, and should not be, the world’s policeman, we have come to accept that our might, and our blood, can be used to help make the world a better place.  We fought against Germany and Japan, and turned to rehabilitate them, not subsume them.  Is not the world better off as a consequence?  Of course it is, and we take it for granted.

In Korea, can there be a starker contrast between the north and south?  Would the world have been better off if we had consigned the millions of South Koreans to the cruel fate of their northern kinsmen, surviving under the pathological two Kims?  South Korea didn’t become an instant and vibrant democracy.  Far from it.  But, they have evolved into a nation that would be considered a role model for Iraq.

Conversely, in Vietnam we lost sight of our objectives, and with the myopic nature of politics, cut a bad deal to end the war “with honor.”  Soon thereafter, we were watching on as the horror of the killing fields enveloped neighboring Cambodia.

Yes, Iraq is a mess.  But, a generation, or two, from now, perhaps the world will recognize the value of the sacrifices made.  Or, perhaps they’ll just take it for granted.

Dennis Foster has a Ph.D. in economics, teaches at the university level, is an avid Grand Canyon hiker and encourages contributions to www.soldiersangels.com.

I think the main point is pretty straightforward - we should contemplate the notion that this is going to be harder than we thought, but that is the nature of war and peace.  I was going to include the fact that casualties during five years in Iraq still are less than an hour along the Bloody Road at Antietam.  Perspective is everything.  And, since we no longer have a military draft, those soldiers that do enlist know that they may face some danger.

Some weeks later this topic did come up in our editorial board meeting.  Although some argued that it was obvious that we've failed in Iraq and should leave, I remarked that the "boots on the ground" - the men and women doing the heavy lifting over there - are supportive of their efforts to bring some sanity to this region.  Despite the price tag, which is a different issue, the views of our soldiers should carry some weight in these discussion, but often aren't.

There was some blowback from my letter, and a counter letter by Marcus Ford.  We have clashed before, and will certainly do so again.  But, his point seems to be that America is better defined by its conflict with the Spanish and the Indians than it is by our conflict with Germany and Japan.  Too bizarre.

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