No, this is not about Leo Tolstoy’s timeless masterpiece, which was required reading when I went to school, although that, in itself, would be worthy of serious commentary. (The book was so long, that the word going around school was that students were reading just every other page.) Instead this piece will be about war as being the ultimate failure of the human condition, and yet extremely necessary at times. Americans, as a rule, like to revel in peaceful pursuits such as making a living and trying to have fun whenever possible. We carry on about the Super Bowl (just completed in a very exciting game,) or other sporting events; go to shows, movies, or nightclubs; dine out frequently; or just have neighborhood parties where the booze flows like the River Ganges. We keep up with the Kardashians or the exploits of such tabloid stars as Brittany Spears and Lindsay Lohan. All extremely superficial but harmless, peaceful pursuits. But while we’re pursuing fun or otherwise going about our daily routines, something like 9/11 01 comes crashing down on our heads, as 3000 Americans are murdered without the slightest forewarning. Suddenly life isn’t so much about having fun anymore. Suddenly we shift from being a nation at peace to one going on a war footing. Suddenly, we’re a nation in mourning, soon to be followed by a real shooting war in some hellhole part of the world called Afghanistan, that many people barely knew existed or heard of, as we seek justice for the events of 9/11. Sometimes, war just comes wether we want it or not.
While war is an abomination for those involved, not going to war can lead to even worse consequences. I’ve written before about how the French and British were asleep at the switch as Hitler built his military machine in Nazi Germany during the 1930s. The French could have gone in as late as 1937 or 1938 and destroyed Hitler’s army and the Nazi regime, with little effort. Instead they did nothing. Instead, Britain’s Neville Chamberlain met with Hitler in Munich in1938, and attempted a policy of appeasement. Hitler, of course, saw this as a sign of weakness, which it was, and plowed ahead with his plans to conquer all of Europe by force. And the French and British, who tried to avoid war at all costs, soon were involved in the greatest war the world had ever seen. Over 60 million people died in Europe alone, as a consequence of the Allied policy of appeasement. In a human history filled with evil acts by evil tyrants, the Nazi’s were able to pull off the most evil event of all time, the Holocaust. Over 6 million Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, and people opposing Hitler’s policies, were slaughtered in the gas chambers. The magnitude and extent of such evil is still more than the mind can comprehend for many people.
On the other hand, an example of where force was unwisely used was the fiasco known as the Viet-Nam war. It was a direct result of our paranoia and fear of world communism. Although none of our vital interests were even remotely threatened, the John Kennedy administration decided to consign hundreds of thousands of troops to another planetary hellhole-the jungles of Viet-Nam. The Eisenhower administration had initially got us involved in what was an essentially a civil war against a corrupt regime. But Eisenhower had sent over only a few hundred men to assist the corrupt government in office in its fight against the Communist rebels. However, when Kennedy, and then Lyndon Johnson became presidents, somehow, vital interests were manufactured, and up to half a million American troops were sent over to fight in Viet-Nam’s civil war. And unlike now, a draft existed in those days. So young men, often against their will, were drafted into the military and sent to die in the rat-infested, hellhole jungles of Viet-Nam. In the end it took Republican Richard Nixon to extract us from this folly created by Democratic presidents. Today we have peaceful relations with Viet-Nam and extensive commercial ties. Which is of little consolation to the near 60 thousand Americans that perished in those jungles, or the tens of thousands of American lives ruined because of severe injuries. To say nothing of the hundreds of thousands of Viet-Namese that were killed.
After 9/11, war and peace were again major issues as the newly installed George W. Bush presidency took office. As I said earlier, we went to war in Afghanistan against the Taliban, ostensibly to seek justice for the slaughter of 3000 Americans on 9/11. It was, however, really a quest for vengeance, because the Taliban had fully supported Osama bin-Laden and his band of lunatic terrorists and the havoc they wrecked on American soil. What at first appeared to be an easy and quick victory over the Taliban has now turned into an on-going war almost 12 years in the making. It has been like death by a thousand cuts, as the Taliban have proved to be far more resilient than first contemplated. President Obama has stated his intent to pull our troops out of the war zones by next year, so that the Afghan army will supposedly be doing all the fighting. But will this lead to a resurgent Taliban taken back the country, so that all our sacrifice will be for naught? In any event, the American public is sick of the Afghan war, and by large majorities wants us out of there.
The Bush administration also went to war against Saddam Hussein in Iraq, on the pretext that Saddam was harboring chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction. Now there’s no question that Saddam was a very evil guy, and would have no compunctions about using WMDs; but imagine everyone’s surprise when no WMDs were found after Saddam was driven from office. Overwhelming support for the war quickly crumbled, especially as it dragged on and on for years. President Obama finally extracted us from that one, but again not before the loss of about 6,000 American military and civilian lives; and the expenditure of almost a trillion dollars. Today a very fragile “peace” exists but widespread terrorist acts are committed almost on a daily basis. Will this country also descend into terrorist hell, making all our sacrifices be in vain?
Now the main evil threatening civilization on this planet is Iran’s rush to develop nuclear weapons. Iran’s fundamentalist Islamic regime has repeatedly threatened to wipe Israel off the map. Their fundamentalism and hatred of Israel are like bottomless pits. Nuclear weapons in the hands of the Mullahs running the country, creates the very real possibility of using those weapons against U.S or Israel. This would result in nuclear retaliation by Israel and the entire planet would descend into a nuclear conflagration. Even the roaches would not be exempt from extinction. So do we go in and take military action by bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities before they develop the bomb. The way the French should have gone in and wiped out Hitler’s army in 1938. Or, as is most likely the case, do we do as the French did, which is nothing; because neither the American public nor the present administration has the stomach for another war. Then we would have to live with a nuclear-armed Iran.
Like marriage, war and peace go together like a horse and carriage, don’t they.