Sunday, March 27, 2016

Is It Peacetime?

"We popped over a little ridge, and there was a Bedouin camp on the other side. I watched a boy about nine or ten come running out from one of the goat hair tents. We were so close I could see his expression - thrill and fear and awe and wonder combined. His whole life he'll remember the the moment that sky-blackening, air-mauling, thunder-engined steel firmament of war crossed his face. And I hope all of his bellicose, fanatical, senseless quarrel-mongering neighbors, from Tel Aviv to Khartoum, from Tripoli to Tehran - remember it, too." PJ O'Rourke, embedded with a New Zealand C-130 crew at the end of Desert Storm, 1991. Give War a Chance, PJ O'Rourke, 1993.

"Can you tell when it's peacetime and wartime anymore? [...] We measure the success of a mission by two things - was it successful, and how few civilians did we hurt. They measure success by how many. Pregnant women are delivering bombs. You talk to me about international law, the laws of nature don't even apply here. I've been a soldier for thirty-eight years, and I've found an enemy I can kill." Admiral Percy FitzWallace, "We Killed Yamamoto," The West Wing (2002).

Washington DC, December 8, 1941 (AP): Today, in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt addressed Congress. "December 7th, 1941, a date which will live in infamy." He went on to tell the assembled representatives, and the world, that the United States would respond quickly and decisively. "I have directed my attorney general to, with all due haste, investigate this heinous act and bring to justice the perpetrators. At this moment, officers of the Federal Bureau of Investigation are with a District Court judge, obtaining an arrest warrant for  Isoroku Yamamoto and his staff. This foul and despicable deed shall not go unpunished. We have also targeted for assassination the Japanese Emperor, and key members of his government."

 Over the past decade, America has been cautioned about its response to "terror." We have heard that the men and women perpetrating these acts are unaffiliated, ragtag extremists unrelated to any modern belief system, or nation/state. We will target individuals, lead from behind... Getting upset about an American couple blown up in a European airport is disproportionate.

Next year, the ILA conference my wife attends every fall will be he held in Brussels. If that was the love of your life, how would you feel? What does it say about our civilization that a barbaric, medieval system occupies territory and wages war against us, and our response  is to arrest the perpetrators of individual acts?

Many years ago, in a letter to my grandmother and grandfather, my dad expressed a hope shared by most members of our armed forces - that his endeavors in the Pacific would not be in vain. That the risk to his life was so that others could live free lives in peace. I would venture to say that our contemporary military feels much the same.

Is it peacetime, or wartime? What do you think?

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