As we observe Memorial Day, the old Decoration Day, we are supposed to be honoring all the military service people (well maybe even civilians) who died in our many wars.
And I think that is a good thing — as far as it goes.
I’m not the first one to come up with this (I think Andy Rooney mentioned this Sunday evening), but the best way we could honor them is to figure out a way around war so others would not have to die in the future.
War as an instrument of government policy should be outdated by now, except for those instances in which a nation is faced with no other choice because it is directly attacked. And then only to fend off the attackers or keep them from further attack, but not to remake the world or recreate whole societies.
It seems that in recent times a large number of those who set policy and who seem to support war have never served in the military or fought war (I didn’t say all).
And I’ve touched on this issue before, but I firmly believe that if the military draft were in effect today, we likely would not be in armed conflict anywhere.
Currently there is the threat that the Korean War, which ended as a hot war in the early 50s, could flare up again with the latest provocations from North Korea. I read some articles, though, in the New York Times that indicated South Koreans have mixed emotions on how to respond. There seems to be some reluctance to go to war, although some are starting to feel the dictatorship in the North is pushing too hard.
But the sentence that jumped out at me was this one:
“And in country where all fit young men must spend two years in the military, ‘chicken hawks’ are much harder to come by than in America.”
Noting the ambivalence of many South Koreans on the prospect of going to war, an author of an opinion piece concluded by writing:
“It would be counter productive if Washington were to look more interested in punishing North Korea than the injured party.” (B.R. Myers, director of international studies, Dongseo University, Busan, Korea)
And that’s kind of the way I feel.
But I appreciate the sacrifice of those who did their duty. They did not make the policy that put them in the position of having to do that duty.
We should not only remember those who died in the past, or those who have died recently, but those who face that prospect by the minute as they serve in the Middle East today.
I don’t have much good to say about our modern wars in which there seems to be no clear purpose or strategy to win. But I respect the effort being made by those doing their duty nonetheless.
If it were up to me (and it is not) we would use all force possible and get it done.
The decision to go to war should be one made only after no other course seems possible. Once made there should be no holding back, and the whole nation should sacrifice.
But let’s do take some time to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. And then let’s take even more time to figure out a way of preventing future generations (our children, our grandchildren) from going down the same path.