On Memorial Day
To give life for one's country, something 1.3 million American servicemen and women have done, is a sacrifice beyond many of us. It's not just an individual sacrifice, but also a sacrifice to the family and community where these soldiers lived and worked. Memorial Day is the day where we honor those soldiers who gave their lives with parades, flags and solemn cermony. I'd propose, as well, it is a day where we take a critical examination of our country's path into war. With the sadness of losing so many heroes, we must also consider the anger that comes with it - anger of those who lose loved ones - anger of those who wish to end conflict.
There is no better day to analyze our history and learn the lessons we should not repeat. Soldiers go to war not for glory, spoils or other selfish reasons - because none of them get that - they go out of patriotism and love of their country. Those who make the decision to engage these patriots in battle where life and limb are risks, need to value those lives more in their decisions to start battle. In the history of the country, less than 50 years have been war-free years. No one before in the 21st century has ever lived their lives in a time where there was no war where the US was involved. The oldest of those born this century are in their teens and will soon be entering the time where they can decide to serve our country.
The war in Iraq isn't the first time we've fought a similar conflict in the same place multiple times. We've come to decisions of isolationism in the past and failed at making the right decisions. When the spoils of World War I went to the victors, that and American isolationism were components to start the second World War. And rarely in history has war been engaged between two democracies - so there is value in "democracy building". However, before committing military force and the potential lives of those in uniform, other means of diplomacy need to be exhausted. For every conflict we've avoided, countless lives of our military (and civilians, perhaps even our own) have been saved. The early 1980s were the last great time of peace and diplomacy for our military though much of the time was a tight-rope between peace and conflict balanced on mutually assured destruction. Diplomacy and democracy won - not that there wasn't a cost outside of our country - but our national focus gained in science and space exploration rather than paying the expensive cost of sending troops to war. Not to undermine the mistakes of 1980s internally or in the handling of third-world nations, but general wide-spread war was avoided.
On Memorial Day, think of those lives of soldiers who were lost defending out country. It goes beyond whether their invididual conflict was any more just or necessary than any other conflict that our nation has participated. Those lives have a value of valor and heroism that is defined by their loss first and foremost. But also keep in mind that our country is a safe place, thanks in part to those troops. When leaders start mobilizing toward war - ask questions - look for peace. Don't let these numbers grow bigger.
"It seems to me that any sensible person must see that violence does not change the world and if it does, then only temporarily." - Martin Scorsese