This Isn’t The Way War Is Supposed To Be

Sophomoric is a literal description of this opinion piece by a college student at the University of Connecticut, on how he’s tired of the War On Terrorism, now that it’s turning into a real war, in which young men like him are dying. I hope that the sheltered life and ignorance of history indicated by this editorial is the exception, and not the rule, for his generation.

War, for most of my life, has been antiseptic – – free of pain and worry.

For most of your life? You say that as though you didn’t just fall off the turnip truck yesterday. As though, at the ripe old age of twenty or twenty one, you should have expected to see it all, and to know it all.

When bad guys come a-knockin’, we go over, kick some butt and come on back in time for the Super Bowl. Going over to fight in a foreign war (excuse me, “police action”) is nothing more than spending a semester abroad. U.S. troops don’t die, we don’t lose, we’re the best! We’re the Yankees of international warfare.

And now you’re just Shocked, Shocked, to discover that real wars are not just a video game.

I don’t know any of the lost souls; none of them come from Connecticut, or even New England. But one name struck me as I read the list. An Army soldier by the name of Pfc. Matthew A. Commons, of Boulder City, Nev. What struck me was not his name, or place of origin. What struck me was his age. He died serving his country at the age of 21.

Hate to break it to you, son, but in army life, twenty one is an old man, often a battle-scarred veteran.

One wonders if this guy’s ever read any books about war, like The Red Badge of Courage, or any Hemingway, or even Catch-22. I suspect that they were shoved out of his curriculum for more politically-correct reading fare.

Perhaps it’s a function of my age,

Gee, ya think?

or of the nature of this new conflict, but war no longer seems antiseptic to me. It’s no longer anonymous soldiers being sent off to fight, it’s my friends, family and co-workers. And unlike the Persian Gulf, our soldiers are starting to die..

So, what’s your point? Now that American men are dying, it’s time to call off the war? It’s all right to drop bombs on people you don’t know from thirty thousand feet, like a video game, but not to actually play “duck, duck, goose” in a mortar exchange, or engage in hand-to-hand combat?

And golly, some of your friends, family and coworkers might have to go off to die?

Here’s a clue, son. I know it’s tiresome to have to deal with the old fossils, but go talk to your grandparents, if they’re still living, or someone of their generation, if not, and ask them what it was like after Pearl Harbor. When everyone enlisted. When the casualties weren’t all reported in the New York Times, because there wouldn’t have been enough newsprint and ink for it. When everyone knew someone who was injured, or killed, and the chronicling of their fate was featured in every home town newspaper, for weeks, upon months, upon years.

And no one whined about it, as you are here, because they knew that there was only one way to deal with the Hitlers and Tojos and Stalins of the world, and that if they didn’t, the carnage would be even worse, and it wouldn’t be just sons and brothers and fathers, but sisters and mothers and daughters, down to the babies.

How soon are military units sent to Iraq, North Korea or Somalia, as President Bush bolsters his approval ratings by pumping more and more money into defense spending? More importantly, what are we looking to accomplish? When will we be safe from terrorism? When we have recognized our foreign policy mistakes, or when we have bombed the very last militant off of the very last mountaintop?

We have recognized our foreign policy mistakes, son. Our foreign policy mistakes were to allow people like bin Laden to think that he could murder innocent people wholesale, and suffer no consequences, partly because we thought that cruise missiles could substitute for eyes and arms on the ground, giving rise to your previous video-game warfare fantasies. And yes, it will be over when we have removed the last terrorist (not militant) from the last mountaintop, or camp, or alley. And that’s not going to happen overnight, but you’re young–you’ll probably see it happen.

For the sake of my friends, and for the sake of the families of the soldiers who have died, I hope the answer lies with the diplomat and not with the gun.

Hope has no power. To the degree that you should be hoping anything, though, you should be hoping that more people don’t think as you do, and that others will be willing to take up the challenge, even if you are not, so that your children and grandchildren will have an opportunity to write asinine editorials like yours.