San Diego Soliloquies

Sunday, April 11, 2004

It’s the War, not the Warriors

I have a deep abiding respect for the military, and particularly the Navy and Marines. This may come as a surprise to some, but not to anyone who grew up in San Diego. My father was a naval aviator, and quite a few family friends were as well, including a few Blues.

Moving to the Bay Area and attending the University of California surprisingly widened my acquaintance as I added Army and Air Force ROTC types to the Navy folks I gravitated to. In my business career I have worked with, been managed by and hired quite a few officers and enlisted men. This included a Marine ex-LRP with whom I spent a surreal night plotting how to get our team to the American Embassy in Madrid should the then-current bombings and assassinations by ETA provoke street violence and demonstrations (we were setting up high speed data communications gear overlooking the Royal Palace. Explaining to heavily armed Guardia Civil why we were banging around with night vision goggles at 4 am in broken Spanish still remains a personal high point).

I know military personnel about as well as an outsider can. Our volunteer force consists of people that I think are far too good to be wasted on any war, which is as it should be. You see these fine people make up my military. As a citizen of the United States I bear part of the collective responsibility for the use and misuse of these my fellow citizens, 4166 of whom have been killed or wounded in a war fought for no good reason.

Any real student of history (which, thanks to the professionalism of the services, describes all of our armed forces) knows that this region has been hostile to occupying powers, many of whom also promised freedom to the Iraqis. Our military went in knowing this was a really bad idea, and that they were the ones who were going to pay for it. They did it anyway. They knew that there was no plan, and they would have to pick up the pieces. They are sacrificing themselves for us, not just in getting wounded or killed, but the day to day corrosion that happens in war.

Any competent commander will tell you that equipment and people have a limited effective life span in a war zone. With equipment it’s obvious; the wear and tear, sand in the gears, treads wearing out, the critical maintenance that gets deferred. Now think what happens to people day in and day out. There has not been a single day the US and coalition forces have not been under fire. They are stationed in a country where they suspect more people are starting to turn on them, yet still our forces try to make it safe. How long before the corrosion of being hated, of encounters with people you can’t communicate with, of being fired at, start to wear down our people? I am in awe of the job they have done so far, and how they’ve conducted themselves so far. I also know that everything has limits.

There can be no greater recruiting tool for those who hate us than our invasion of Iraq. There is no greater mistake in recent times than diverting our forces from the long and difficult war on terror and using these forces to create even more enemies for the United States of America. Had they wit enough, or half the courage and forbearance shown by our men and women on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, our leaders would have apologized already, and would be organizing planeloads of UN troops to take over the rebuilding of Iraq.

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San Diego Soliloquies