War Is Unhealthy; So Is Chemotherapy

I have now had two Liberal friends of mine who don’t know each other in totally unrelated communications comment that they “resent” having their tax dollars spent on wars.   This is as a result of discussions about taxes.  In what I’m sure one friend thought was the final, incontrovertible point , she stated, “Wars are unhealthy.”

As far as the “unhealthy” comment goes, I don’t think anyone other than a Muslim extremist would disagree with this observation.  Although unhealthy is a gross understatement, let’s go with that analogy.

Chemotherapy is likewise unhealthy.  It does horrible things to your body and compromises your mental and physical health.  Unfortunately, chemotherapy cannot attack just cancer cells, so there is a lot of collateral damage.  A friend of mine who went through chemotherapy was told by her doctor that her body was aged 10 years by the process.  She also had her lymph nodes on one side removed (thankfully, that was all that was necessary), and she will daily suffer serious side effects for the rest of her life from this surgery.

However, chemotherapy was the best choice given that or premature death.  Unfortunately, we live in a world where we sometimes have choices that are all bad.  We have to be adults and make the hard choices without bemoaning the bad side effects that come with a choice which is actually a choice of lesser evils.

So, I don’t disagree with my friend who makes the statement that wars are unhealthy; they are.  That doesn’t mean that it is not a choice to be considered given certain circumstances.  I suspect that my Liberal friends would say that war is never the lesser of two evils.  I don’t know how they would justify choosing the continuation of slavery in this country over fighting the Civil War.  I don’t know how they would justify being conquered by the Nazis over fighting World War II.  If they lived in one of the Eastern Bloc countries during the Cold War (or even talked at length with those who did), they might understand that some things are worse than war.

As far as their resentment about paying taxes for war goes, I understand and agree with that also, to a limited extent.  Our government has a Constitutional responsibility to protect us, not to play nice with the enemy.  I resent spending tax dollars on wars which we do not fight to win because of political correctness, thereby extending the wars and ballooning the costs.  If, when we entered a war, we entered it with a firm resolution to win, war costs could be dramatically reduced.  I’m not saying that we should fight wars like the Nazis or the Stalinists, but we shouldn’t pretend like the enemies are our friends.

War is hell.  Nothing that you can do to make it “nice” will make it nicer than hell.  The only option is to limit the war by shortening it as much as possible by giving it all you’ve got to try to win it.

Does that mean we should resort to the use of nuclear weapons?  We should examine all of our options, including the cost in lives as well as dollars, when we are fighting a war.  I will not quibble with the use of nuclear weapons to end WWII; neither will I quibble with the decision to refrain from use of nuclear weapons since then.

What I will quibble with is not fighting a war to win it.  I am incensed that we are currently fighting a war with rules of engagement which make it difficult if not impossible to kill the enemy, and make it easier for the enemy to kill our troops.  Requiring our troops to refrain from shooting an enemy unless they have a gun IN their hands (even if they see them throw it down) makes war longer and more of a hell.  This inflates the cost of war in dollars and in human life.

For all of the talk about Vietnam and the still unhealed wounds inflicted on our country, we didn’t learn the major lesson to be learned from losing that war.  (Yeah, I know, we didn’t officially lose, we just “honorably” withdrew.  Politispeak.)  It was the first war that we tried to win not by fighting to win, but by fighting to tie.

McNamara’s (Secretary of Defense) concept of limited and “proportional” response was so appealing on its face.  It was what prolonged the war and caused us to lose; even he admitted it much later in life.  When I first heard of this war strategy, I was a young, inexperienced adult, but I remember it well because it seemed so novel and so “compassionate.”  The idea was that you responded to your enemy with a force proportional, rather than in excess of (if possible), to what your enemy attacked you with.  The modern day analogy of this philosophy might be, if your opponent brings a knife to a fight, you bring a knife.  If your opponent brings a gun, you bring a gun.   Don’t ever go at it stronger than your opponent.

Thank God, we as Americans can never win at a war like that, which means that we should never attempt to fight that way.  The one who wins at war under those rules is the one who has the stomach for continuous war and a lack of respect for the lives continually lost in continuous war.  This does not describe America.

There is no way to make war compassionate—not trying to win makes it more of a hell than it already is.  If we had gone in with a will to win the war in Vietnam, it would probably have ended differently.  We would have another South Korea or Japan rather than a country struggling towards becoming a developed nation almost 40 years later.

We should have learned this lesson from Vietnam: fight to win.  It could not heal the wounds our country experienced, but at least we would have something to show for it.

What did we do in the first major conflict after Vietnam?  That would be the first Gulf War, under President Bush 42.  Did we fight to win that one?  No.  I was much older then, but still clueless and under the spell of McNamara’s novel ideas, just as most America remains today.  I remember having a discussion with my father, who maintained that we should have marched into Baghdad and taken Saddam down.  In other words, we should have fought to win.  I maintained that we needed to stay within the guidelines laid down by the UN, and the goal was only to drive Saddam out of Kuwait.  I was blissfully ignorant of the Kurds and the plight that we left them in by withdrawing when we did.  (And the corruption in the UN.)  It wouldn’t have been “honorable” to continue on the Baghdad.  I was still under the influence of youthful stupidity and denial:  Play really, really nice.  Don’t defeat your opponent, just outlast his patience.

If we had taken Saddam out in the first Gulf War, consider the cost that would have been avoided of the subsequent war as well as the cost to those Iraqis who were attacked by Saddam with chemical and biological weapons after we abandoned those who helped us in that first war.   Consider the deterrent that might have been created by the message that we only fought wars to win them.  Imagine the possibilities, as the saying goes.

War is unhealthy.  Sometimes we just don’t have a “healthy” option.  If we do go to war, let’s make the hell cost as little as possible.  I hate for my liberal friends to be more resentful than necessary about spending money for the government to fulfill their Constitutional obligations.

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Published in: on November 5, 2012 at 4:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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