When Did the American Eagle become the Cowardly Lion?

When did we become so afraid? A country born in revolution, tested by a civil war, and bloodied on the battlefields of the Ardennes, Bastogne, Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, Chosin Reservoir, Hue, Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

When did this country, blended of people from all over the world, the sum of the parts being greater than the whole, lose its heart?

When did this country, once willing to risk everything in its pursuit of democracy, once challenging itself to put a man on the moon, once serving as a beacon to the world, willing to bear the brunt of supporting the rights of all to be free, become afraid?

Are we so fearful of our inability to sustain and protect ourselves that we would turn our back on the downtrodden and oppressed?

Those who have been born here often forget the words that greet those who came here through the gateway of Ellis Island…

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Are these words that have inspired millions to risk it all for the opportunities of freedom meaningless?

Are they just words?

The opportunities of freedom so cherished by this country bear an obligation. Those that embrace freedom for themselves must be willing to bear the burden of supporting those that seek freedom.

I was raised to believe in an America that stood for something. An America that was willing to put actions to words and fight for all those that seek freedom and against those that would oppress us.

The Syrian refugees are the latest in a long line of oppressed seeking help. The idea that the United States of America is incapable of extending our protections to them as well as protecting ourselves from those forces of oppression is disheartening.

Xenophobia is a fever which has plagued mankind since the dawn of time. We are better than that. We are smarter than a bunch of illiterate zealots masking their craving of power with a distorted view of Islam. The very idea that we need to deny freedom from oppression to thousands of refugees because it involves risk is pathetic.

Where is our American pride? Where is our courage to do what is right, not because it is easy, but because it is hard?

Where has the America I grew to love, respect, and believe in gone?

I am not a religious person. I often poke fun at religion, but it is only because of the certainty which some of the faithful promote the particular faith. No one has a lock on the truth, but everyone is entitled to choose their belief, without compelling others to adopt this.

The Islamic terrorists misuse religion in their quest for power. We are smarter, stronger, tougher, and better than that.

There’s a line from J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye- “If Christ could see Christmas, he’d puke….”

I dare say if Mohammed could see what’s being done in his name, and our fear to do something about that, he’d have the same reaction.

A thousand years from now, if mankind can survive, those studying our history will remember more what we failed to do, than what we chose to do.

The America I love is better than that.

 

Better Way of War: Learning from Star Trek

As I predicted in an earlier piece, (https://joebroadmeadowblog.com/2015/11/14/roots-of-evil/),
France has responded in kind to the attacks in Paris. They’ve launched a two-pronged assault, using Law Enforcement to arrest and seize terrorists within their borders and using the might of their military on targets in Syria.

The use of the police to investigate and arrest those responsible I applaud. I hope it results in the dismantling of the terrorist cells. The use of the military I understand, but I have less hope for the effectiveness of such tactics.

I have no doubt of the efficiency of the French attacks, or the effectiveness of the weapons. I am sure they managed to kill a number of ISIS members and those that support them.

The failure lies in they cannot succeed in killing the ideas (as warped as they may seem) that encourage and inspire people to commit such acts through military force alone.

Over the course of the last century, our ideas and abilities regarding warfare have changed. Militarily (meaning all those with sophisticated military hardware and capabilities) have exponentially improved our ability to reach out and kill someone.

We can do it from the relative safely of an Air Force base in Nevada, remotely piloting UAV equipped with HARM missiles to destroy targets on the other side of the world with the push of a button.

The violence and gore of death mitigated by watching it on a screen rather than smelling the blood and stepping over the body parts.

Since the War to End all Wars (WWI) upwards of 80 million people have died (and perhaps more) in war.  Yet we continue down this path.  And we do it because we’ve become better at the advertising that sells this approach.

In December of 1941 President Roosevelt announced we were at war with Japan and Germany. He called on all Americans to dedicate themselves to victory. To commit themselves to battle. To be willing to sacrifice themselves in a noble cause, even at the price of their own lives.

In September of 2001, President Bush told us to go shopping. Yes, we were at war with terrorists. Yes, we would use our military might to smite our enemies. Those enemies that hate us because of our freedom (and shopping malls apparently) and we would hunt them down and kill them.

Between 1941 and 2001 our wars went from all-out calls for the commitment and blood of Americans to the “Police action” of Korea, to the “Assistance” of the Democratic Government of South Viet Nam.

Just a kinder and gentler way of selling war to the world.

So how can we learn from Star Trek? There was an episode wherein Kirk and crew encounter two planets at war. But there are no weapons being fired, no bodies being exploded or shot, no horribly wounded sent home without limbs to recover.

It was a “civilized” way of warfare. Virtual weapons were fired back and forth. Computers randomly selected the “casualties” and dutiful citizens so selected reported to the chambers to be “eliminated” without the horrors of real war.

It worked well at eliminating the horrors of war, without eliminating the motivation of war. No one on either planet could explain the reason they were at war, that had faded into the past.

Kirk, as he always did, violated the Prime Directive and interfered. He gave them back the horrors and reality of war. The two planets chose to negotiate. Happy ending all around.

Perhaps we can learn something here. Either find a willingness to solve the problems that motivate a people to choose to kill another people by virtue of a difference of beliefs, or adapt a more “civilized” way to war.

Think of it. Eliminate the horrors of the wounded, both civilian and military. Eliminate the effect of war on children (they would be ineligible for selection until their 21st birthday.) Redirect the resources of the military into more productive activities.

Let the computers fight the war.

The reality is it wouldn’t work. Until we as a species learn to extend tolerance as much as seek it for ourselves, war will remain with us.

I find it amazing that those that scream the loudest for the path to war, are almost always those that don’t go to war. It seems to me that those who have never seen the effect of a bullet on a human body in person are the first to hand someone else a weapon, identify the target, and send them off to fight. Staying safely behind.