Like many of you I have followed the war in Ukraine wondering how such a tragedy will end. But too often we think only of ending war. Were we to learn from history we might think more about how wars begin and do something to stop them beforehand.. But ardent student of history that I am, I know that politicians will start another war because they have been too lax in dealing with international problems and I know that someone from my family will be smack dab in the middle of it. We always have been.
My first war was Vietnam. I believed what the politicians told us about the Domino Theory; that is until I got there. Then I didn’t believe it because I saw a society that wasn’t ready for or able to handle democracy. I won’t discuss the details but you weren’t going to take that society and make it a democratic government. It was a bad war and in the end it had the result that it would have had if we had kept our soldiers and dollars at home. It was a politicians war. I was lucky for I did not have a requirement to take lives. On the contrary, I was a combat rescue pilot who maneuvered a 50,000 pound helicopter through tree tops to rescue downed air crew members or on one occasion a spy drone that overshot its capture area. I did it very well.
My second war was Afghanistan. Not the Afghanistan we recently left but the one where Russians occupied the hill station forts we would unable to keep. My job was to train and equip Afghan locals to fight and kill Soviets.
My third war was Kuwait/Iraq. It wasn’t the same kind of war that our troops fought in Desert One. No, my war was not on CNN. It was a secret war.
My fourth and fifth wars were to be the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. These, like Vietnam, were political wars started by politicians whose contorted idealism about nation building caused world upheaval and a second and third loss after Vietnam. You cannot change a culture that is mired in the 14th century into a 21st century democracy. You’d have more luck making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
I refused to fight in these wars, preferring to hang up my spurs for, although I may not be the brightest bulb in the chandelier, I knew exactly how they would progress and, more than that, how they would end. I felt like Cassandra pleading with the Trojans to set the damn Greek horse on fire, but like her I was not to be believed.
All war is bad and most of it is unnecessary. I do not mean that killing is bad for sometimes it is a needed remedy to an otherwise intractable problem. I mean that hundreds of thousands of forces being taken to a foreign land and told to fight and stay there until we lose again is unnecessary. There are ways to engage threats to national security that do not require large military deployments or billions of dollars. When we began to selectively identify and remove the leaders of terrorist groups we lowered the risk of terrorism to National Security. That was an intelligence effort. Cloaks and daggers still work if you’re willing to employ them. What if Hitler had slipped on the icy stairs at the Eagles Nest? What if Stalin had contracted botulism? What if Mao had eaten a bad piece of duck? Yes, and what if the operation had been better planned and Castro had smoked a loaded cigar?
We should begin requiring the responsible politicians to do what it is they ask their constituents to do. The mayor of Chicago should be required to live in the most dangerous part of town and not be permitted any private body guard. The Mayors of New York, New Orleans and San Francisco the same. If a politician votes for war, he or she should be required to take up arms and lead the first forces into the field. Elected officials somehow think they are irreplaceable, but there are long lines of qualified people who could handle the job and that includes the Presidency. Just look at how many people sign up to run.
There should be ways other than having to wait til the next election to hold a politician responsible for their actions. That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it.