Wednesday, September 04, 2002
Want to go to war? You've got to get shot at first: The San Diego Union-Tribune's Lionel Van Deerlin takes up the cause of the doves with his position that you're not allowed to advocate a war unless you've been in combat.
Still, I have to wonder about the raucous calls we hear for storming ramparts in far-off places. Might such clamor come with greater credibility – and surely with more grace – if raised by persons who know the sound of shot and shell?
Instead, today's warmongers are being rallied increasingly by stay-at-homes. Example: What seemed an orchestrated call for pre-emptive action against Iraq was heard, just days apart, from Vice President Cheney and the GOP's House whip, Tom DeLay.
So what bugs me? Well, Cheney obtained his college BA and DeLay his high school diploma in the very same year, 1965 – a moment that marked the height of America's troop buildup in Vietnam.
At least there's no mention of President Bush, who served in the Texas Air National Guard.
There's a few of things about this argument that military service is required before you advocate war that really frost me.
First, it places an excessive premium on wisdom born of experience in battle. Fighting a war, the strategy and logistics, certainly require experience and expertise -- these are strictly military functions. But the decision to go to war is a political act.
Second, it assumes that generals necessarily know what is possible when it comes to the capabilities of the American military -- Van Deerlin, who served four years in the military, assumes this is true.
It's hardly comforting to learn this same public servant now views the Iraq venture as a piece of cake.
Nothing new here. In the late Vietnam years, Indiana Rep. Andrew Jacobs, a veteran of sustained Marine combat service in Korea, expressed an aversion for public officials who talk a strongly pro-military line but have done no fighting themselves. In the well of the House one day, Jacobs introduced and defined a new term: war wimp.
Let's rewind a decade when "experts" with military service, likely including Van Deerlin himself, warned of war with Iraq and the huge number of casualties the United States military would suffer. After all, Saddam's troops were battle-hardened after eight years of war with Iran. They had chemical weapons. They had the world's fourth-largest army.
And they caved within days of the start of the land war.
So, you'll excuse me if I don't vastly underestimate the capabilities of America's armed forces.
Van Deerlin also suggests we start a list of "war wimps."
Van Deerlin can start his list with DeLay and Cheney.
I'll start my list with Woodrow Wilson (WWI), FDR (WWII), and Bill Clinton (Bosnia, Serbia).