Tuesday, December 19, 2017
War Is a Racket
I stumbled across - or over - this recently. War is a racket. It's a phrase attributed to a US Marine, Maj.-Gen Smedley Darlington Butler, a soldier who twice earned America's Medal of Honor.
It's a phrase that Smedley penned in 1925 and yet, if you read the text of his address here, you may find it eerily contemporary.
My military days behind me by well over thirty years, I was drawn back in recent years to war studies, online courses put on by Kings College, London and other unis. It was the first time in decades that I had been able to focus on warfare, the nature of war, what caused or triggered wars and such. Man, I thought we had it bad in the dangerous Cold War days. Smedley's "racket" has brought us to an entirely different place this time around.
We now fight - to fight. The proof of that is that we no longer fight to win. We fight to fight. We absolve ourselves of responsibility. We're there - or at least our young men and women are there - as part of a greater community of mutually absolving nations in harness to a dominant nation for the sake of, let's admit it, fighting. It's a bit like 5th grade track day where you get the blue ribbon for showing up, not actually winning anything.
Okay, okay, in fairness we only lost about 150 dead. Even compared to Canada's war in Korea (1950-53) our decadal adventure in Afghanistan claimed less than a third as many lives. It was about the same as a bad night for Bomber Command in WWII.
About 150. Ah, there's the rub. One hundred fifty plus for what exactly? I'm not uncomfortable with this conversation. I served. A lot of my uncles served in WWII, one of them I've never met and never will. My late Dad was one of the worst off and how he survived - and thrived - when medical opinion held he sustained life-extinguishing wounds in 1944 reflects an insane amount of luck and great timing.
It's 150, maybe a dozen more. I remember the flag waving "patriots" who lined the overpasses on the 401 "Highway of Heroes" to venerate our returned dead. Wow, did that make me cringe. It was so un-Canadian. Where were these people when the wounded and maimed came home? Where were they when successive governments turned on those people?
The question we're not asking, the one that most demands clarification, is, in what circumstances, will we commit Canadian troops to combat in the future? Should we ever send our soldiers into 'harm's way' unless we have a clear purpose, a viable plan to achieve that purpose and a commitment to see it through from inception to conclusion.
If you're not "in it to win" then every life lost is a life cheaply gambled and squandered. You know that some of them are going to die but you have to be able to justify every death. How can you do that if your government isn't in it to win, every day, all day. How can you order mechanized patrols for roadside IEDs (that, too often, leave our people dead or wounded) if you're not committed to winning the war?
Before we accept any other military adventures for the Canadian Armed Forces we need to ask the questions that we ducked for the past nearly two decades. And we need straight answers.