Some insightful Veterans Day thoughts:
My father came out of World War II with decidedly mixed feelings about war: that some times it was necessary and that most of the time it wasn't. He was never particularly political, but he was outspoken that no child of his would ever serve in any war that wasn't clearly and brutally necessary to defend the United States. "I'd break both your legs first," he would say while watching war movies and documentaries on TV.
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I don't know what he would make of the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but I know he was sorry for the people who fought in Korea (all guts, no glory) and thought Vietnam was a bad echo of Korea (no clear plan, goal, or resolve at any level). He was relieved that the Gulf War was over as quickly as it was and with so few (American) casualties, but wondered why we were there in the first place and he worried that such seemingly easy wins would only embolden politicians. From a dogface's point of view, he once told me late in life when he would talk more freely about his experiences, the worst thing was being thrown into a fight without a clear mission, whether you were trying to take an acre of land or an entire continent.
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Veterans Day is never a happy occasion, especially when we remain at war in two different places, with leadership in both parties who have manifestly failed to define victory or mission or goals with any sort of clarity or consistency. We can and should honor past veterans for their service and sacrifice.
The worst part of Vietnam and the Iraq War both, from a soldier's point of view, was not that the wars were started in the first place (although we can have fierce arguments about that all day long) but the sense that the politicians were just fooling around with war instead of deciding what victory was and pursuing it as vigorously as possible. Our "light footprint" in Iraq was a disaster, and "peace with honor" a disgrace. Nothing is more dismaying than realizing you might be sacrificed for nothing in particular. That's President Obama's problem now, too -- he has a tough decision to make, and his heart clearly isn't in it. It's appropriate for him to carefully weigh the options in Afghanistan, but the longer he puts off a decision, the more it looks like he's dithering. Letting things just drift is not a good policy. If the decision is to pull out, let's do it quickly. If it's to stay in, let's decide what victory is and achieve it. Pick one.