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September 4, 2009
War SucksBy Greyhawk
Put Afghanistan out of your thoughts for a moment. And Iraq, and Vietnam and Korea and World Wars One and Two and any nation's civil war or revolution and any other specific armed conflict between nation states and instead consider war as a real manifestation of its broader definition: armed conflict between opposing groups. Ignore for now any argument for or against the idea that a nation is justified in defending itself against violent aggression from another nation and any philosophical debate regarding the relative merits of a war of choice or a war of necessity. I don't intend to challenge your personal beliefs about any of those fine points, I'm not going to trick you into changing your mind. And, in fact, as much as I might wish that anyone who reads the words that follow will embrace my anti-war philosophy I am certain that you can read on without fear of a mind-altering experience. In fact, I strongly suspect that the next sentence you read will affirm for you that you are wise and I am but a fool.
War, friends and neighbors, sucks.
I could use a better term then "sucks", I suppose - but here in the world of the early 21st century it's one that can be widely understood. I can offer you a well thought out, intellectual argument supporting that statement. It would be full of undeniable supporting facts, numbers, and statistics. I can reference experts throughout history to buttress my points. I can appeal to your better emotions, too. I can describe atrocities - better yet, I can show you pictures and video and save myself the effort. I could crush any argument that anyone would dare to present in a feeble attempt to refute my irrefutable point: war sucks.
And I'll present that argument - the moment anyone dares to speak up in opposition and presents some intellectually or emotionally tantalizing counter to that simple, two-word truth. None but a handful of psychopathic thugs (to use a term of convenience) are likely to view war as desirable, and all but the worst of them would experience second thoughts after experiencing a few seconds of war. So I doubt that any opposing argument is forthcoming, and certainly not from anyone capable of providing coherent points that might be worth the time required to respond.
"But what of the Nazis?" you may be wondering at this point. If so, it's because you've already forgotten my first paragraph. I blame myself for failing to make it more memorable.
No one is more anti-war than the warrior, the old saying goes. But it isn't true. Enough of us mere mortals are anti-war that claiming all of us are is close to true. The degree to which one is or isn't is a point of contention, and from such disputes arguments grow. If you wish to look me in the eye and claim "I'm more anti war than you" I'll offer no words to the contrary, and will even pledge to strive to improve myself with time.
The wise and careful reader will note that in the two previous paragraphs I've accepted blame that might not truly be mine and acknowledged a willingness to avoid arguing a certain point that some might believe worth arguing. From that one might conclude that I'm a pacifist or a pushover. Were this an in-person discussion an aggressive person, were he perceptive enough to have caught those signals, might wonder just how far he could push me, what advantage he could gain. I'm an honest person, so I can provide a candid answer: that depends on the circumstances, and none that I won't yield willingly. If that response is insufficient, perhaps it's best for us both that a more specific answer remains forever unknown.
"Ahhh", the more gentle reader might conclude at this point, "he's somewhat belligerent after all." Purely in the interest of civility, I will not disagree. I will, however, assure you I will strive to improve myself with time. Continuous improvement is essential to a life worth living, don't you agree?
But forgive me, please - we seem to have gone off on a tangent. Let me restate our topic then, and we'll press on.
To the vast majority of humans who realize that - and perhaps more importantly to those of us who might participate in the endeavor - the question becomes how best to avoid it? There are those who say we as a nation must be powerful enough to ensure that none would dare attack us, and there are those who argue that we should oppose violence in all its forms - even as response to violence. That's not a description of two opposing camps - it's one description of the spectrum of authentic anti-war sentiment throughout humanity. Nor is there anything approaching an even split among the numbers of people in the two groups I've described - the pure pacifists are a small group at one end of the anti-war spectrum. (Though oddly enough, most people wish they could be part of that group, and many believe in some future when they - or their children - can). Proponents of "powerful enough to deter" represent a huge majority of the spectrum, with widely varying definitions of "powerful enough". Some may prefer the presence of standing armies at the ready, though their definitions of "standing" and "ready" (and "trained" and "equipped") are equally variable. Others might favor maintaining a capability to rapidly beat plowshares into swords should the need arise.
As long as we're discussing this generic anti-war spectrum, it's worth noting that with few exceptions membership in some specific group doesn't necessarily establish one's position on that spectrum. You'll find doctors and lawyers and farmers sprinkled throughout. Likewise members of opposing political factions are interspersed, and can be found sharing (often uncomfortably and frequently denied) common ground. (This is less true with regard to specific wars - but our discussion remains generic.) And while Quakers have anchored themselves firmly as pacifists, you'll find Christians, Jews, atheists, and agnostics all over the anti-war spectrum too - and plenty of them can provide you a valid explanation of why that particular point is the appropriate place for them to be. War sucks, after all, and they've established the best position from which to effectively deter it. To be too weak or too strong is to invite it, but right here is morally and intellectually just right.
The possible variables are endless, a two-dimensional spectrum is an oversimplified conceptual model (but sufficient for this discussion) and to further complicate the issue, no one - at least damn few people - stakes out a fixed position on that spectrum, declares themselves immovable, and occupies that spot for their entire lives. We are human, and change is in our nature.
To give one ironic example of that change point above, specific wars tend to turn some warriors into pacifists, and some pacifists into warriors. There's nothing better than experience to change our expectations, that fact of life encompasses much more than war.
Short of war, nothing prompts a reevaluation of our positions along that anti-war spectrum more effectively than the threat of war. Questions rise, we wonder if we are where we truly thought we were. Prompted by noticeable discomfort, we seek our comfort zone. Whether we shift a bit or not, we look nervously about to see who's with us, and maybe adjust a bit more. Our individual decisions are based in reason; but for some reason the whole of those reasonable decisions is chaotic and defies simple explanation. In short, what results from that shuffling will vary from case to case, but while the shuffling is predictable the end state is not. Unfortunately, if the end state is insufficiently preventative, then war will be upon us whether we like it or not.
And if you thought I was kidding, I'll say it one more time: war sucks.
Posted by Greyhawk / September 4, 2009 4:06 AM | Permalink
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November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
Furthermore, I will occasionally use satire or parody herein. The bottom line: it's my house.
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