[Author's note: Among the unexpected bonuses of personal journal-writing is the shock, often humbling, of what you learn about yourself when you read your words ten years later. Yesterday, the following essay popped out of a old "Notes-To-Me" doc/file. It's dated March, 2003.]
We’re each a product of a journey that began before we got here. This young American journey has been unique. Our republic was crafted deliberately by its founders from the start. It was about something. Something new that had never been pulled off before. The United States of America – the Old Republic – was an invention inspired by God. Certainly by men whose lives were informed with deference to a Creator.
I believe that because they said so.
At the bloody birth of our new identity as a new People, enough good men reflected and drew a covenant to help us remember our better selves, not only as warriors, but also as free-born creations of God. We have institutionalized these First Principles in our documents and reinforced them in our lore.
I was reminded of this tonight as I washed my dishes and listened to the week’s Frontline documentary on PBS. Neither PBS nor Frontline is among my favorite political places on the the tube.
Tonight’s subject was the evolution of the current George W. Bush Administration, with special contrast between its balky start and the rapid maturing of its leader from tyro before September 11, to self-assured, hawkish, Commander-in-Chief afterward.
I began to re-examine my own support of our march toward war with Iraq.
My mind drifted. I was transported back to a high school stage, seated terrified at an oaken table with a monstrous black microphone inches from my nose. The mic bore a logo of three capital letters: “WJR”. The debate was broadcast live across the Midwest on the most powerful regional radio station in America: “The Great Voice of the Great Lakes.”
In my senior year, I was one of a tiny handful of vocal Republicans in a union-dominated Detroit high school whose enrollment topped 4,200. On WJR, that fall morning in 1952, I was the “anchor” debater ‘against’ a politically contrived “police action” that came to be known as The Korean War.
The principles that drove me to an anti-war stance in 1952 are still valid. War is troglodyte stupidity, the highest risk path to a solution. Armed conflict is justified when national interest is at stake – after an attack, certainly; or when the peril is imminent and pre-emptive destruction of a hell-bent rogue nation is the only sensible defense.
Regarding 9-11, we certainly were attacked. And, even at that, for most of a year Bush showed restraint, mounting strikes against known terrorist bases in Taliban Afghanistan.
But now, nearly two years later, we’ve kept going. Returning to Iraq after thrashing them in the Gulf War is troubling. And, recalling Korea and Vietnam, all too familiar.
I wonder; couldn’t we have marshaled an alliance to take out this guy? Bush (41) had maneuvered politicians, domestic and foreign, to support us after Saddam invaded Kuwait. It was smooth and decisive. No one doubted whose cause was just. Clearly there were national U.S. interests. Wouldn’t this current action against Iraq have been more effective and less antagonistic to alliances if more had been done behind the scenes and less in center stage to the boom of an ever-increasing drumbeat?
This Wolfowitz fellow seems to have been far too influential in a place that called for quiet power moves. We know the motives of France, Russia, and China for obstructing us: They have vast investments in shady commerce and crooked arms dealing with a gangster regime. But what logic do we have for our choice of ground warfare as a tactic? How about coming up with something just as persuasive to a bully, but off camera.
War is still idiotic. Reagan won everything for us without it. Except for the attack on our Beirut Marine barracks, and our retaliation on Libya for funding air-piracy, he ran the table without bloodshed, and the Evil Empire became finished business. At Reykjavik Reagan had called and raised, and he won the pot. No war was waged. Only the clear threat was sent that we were willing to fight and were resolved to win.
So what’s happening now [in 2003], as we send a new generation of young fresh blood into another far-distant nest of mad primitives? Maybe we’re forgetting who we are.
Fast-forward to September, 2013. Sounds familiar.