Monday, March 21, 2011

Are We at War?

I've heard the words "We are at war" too many times in my lifetime, and last Friday I heard them in my head when word came that French planes and then ours were over Libya. I was too little to remember Pearl Harbor but I've heard the story many times of how I was playing on the kitchen floor while my mom cooked dinner, and Dad stuck his head in to say, "We are at war."
In 1950 cousins were in town for a family wedding and it had rained heavily. One cousin and I had been plopping around in the mud in the park across the street (at twelve, we were too old to do that, but I remember it distinctly) when Dad came home and said, "We are at war." The Korean War.
I don't remember the start of the Vietnam war as clearly--it seemed to creep up on us as an ever-increasing threat and soon I, newly maried and a mother, was worrying about my husband being drafted. An osteopathic physician, he would not have gone in as a doc at that time but as a private--and he'd have made a lousy soldier (he'll admit that himself).
I remember the start of the Afghan war. I had just gotten in my car after church on a beautiful Sunday morning. Turned on the radio and there it was, and I thought it was so incongruous on the holy day of the week when everything around me was so pretty. And then of course it was that over-televised conquest and premature victory declaration in Iraq. When others were glued to it, I turned off the TV. And we all know it kept getting worse and worse.
I'm of a mixed mind about Libya, fully sympathizing with the people who want reform and recognizing that Khadafi  (however you spell his name) is a cruel dictator; I also recognize that if the UN approves, the US must support allies and go along. I wish it could be our mission to stop pain, suffering and cruelty throughout the world; I don't know that it is or should be our mission to democratize the Middle East where culture and customs are so different. It reminds me of the misdirected efforts of missionaries to convert Native Americans and natives of Hawaii in the 19th century.
When I think on it, there haven't been many long periods in my lifetime when this country wasn't at war somewhere in the world--maybe ten years at the most. This point was driven home tonight when I attended the Annual Friends of the TCU Library Banquet where the TCU Texas Book Award went to Sam Gwynne for Empire of the Summer Moon, fiction about the Comanches in their last years of glory, during and just after the Civil War. The books has gotten excellent reviews, and the author was an entertaining speaker, but the book, like the real life events it depicts, is about war and violence and torture.
I'm not sure I'm completely a pacifist; nor am I sure I sanction intervention. But I know I hate war and violence, and I hope we'll be spared another prolonged conflict in Libya. I'll be relieved if we don't put troops on the ground. How many wars can we fight at once?

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