The issue got my full attention after viewing a debate on PBS about the Afghan "surge" strategy between retired Army General Jack Keane and retired Army Colonel Andrew Bacevich, an international relations professor at Boston University who spent twenty-three years serving in the US Army (then recently reading an article titled "The Generals' Revolt: The Military Revolt Over Afghanistan" by Robert Dreyfuss in Rolling Stone).
So what does this have to do with life legacies (and my own life legacy in particular)? While the Afghan war likely will not have a direct effect on my two sons (in their 30's), my young grandchildren could eventually be impacted by the eight-year and "no end in sight" war in Afghanistan. That would make it all too personal whether or not I'm still alive when that war or some other new war ends.
Having lived through the Vietnam era as an Army Reservist (see my previous blog post on war), the Afghan war is certainly echoing (if not repeating) our experience in Vietnam. The word "quagmire" (the word most often used about the Vietnam war) has even reappeared in the news, spoken by no less than President Obama in a recent interview.
As I noted in "The Legacy of War," the most powerful words of wisdom I've ever heard about war were delivered by Chris Hedges, author of the 2002 book, "War Is A Force That Gives Life Meaning," in a speech he gave:
"War in the end is always about betrayal: betrayal of the young by the old, soldiers by politicians, and idealists by cynics."
I would add "betrayal of presidents by military leaders (and retired generals)" -- as it appeared to me during the Vietnam War and certainly does now.
I was born at the end of World War II in which my father served and was wounded in France. He survived but never spoke to me about his wartime experience. By my count, the U.S. has been at war in some country for more than half the years of my life. What does that say about America and the human psyche? I don't have an answer but it's clear to me that there's truth in the statement that "you don't make peace by making war."
What I do know for sure is that far too many young men and women will be killed and wounded in Afghanistan (as they were/are in Iraq) in a "surge" or any military strategy of escalation. And that will be a terrible waste of life to protect a country from being a "safe haven for terrorists." Plus, I wonder about the extraordinary level of arrogance it takes to expect our military to change a tribal culture, much less "win" any war against insurgencies and gangsters intent on terrorizing the "free world."
How do you view the legacy of war in your lifetime? What are your personal stories about war and its impact on you and your family members? Have you changed your views during your lifetime on the necessity (or lack of) for war ... in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and/or any terrorist organizations?