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Dr. Lawrence M. Schall

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War. What Is It Good For?

Posted: 04/ 9/2012 2:21 pm

Absolutely nothing. So goes the song written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong in 1969 and recorded by Edwin Star on the Motown label. If you are anywhere near my age, you know the tune. I didn't recall that the Temptations recorded a version, but I have learned it was withheld from market for fear of alienating conservative-leaning record buyers. (Remember records? I still have a bunch of them in the basement.) And what song replaced "War" at the top of the charts? That would be "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" by Diana Ross. Music like that sure makes you long for the day.

I am not now, nor was I ever, one who believed that all wars are unjustified. However, since I became a father 30 years ago, I think about war differently. Would I want my son or daughter "drafted" to fight a particular war? Do I believe in the cause enough that I would be willing to sacrifice my life or the life of one of my children? One of the many troubling issues we face is who fights America's wars and who doesn't? As long as we are able to have someone else's sons and daughters volunteer to fight, it matters less to the rest of us. I wish that were not the case, but I believe it to be.

Let's take the war in Iraq. Of course, it's difficult not to start with why we started the war. I am sure there are still a few folks out there that believe, despite our faulty intelligence, the cause was a good one, but I sure don't know anyone in that camp. I have a difficult time even attempting to articulate what we accomplished there. I do know the number of Americans that were killed or wounded -- nearly 4,500 Americans killed and more than 30,000 wounded, many horrifically so. And how did that war turn out for the Iraqi people? The whole thing is a tragedy of such immense proportions, it's almost impossible to fathom.

We are 10 and a half years into the war in Afghanistan. Arianna Huffington, in her column of April 4, 2012, makes some awfully good points, chief among them: Why isn't the war a major issue in the current political campaign? She writes: "Maybe if the administration proposed funding a Planned Parenthood clinic in Kandahar, the war might get the place it deserves in the national conversation." I love that. But that wonderful line aside, what exactly do we think we will get done by staying around another two years? And what will the cost, in human lives and dollars wasted? The widespread opposition to the war is one of the only issues on which there is true bipartisanship consensus.

The only news we hear from the war these days is horrible, as in the recent mass murders of 17 people by our own Robert Bales, who was in his fourth tour of duty. More than 2 million men and women have served overseas since 9/11. That's unbelievable to me, and tragic beyond belief. America has become way too accustomed to being in a state of constant war, an undeclared one no less. And why are we not talking about this? Because "our" children aren't serving. That's my view, anyway.