Today is controversial: a very revered American holiday that many of us are reluctant to celebrate because we are so ashamed of America’s wars. Yet we can’t ignore the life stories of those who are conflated with them.
During my life time, which began just after World War II, America has fought many wars and not a single one was justified. I hoped Obama would end some of them, but instead he started new ones. Today, it’s terrifying.
The populism which snuck Trump into power will not alter its vehement refusal to engage globally, and that includes warring. So the Trump administration has made almost as many efforts to end America’s fighting abroad as it has to build a wall between Mexico and our southern border. Neither has been successful.
And the efforts have divided America even further and increasingly stressed our government and culture.
Consider this. America for good or bad was instrumental bringing down the Berlin Wall under what had been its most conservative president to date, Ronald Reagan. Trump refused to join the celebrations a few days ago. It’s unclear whether this was his decision or the Germans’. Either way he is clearly not seen or does not want to be known as a peace maker.
His bumbling missteps in the Mideast do not look promising. NATO is in tatters. Defense strategy is non-existent. His attempts to negotiate peace in North Korea have resulted in a dozen new North Korean missiles and his arrogance with Iran have fueled Iranian mischief.
Worse, our Commander-in-Chief has implied he will use nukes.
In my novel, Chasm Gorge, I tell a story of an American president starting still another war. I wrote that many years ago.
Today America’s fighting forces are entirely voluntary (with the subtle distinction that “reserve” soldiers, those who have technically retired or enrolled mostly as home guards, are now being routinely called upon as active troops).
This differs radically from WWII and before, when the bulk of our armies were conscripted from young men. It was a mandated responsibility for young men approaching their third decade to be prepared to serve in the military if called.
The transition to an all-volunteer force was accomplished fairly easily by raising soldier pay and benefits. As America became more of a war fighting country, the rich also become more powerful, the poor parts of society enlarged, and so becoming a soldier became a good job choice.
Much of America’s armies, like ancient Rome’s and Persia’s, are opportunities for the oppressed and downtrodden to break out of an endless cycle of hopelessness. It’s therefore hard to criticize these young people for joining the American military.
The least advantaged are often those who their society takes the greatest advantage of. I morally condemn in the strongest sense America’s recent past and present wars. But my heart goes out to the vast majority of Americans who fought them.
As it does for the countless more that we killed.