Like most Americans, I don’t think I have ever felt truly threatened, but I don’t think I have ever experienced peace either - as in the absence of war, as in knowing that none of my fellow citizens are in harm’s way because of their decision the serve in the military. I suppose the first few years of my life were peaceful, but I would have been far too young, however, to appreciate that others were in danger on my behalf.
I was born barely three years after Japan surrendered to end World War II, and for almost the full span of my lifetime we have had soldiers in harm’s way somewhere in this world. There has always been some situation in which we felt it was necessary to load our weapons and aim them at others.
From 1947 until 1991 we were in a Cold War with the Soviet Union. Although there were no generally acknowledged shots fired (hence, the "cold"), we fought proxy wars and aimed our weapons at each other - weapons capable of destroying our beautiful planet many times over. There was nothing to worry about though; in grade school I was carefully taught what to do in case of an atomic blast. Sure. And this is why I continue to subscribe to a hardcopy newspaper even though the ones I actually read for information are online.
Aside from the Berlin Airlift (1948-1949), there was no significant confrontation until the Korean Conflict (1950-1953), but we’ve sure been on a roll since then. Viet Nam (1960-1975). Bay of Pigs Proxy Invasion of Cuba (1961). Cuban Missile Crisis (1962). USS Pueblo Incident (1968). Mayaguez Incident (1975). Gulf of Sidra Incident I (1981). Invasion of Grenada (1983). Gulf of Sidra Incident II (1986). Invasion of Panama (1989). Gulf of Sidra Incident III (1989). Persian Gulf War (1990-1991). Battle of Mogadishu (1993). Bosnia (1995-1996). Missile strikes in Afghanistan and Sudan (1998). Kosovo (1999). Afghanistan (2001-Present). Iraq (2003-2011).
Holy phasers on stun! My point isn’t about whether our actions were justified or not. It's not about whether they were necessary or not. It’s just that I’m tired. I grew up being told if we didn’t stop “them” in Asia, California would be next. The Domino Theory. I might have bought it then, but I’m not buying it today. I have lived through all or parts of eight decades now, and we have experienced hostilities in every one of them. I have lost friends in these hostilities. I’m tired of it and am no longer convinced it has to be. Let the rest of the world worry about the rest of the world. We can protect ourselves here if need be and probably better and far more inexpensively.
I think of the cost. I think of the lost opportunity. I think of our children. In terms of childhood mortality it’s a short walk from the White House to the Middle Ages – with similar nightmares in many cities. Among developed countries, only Poland ranks lower than the U.S. in terms of infant mortality. Our educational systems are in decline. Our infrastructure is in decay. What might we have accomplished had we set our priorities differently? Maybe it’s not too late to find out.
Bring them home.