Men and War


As I’ve written here before, I have a bit of a fascination with war. It began my freshman year in college, when I took a seminar called, “The Iliad and Memories of War,” with the intoxicating and quirky professor, James Tatum. Tatum later turned that seminar into a book.

The first week of my freshman year in college, Tatum assigned me and my ten classmates to read The Iliad, the 16,000-line epic poem by Homer. It was a daunting task. Yet read it, I did. Upon completing it, I was both buoyed by the accomplishment, and hooked on memoirs of war. We went on to read a dozen more books, from ancient times to modern, about men at war.

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Listen to London: Don’t Bomb Syria

There are enough dead bodies in Syria without U.S. bombs adding to the bodycount. (Abdullah al-Yassin/AP)

I want to add my voice to the chorus that is urging President Obama not to bomb Syria. Yesterday the British Parliament issued a sharp rebuke to PM David Cameron’s sabre-rattling when they voted against any military intervention in Syria:

WASHINGTON — President Obama is prepared to move ahead with a limited military strike on Syria, administration officials said Thursday, despite a stinging rejection of such action by America’s stalwart ally Britain and mounting questions from Congress.

The negative vote in Britain’s Parliament was a heavy blow to Prime Minister David Cameron, who had pledged his support to Mr. Obama and called on lawmakers to endorse Britain’s involvement in a brief operation to punish the government of President Bashar al-Assad for apparently launching a deadly chemical weapons attack last week that killed hundreds.

Ban-Ki Moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations is urging peaceful solutions to the crisis in Syria.

Both Republican and Democratic members of Congress are expressing serious concerns about the lack of reliable information they’ve gotten about Syria.

Nevertheless, the president seems poised to start bombing.

While the crisis in Syria is obvious urgent and terrible, more bombs are not the answer. After Iraq and Afghanistan, we have unequivocal evidence that US bombs are not nearly as surgical as our military leaders claim. It’s similarly obvious that, for the foreseeable future, there will always be a country in crisis in the Middle East. We simply cannot keep getting baited into these conflicts.

While weapons manufacturers are surely giddy at the prospects of more million-dollar bombs being launched from billion-dollar warships, the US economy struggles, minority students are floundering in our public schools, and we’ve got an immigration crisis to solve. And don’t even get me started about healthcare.

It’s time for the president to turn his sights on his homeland and let the Middle East solve its own crises — with our diplomatic, but not military, help.

Other faith leaders weigh in here.

Our Eternal War

A woman cries at the scene of one of the explosion sites in Reyhanli, near Turkey’s border with Syria, May 11, 2013. (Cem Genco, Associated Press)

It’s rare for me to agree with Rand Paul, but I’ve grown increasingly uncomfortable with the sabre-rattling going on in Washington about Syria. You simply cannot watch Fog of War or Fahrenheit 9/11 without knowing that many members of Congress are deeply funded by the military-industrial complex. And now, just as the war in Afganistan is winding down, low-and-behold, the need us in Syria!

Glenn Garvin penned an important commentary this week in which he argues that, unless we say no to this war, we are condemning ourselves to an eternal war in the Middle East:

Is a dangerous partisan divide really destroying the American government? It’s pretty hard to discern that from the policy debate on Syria, where our two-party system divides like this: Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky on one side, and everybody else on the other.

Paul argues that there are no clear good guys in Syria; that the recent U.S. track record in the Middle East — from Afghanistan to Iraq to Libya — suggests that nobody in the American government has a credible understanding of the region’s political nuances, and that any U.S. intervention is likely to create more problems than it will solve.

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President Obama, Stop the Drones!

I am a supporter of the president. However, the ever-increasing use of drone warfare has got to stop. It’s gotten out of control, and the president seems virtually unaccountable for it.

This week, the highest ranking official yet voiced concerned over the use of drones:

Gen. James E. Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a favored adviser during Mr. Obama’s first term, expressed concern in a speech here on Thursday that America’s aggressive campaign of drone strikes could be undermining long-term efforts to battle extremism.

“We’re seeing that blowback,” General Cartwright, who is retired from the military, said at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. “If you’re trying to kill your way to a solution, no matter how precise you are, you’re going to upset people even if they’re not targeted.”

Go back and re-read that last sentence. Let’s take one issue at a time.

If you’re trying to kill your way to a solution.” Do you get that a military general is accusing a (Christian) civilian president of being too violent?!? That alone should take our breath away.

You’re going to upset people even if they’re not targeted.” Huh, no shit. When people get mistakenly bombed by virtually invisible, silent, unmanned aircraft, it tends to piss them off. Good to know.

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