BITS and PIECES # 20

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January 26, 2013 by palamow

BITS and PIECES # 20

Hello again from Luquillo,
Watching a film on TV a few weeks ago — it was John Ford’s epic World War II drama, ‘They Were Expendable’, brought to mind how such films have changed over the years. Recent ‘war’ films mirror our changing cultural attitudes toward war, while not seeming to have had any effect at all on the frequency of their occurrence. Instead, our current national ‘voice’ (popular/political) seems to be backing away (if ever so slightly) from the more confrontational foreign policy of the last few decades, seeking troop pullouts and conflict culminations, and focusing more on our country’s internal problems (fiscal uncertainty/unemployment/tax reform, and so on)…

I thought it might be an interesting exercise to look back over the ‘almost octogenarian’ (I’m 79) span of my life so far, to see what such a brief span of time might inform about ‘wars and rumors of wars’…

So, here is my individual war ‘timeline’, with, what I hope is a thoughtful, honest and (mostly) apolitical appraisal at its conclusion — see what you think…

WARS AND RUMORS OF WAR

Septuagenarians and octogenarians (a florid and formal designation for us geezers in our seventies and eighties) share many things – among them, fading memories of historical events, and common, age-induced physical complaints. On the ‘historical events’ side of the ledger, those of us who were born in the 1930’s have observed (and occasionally participated in) a seemingly endless string of armed conflicts during our brief sojourns above the grass. During this period substantial portions of our country’s population and treasure have been repeatedly committed and often significantly depleted…

For example, when I was four years of age in 1939 the storm troopers of Adolf Hitler’s Wehrmacht ruthlessly attacked Poland in the infamous ‘Blitzkrieg’, which signaled the beginning of World War II — I was six on December 7th, 1941, when Lt. Commander Minoru Genda of the Imperial Japanese Navy led the first wave of Japanese carrier-based dive-bombers in a sneak attack to bomb the US fleet anchored off Pearl Harbor’s Ford Island, which brought our country into the conflict…

In August. 1945, At age nine, as I was about to start sixth grade, the fateful atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki resulted in Japan’s unconditional surrender in Tokyo Bay, ushering in the new and terrible consequences of potential nuclear conflict…

I had just turned eighteen in 1953 when I participated in the US/UN’s righteous reaction to thwart communist Kim Il-sung’s North Korean Army (soon backed by,fellow communist Mao Zedong’s Chinese Army) sudden incursion into South Korea, which, although its outcome is still unresolved today (only an armistice has ever been signed), and cost so many lives, it subsequently (and ironically) became known as ‘The Forgotten War’…

I was nineteen in 1954 when President Eisenhower began sending a few American airplanes and some hand-picked Army ‘advisors’ to support the French forces surrounded by General Giap’s Viet Minh army at Dien Bien Phu. The “little” war in French Indo China that would eventually expand exponentially, and stretch-out into what would become America’s twenty-five year “involvement” in Vietnam, with the concomitant loss of so many valiant troops, the squandering of so much treasure — the results of which ultimately ended the policy of Selective Service ‘draft’ and ushered in our present system of an all-volunteer military…

Since the end of the Vietnam war, while I passed through my thirties, forties and fifties, our country has been involved in a succession of so called ‘brush-fire’ wars in places like Central America, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, the Persian Gulf, Bosnia, Czechoslovakia — on and on — while we lived under the constant threat of a nuclear ‘Cold War’ with the bellicose communist USSR…

I was sixty eight when the horrific events of 9/11 occurred, triggering President George W. Bush’s decision to commit our military forces once again – this time to root out the Al Qaida and Taliban terrorist cells responsible for this awful carnage, who were known to be hiding in remote corners of Afghanistan, and, later still, to the long and bloody campaign that began with a vain effort to find and destroy non-existent ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’, and later, inevitably morphed into an interminable series of courageous attempts to eradicate Al Qaida terrorist factions – by most appraisals only partially effective, before our forces were finally withdrawn by President Obama, with their individual acts of courage rightfully celebrated, and their honor intact…

Thus, like others who share this ‘timeline’, my personal history has been infinitely intertwined with ‘wars and rumors of war’. Is this abnormal, or merely history repeating itself ‘ad infinitum’?

Regrettably, it would seem to be the latter — our nation was of necessity born of a righteous revolutionary war – major and minor hostilities, both internal and international have consistently formed a major part of our country’s brief, two hundred and thirty seven year history — despite strong efforts to the contrary, beginning with the objectors in the first continental congress to pre-WW I and WW II ‘isolationists’, through the ‘peacenik’ movement of the sixties and seventies, and on to the recent heartfelt ‘Mothers Against the War’ marches protesting the death and mayhem the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns have amassed within the ranks of our brave, dedicated, selfless volunteer military, who seem to be rotated endlessly into danger, while the rest of us look on…

It would be so easy for we ‘geezers’ to adopt a jaundiced view of our beloved country’s seemingly endless and inevitable ‘lock-step military involvements’ As the planet’s chief policeman, because we are the currently acknowledged international ‘super power’. We are fully cognizant that we must now and always maintain a strong defense posture — perhaps more so than ever before, because of the horrific and unacceptable consequences of international terrorism, but, by and large, in our hearts, we still remain hopeful and (perhaps naively so) confident that significant periods of peace may somehow, in some way, be achievable, despite the desperate daily evidence to the contrary…

That consistently ambivalent national attitude, — when coupled with our firm, popular and political resolve to frequently (and flexibly) adjust our military, foreign and domestic policies as the times and circumstances require, is what makes us such a jealously admired and successful country, and, by extension, the world’s major inspiration and authority. Which, I strongly opine, we will continue to remain, only as long as we consistently refuse to modify our system of checks and balances — a free and open structure for considered ambivalence and productive discourse…

Would we have it any other way — I think not…

© 2013 – Alan Mowbray Jr.

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One thought on “BITS and PIECES # 20

  1. mkhulu says:

    As an aspiring geezer, I didn’t get involved as early as you, but I joined as soon as I could.

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