War is old men talking and young men (and women) fighting

The following was written about nine years ago, but it still has merit. I repeat it to honor our Veterans on Memorial Day and Flag Day.

The above title is a paraphrased line from the movie “Troy” and while I cannot find it among any of the quotes from Homer’s “Iliad” it still resonates with me. Achilles is highly frustrated with Agamemnon and the other kings celebrating the day’s victory in battle, which none of them fought in. He is counseled with these words. You know what war is all about – “war is old men talking and young men fighting.” I use this quote today to honor our men and women who have fought in battles. They are the ones who put their lives in harm’s way and it is they who should be commended.

If you fought for your country, whether the cause was justified or not, you deserve to be honored. When you are lying in the mud or a foxhole and are being shot at, whether we went into a war without good cause is moot. You are there doing your job in the direst of circumstances. Our country learned that lesson from Vietnam where returning veterans did not get treated with the proper respect. This war dragged on and people asked why are we sending our teenagers and young adults to die over there? The Pentagon Papers revealed later our leaders were not very forthcoming as to the reasons, knowing the war was unwinnable.

We have similar kind of war going on which began in Iraq and has continued into Afghanistan. We have been doing this for over ten years. The reason for being there has now been called into question, yet there we still sit. However, the lesson we learned from Vietnam has at least helped Americans treat our troops better. They did not pick the fight with Iraq or Afghanistan, yet they are there to fight it our battles for us.

And, there is one other similarity to Vietnam and the gulf wars which makes it so tough on our troops and causes even more PTSD. The enemy combatants are hiding among the civilians. Our troops have to be on their guard even more, as they do not want to kill innocent people, yet the innocents don’t have a “red jersey” on like a quarterback in practice which says don’t hit me. This has to create a greater stress level to an already stressed situation.

What I don’t care for is when old men get together to discuss sending young people in harm’s way without doing their due diligence. Let’s just bomb Iran and get it over with you will hear some old men say. Or, let’s just invade Syria as some members of Congress and Senate have stated. This may be the reason I hold Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld in lesser regard as they sent Americans to die under false pretenses in Iraq. My thesis is before you commit Americans to die, do our country, soldiers and their families the duty of making damn sure we have exhausted every other means. And, when we do commit Americans to fight, define what success will look like. If we cannot do that, then maybe we should not be fighting.

So, let’s honor our Veterans. They have done our country a great service and some have paid the dearest price with their lives, minds and bodies. Let’s honor them by doing our homework to avoid conflict whenever possible and taking care of them when they return. We have too many veterans wandering the streets when they get back and too many waiting in line for disability and medical help. We need to fight less and serve them more. Thanks for your service.

9 thoughts on “War is old men talking and young men (and women) fighting

  1. Note to Readers: When we do not learn from history, we repeat the same mistakes. Senator Jim Webb stood up on the Senate floor and said if we invade Iraq to be prepared to be there for thirty years. That was about eighteen years ago. Webb has a lot of experience to back up his warning. From Wikipedia: Webb is an American politician and author. He has served as a United States Senator from Virginia, Secretary of the Navy, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, Counsel for the United States House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and is a decorated Marine Corps officer, who served in Vietnam. We should listen to people who know what they are talking about.

  2. How prophetic are Jim Webb’s words? My goodness, there is someone there who understands the complexity of the situation in the Middle Eastern region! I so applaud your call for the leaders to do due diligence and have an exit and success strategy for the sake of the defence personnel. Unfortunately, I feel that the reliance on, and legacy of, America’s firepower in saving the world (with the allies), in WWII led to a spill over feeling that America’s defence forces were supreme and invincible by many around the world, and towards many countries they were indeed so. This power made it easy for Americans to decide to go to war and just “bomb, the crap out of them and get it over with,” if a regime disagreed with American foreign policy or it was looking like they were heading left of centre in the political sphere. The power seems to have gone to their heads a bit in making some rash decisions and feeling that they need to be the world’s policeman.
    As you quite rightly point out though, war is no longer straightforward and the mindset of the American leader sometimes fails to understand that not everyone wants to be more like Americans: ie. drink more Coca-Cola and follow the American dream. (referring to Newt Gingrich’s comments on visiting Australia). There seems also to be a lack of understanding by some American leaders that governments of other persuasions can be legitimate and still be leftist leaning or of a different mindset. May I respectfully suggest that this thinking in the US might stem from all too insular American media or is it perhaps fear-driven, from deep within the American psyche? What do you think? This kind of emotional reaction was common in my country during the interwar and post-war period but the Yellow peril kind of dinosaur mentality, has been pretty much debunked and obsolete in Australia, although there are still elements of this making a short appearance from time to time with the rise of the religious right in Australian politics.
    Change is dynamic yet often hard to swallow and resist by older generations. Recognizing that we may not always win the hearts and minds of the citizens in country’s we battle with, should be part of the decision making process for any country invading another.
    Excellent post, Keith.
    I tip my hat to the veterans on your memorial day. Their sacrifice through service and duty, for their country, should never be forgotten. As we say here on our own Memorial day (called Anzac Day), Lest we Forget.

    • Amanda, I hope people who stop by take the time to read your well-thought out comment. One of America’s strengths has been diplomatic relations with other countries, but even that waned under the previous president and the current one is trying to rebuild it.

      As for the military, we do have the largest budget, but we seem to be spending on battles that won’t be fought like that anymore. We invaded Iraq and Afghanistan less prepared as we did not have a plan, we helped fire the police force in Iraq, we failed to know history, we had too few interpreters and we used bogus intelligence to get there and once we were there. The soldiers have a name for this – “clustef**k.”

      We owe it to our soldiers to get these things right before we commit them to battles. Keith

  3. I so agree Keith. It saddens me to know end we still have these conversations but as long as we’re alive, we will be talking about it but striving for peace and change💖 Happy Sunday❣️

    • Thanks Cindy. I remember how the Dixie Chicks were vilified for speaking out about invading Iraq. There was this un-American finger pointing at them, yet they did not invent a reason to invade a country. It should be noted a later British commission found both George W. Bush and Tony Blair culpable for false pretenses leading to the invasion. Keith

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