I have lived through some 4 major wars now involving American troops — WW2, the Korean War, the Vietnamese War and now Iraq/Afghanistan.  IMHO the first of these wars was not only justified, it alone met the criterion of Livy in my signature below: “A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

In 1941 we had no other choice but to resist enemies who had launched a war upon us and who threatened horrendous abuses of persons throughout the world.

The Korean War which would have been mine (Eisenhower ended it off just before I would have had to commit to service as a Naval Officer) was more ambiguous.  It was an ideological scrap which cost everyone too much and which was ended off happily with a long lasting truce.  We probably could not have in conscience walked away from it, as the South Koreans were being attacked, but . . . .

We stumbled into the Vietnam War.  Eisenhower had warned against our getting involved in it.  Whatever the ideology, it was a post colonial war of resistance to reoccupation by France. France got out and we fell in with the death of Kennedy and the inexperienced Johnson being goaded on to show his patriotism — Tokin Gulf and other false snares.  Soon we had committed a million troops, were killing Vietnamese in massacres, were losing massive numbers of troops — we used to read their names aloud at Riverside Church down the street.  58,000 thousand were killed, hundreds of thousands were wrecked as humans and ended up addicts in our jails and homeless on our streets.  We still see them begging in our neighborhood.

The current things look possibly to have been justified in part — Afghanistan to track down the killers of 9/11 and those who were supporting them there.  Still this has been a culture war.  Iraq has been our worst fiasco in American history.  We were not justified in entering the war.  We could have worked to get rid of Hussein in less destructive ways — we had him on the run.  We have set chaos running in the Middle East where we may yet see greater catastrophes erupting.

The point of our current election, then, is to figure where we go from here?  I don’t trust military men who seek military solutions to problems far greater than any _military_ solution can provide.  We shall have to watch and choose our political candidates accordingly — those seeking peace with the wherewithal to achieve it.  Yet more wars may be the end of things so far as we humans are concerned.

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent  212-665-8535 (voice mail only) [blind copies]
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