We have such an uncomfortable relationship with war. We strive to claim that America only wages just and noble wars. History keeps challenging that comforting notion. With Libya, we have now entered something that we’re telling ourselves is not war.
Establishing a no-fly zone over Libya doesn’t sound like war, but the distinction is not as wide as most of us want to believe. Like others, I am glad to see us stand up and help out our fellow humans who are in need in Libya. I am also glad that we are joining with the rest of the world rather than proudly and defiantly striking out on our own. Gaddafi has proven to be a menace and a murderer, and so I hope and pray for the best. I am proud to be part of a nation that stands up for others.
But wars have a funny way of not following the script we would like. Our war scripts are shaped by Hollywood movies and video games. We want a noble entry. We want a climactic battle between the forces of evil and good. We want to “leave no soldier behind.” We want to never quit because “quitters never win.” We want to win and “make the world safe for democracy.” And we’d prefer for all of this to occur in about two hours.
We have many clichés surrounding war. One of the least useful, it seems to me, is that “quitters never win.” Once we enter a war, this notion keeps us involved until we can declare victory. Our wars have a nasty habit of becoming quagmires. We can never re-evaluate whether we belong engaged in a fight overseas because that sounds too much like quitting. So we must stay. Soldiers must die. “Enemies” must die. Money must be spent. Often these things must happen in order for us to save face.
What does it say about the integrity of a people that would continue to devastate an “enemy” just in order to save face? I will let you answer that question for yourself, but I am not proud when our nation falls into this trap.