MONDAY MUSINGS – The Last Good War

Monday – June 16, 2014

“The Good War” is an oral history of WWII authored by long term Chicago radio program announcer, Studs Terkel. It received the Pulitzer Prize in 1985 for best non-fiction writing  It  used first person accounts to describe a very different time – a time when 16.1 million Americans went to war; a time when the entire country pulled together and sacrificed to fight very specific enemies.  The highest paid player in baseball and future hall of famer, Bob Feller, enlisted December 9, 1941, the day after war was declared.  George Bush postponed going to Yale and enlisted as soon as he graduated from high school, on his 18th birthday.  It is hard to call any war a “good war” when it cost more than 400,000 American lives – but in four years and nine months after America went to war it was over, the bad guys totally defeated, Japan and Western Europe saved for democracy.  It was a war we had to get into – and all the way.

I think Terkel’s book should have been entitled “The Last Good War” given the outcomes since.  It was the last time we issued a formal Declaration of War.  Korea was called a UN  “police  action”, and after 37,000 more American lives were lost, it ended in very much a stalemate.  Eisenhower promptly ended it after his election as he had promised before more lives were lost. Yes, the South was rescued and over time became an economic success story; yet the North has lived in destitution and under tyranny ever since with a nuclear toting dictator.

Then came Vietnam, not a war, but a “military engagement” authorized by Congress with the Tonkin Resolution in 1964.  Did Congress have any idea that more than 2.5 million men would be sent to serve in Nam, that the ‘engagement” would last nine years and 58,000 Americans would die, or that when the Treaty of Paris ended “the engagement” in 1973 the North would still be in control of the North, no one would be in control of the South, and that in the end we would lose?

In 1973 Congress passed the War Powers Resolution which has had the practical effect of precluding a Declaration of War.  The Resolution is supposed to prevent the U.S. from going into combat for more than 90 days without congressional authorization.  It was used, along with a U.N. resolution, to justify the Persian Gulf “War” and send 400,000 troops overseas.  At least the “war” was over quickly, we freed Kuwait and its oil with little loss of American life, but the tyrant was left in place to dictate Iraq for another 12 years.

Similar authorizations were used to justify invading Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (more controversial, in 2003).  The ruthlessly and dictatorially religious Taliban government was overthrown in short order and melted away.  But did Congress realize how many troops we would still have nation building there in harm’s way 13 years later – and facing a resurrected Taliban movement stronger than it was 5-10 years ago.  Or did Congress realize that we would be occupying Iraq for more than 8 years before departing, and that despite our attempts to democratize it, the country would evolve into a vicious, ethnic and religious civil war spreading all the way into Syria? Will the bad guys win (who are the bad guys)?  Could this be Vietnam déjà vu – will we see our Embassy being evacuated by helicopters on its rooftop with civilians clinging to the wheels as they lift off?

I don’t think the final outcomes of our military “engagements” have been too good since “the last good war”.  Maybe if we required a more formal Declaration of War before sending our troops off to battle, we would send them off less, and the results would be better.

Thanks for stopping by.

VS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday – June 16, 2014

“The Good War” is an oral history of WWII authored by long term Chicago radio program announcer, Studs Terkel. It received the Pulitzer Prize in 1985 for best non-fiction writing  It  used first person accounts to describe a very different time – a time when 16.1 million Americans went to war; a time when the entire country pulled together and sacrificed to fight very specific enemies.  The highest paid player in baseball and future hall of famer, Bob Feller, enlisted December 9, 1941, the day after war was declared.  George Bush postponed going to Yale and enlisted as soon as he graduated from high school, on his 18th birthday.  It is hard to call any war a “good war” when it cost more than 400,000 American lives – but in four years and nine months after America went to war it was over, the bad guys totally defeated, Japan and Western Europe saved for democracy.  It was a war we had to get into – and all the way.

I think Terkel’s book should have been entitled “The Last Good War” given the outcomes since.  It was the last time we issued a formal Declaration of War.  Korea was called a UN  “police  action”, and after 37,000 more American lives were lost, it ended in very much a stalemate.  Eisenhower promptly ended it after his election as he had promised before more lives were lost. Yes, the South was rescued and over time became an economic success story; yet the North has lived in destitution and under tyranny ever since with a nuclear toting dictator.

Then came Vietnam, not a war, but a “military engagement” authorized by Congress with the Tonkin Resolution in 1964.  Did Congress have any idea that more than 2.5 million men would be sent to serve in Nam, that the ‘engagement” would last nine years and 58,000 Americans would die, or that when the Treaty of Paris ended “the engagement” in 1973 the North would still be in control of the North, no one would be in control of the South, and that in the end we would lose?

In 1973 Congress passed the War Powers Resolution which has had the practical effect of precluding a Declaration of War.  The Resolution is supposed to prevent the U.S. from going into combat for more than 90 days without congressional authorization.  It was used, along with a U.N. resolution, to justify the Persian Gulf “War” and send 400,000 troops overseas.  At least the “war” was over quickly, we freed Kuwait and its oil with little loss of American life, but the tyrant was left in place to dictate Iraq for another 12 years.

Similar authorizations were used to justify invading Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (more controversial, in 2003).  The ruthlessly and dictatorially religious Taliban government was overthrown in short order and melted away.  But did Congress realize how many troops we would still have nation building there in harm’s way 13 years later – and facing a resurrected Taliban movement stronger than it was 5-10 years ago.  Or did Congress realize that we would be occupying Iraq for more than 8 years before departing, and that despite our attempts to democratize it, the country would evolve into a vicious, ethnic and religious civil war spreading all the way into Syria? Will the bad guys win (who are the bad guys)?  Could this be Vietnam déjà vu – will we see our Embassy being evacuated by helicopters on its rooftop with civilians clinging to the wheels as they lift off?

 

I don’t think the final outcomes of our military “engagements” have been too good since “the last good war”.  Maybe if we required a more formal Declaration of War before sending our troops off to battle, we would send them off less, and the results would be better.

Thanks for stopping by.

VS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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