When our son, Jim, served in the Gulf War in 1990-91 and the Iraq War in 2006-07 and briefly in the Afghanistan War in 2007 he observed one of war’s most vital premises: our country should never fall behind the curve of military superiority. America was fortunate to recover from Pearl Harbor in time to help the Allies survive World War II. In the age of nuclear and cyber warfare we might not be able to survive World War III with outdated technology. The United States must remain vigilant. Vigilance does not call for aggression. In fact, our Constitution demands defense, not offense. However, we have been in an offensive mode militarily since we unwisely intervened in Viet Nam after France was driven out in 1954 after the Battle of Dien Bien Phu. Beginning in 1956 America saw fit to emulate the errors of the French and we have been intervening militarily in numerous countries ever since.
One thing we Americans thought we had learned from the discovery that our government had misled us into the Viet Nam War was the old truism that in war the first casualty is truth. This adage is often attributed to Aeschylus (525-456 BCE) but it probably has been noted by many observers of peoples drawn into wars by their leaders. By the way, those leaders have almost always not been the ones to do the fighting.
Such examples as King David sending Uriah to die in battle to hide David’s seduction of Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba, Second Samuel, chapter 11, or perhaps President George W. Bush’s false claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or now our government’s claims about our war in Afghanistan may illustrate this ancient principle.
Just this month Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko testified before the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee that America’s war in Afghanistan, our longest war ever, was conducted on a basis of lies to get and maintain Congressional political and funding support. The Washington Post newspaper published reports that Douglas Lute, former White House Afghan War official under both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, had testified America invaded Afghanistan in 2001 without a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan or what America planned to accomplish there.
Of course, Americans are no longer surprised that our government misleads us into wars. Unfortunately we have become inured to it. That is the danger. It is as frightening as the old story of the boy who cried wolf. If our government continues to mislead us into unnecessary wars, will we citizens respond appropriately when, and it could happen some day, we are asked to sacrifice our lives and treasure for a just cause such as our country’s survival?