Since leaving active duty service in the military, I have noticed a trend among veterans. Many tend to have a distrust of government, this feeling stems from combat veterans who have often lost close friends in wars with no clearly defined goals or objectives.
We have experienced the grief that results from the loss of a comrade, and seen the effects such a tragedy wreaks upon a family. Ultimately we pay the price for the decisions that the politicians in Washington make. For the politician safe in the capitol, it is easy to make the decision to involve the U.S in a military conflict. However, dodging bullets is not as easy for the U.S soldier overseas.
If U.S troops were asked their opinions before they were sent into conflict, we would truly know if the cause was worthy or not. The soldier would have to believe that the goal of the war justified the risk of death. This concept of asking the military, or the general populace, to justify military action is not a new one. In the aftermath of World War I, the American people sought to separate themselves from the military affairs of foreign countries. The Ludlow Amendment, which would have required a national referendum for declarations of war, narrowly missed passage.
If the Ludlow Amendment had passed, the likelihood of an unnecessary war occurring would have most likely been minimal. Our history would have been drastically different, as almost all of the wars that the U.S has participated in were not absolutely necessary.
Although no foreign army has threatened U.S soil except for the British in revolutionary times and the Japanese at Pearl Harbor, politicians have always found excuses to justify military action.
Public skepticism of the political motivations for embroilment in war is not a new phenomenon. After returning from combat in Iraq I can distinctly remember coming across an Iraq War protester. I had been back in the United States for less than a week when I saw the protestor passing out anti-war propaganda. At the time, I was ignorant of much of the underlying events that led to the war. Angry that this man did not appreciate the hardships and sacrifices my brothers and I had made, I confronted him. Looking back on things now, I wish I was more knowledgeable about the state of affairs which had led us into the Iraq War.
The reality was that I wanted to justify the war, and was suffering from a bias in the way that I was thinking.
The truth of the matter is that we all suffer from a bias in thinking. As Francis Bacon pointed out, the human mind is often fickle. Our experiences shape the way we view things, as do societal pressures and religious convictions. We often view things as they relate to us, rather than objectively studying the reality of the matter.
I was an example of this bias in thinking, as related to my Iraq experience. While we undoubtedly helped the people of Iraq, the truth is that Saddam did pose little if any threat to us, and the war in Iraq was completely avoidable.
I believe that the Obama administration is also making decisions from a skewed perspective, rather than objectively. President Obama’s anti-war stance was a major reason why he was elected. Before becoming president, Obama had denounced the Iraq War, the justification for it, and stated that Saddam Hussein had posed no direct threat to the U.S. Now that he is commander in chief, President Obama has changed his tune.
We are expected to believe that military action is warranted in Libya. This is despite the fact that several high-level officials, such as Defense Secretary Robert Gates, have stated that we have no real national interests in Libya, and Gaddafi posed no threat to the U.S. If we follow the policies that have led us into Libya, than where do we stop? There are numerous regimes throughout the world that are just as ruthless as Gaddafi’s. Should we engage Syria next? We are traveling down a very slippery slope with no real clue as to where it will lead us.
The reality of the matter is that we have already spent over $500 million dollars supporting the Libyan rebels, as well as thrown our weight in with a rag tag army which is incapable of toppling Gaddafi without assistance. The cost will undoubtedly continue to rise.
This is occurring at a time when Congress has had difficulty making a mere $6 billion in cuts, we are faced with unprecedented budget deficits, and the national debt is out of control. Oh, and in case anyone has forgotten, which is plausible considering news coverage has been sparse, we are also fighting a war in Afghanistan.
How long it will take for the political leadership in this country to get their priorities straight is a mystery. What is clear is that if changes are not made soon, our future prospects are dire.
Mike Bonopartis is a former Recon Marine who served with Okinawa-based 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion and San Diego-based 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, the same unit featured in HBO's miniseries Generation Kill. From 2006 to 2007, Mike served in Iraq as a Recon team member. His unit operated in the Fallujah area of Iraq, conducting raids, reconnaissance and security operations. Mike is now studying medicine. He also writes a bi-weekly column about the military actions overseas for the Harrison Patch.