Saturday, September 6, 2008

Pacifistic expeditions to Clive's Garden


Perhaps paranoia is the wrong word. What I was trying to get across is the sense that something is about to happen. It's no good being prepared if you're not expecting something.

The 'air' about the Welsh Guards was, I think, a reflection of my experience as much as it was the guards themselves and was down to the knowledge of what they had been through only a few months earlier.

The guards were being ferried forward aboard Galahad in support of an attack on Port Stanley. Argentinean jets caught the ship in Bluff Cove without air defence support. 32 guards were killed and many others wounded, most with horrendous burns. No doubt it was an horrific experience.

Now transport yourself a few months ahead to a scene in the living room of a suburban house. Two welsh guards, survivors of that horror, and a family all aware of what had happened. None of my family dared ask them about their experience but each of us and the guards knew the subject was hanging. There was an air about those men that day.

I think we have different views Lawrence, and different experiences that might account for it. You have your sights fixed on an enemy and, in my view, have a limited perspective on how to deal with the threat as you see it. In no way would I say that your perspective is in any way pathological and likewise its hardly unique, but, again from my perspective, it is extreme.

Having read about your time in the Marines, it was clear enough that whilst you saw service, and indeed were shot at on a couple of occasions, your experience wasn't anywhere near as severe as the two welsh guards I met. To be honest I don't know if they went on to fight in the battle for Port Stanley, but even if they didn't, I don't doubt that their time aboard Galahad has stayed with them. I would be very interested to make a comparison of the views of people like those guardsmen and yourself. Would they still have faith in the use of force as the means to end disputes? I don't honestly know.

And if ever a terrorist hopped over my garden fence I'd either run him over with my mower (it is petrol driven you know), or I'd make him a cup of tea and start asking a string of questions about his beliefs.



Clive, I really have no problem with people who are unwilling to fight in a war. I mentioned before that when I enlisted in the Marine Corps all my High School buddies thought I was nuts. My year book, which I still have, has comments to that effect in it. They called me “bullet stopper,” “jarhead,” etc. None of them enlisted with me. None of them wanted to go to war. As we grew up together, I was the one who took the chances, got in the fights, took the risks; so it wasn’t surprising that I would go into the Marine Corps. And I wasn’t surprised when none of the rest of them did. And this is all as it should be in my opinion. Some people are equipped to go to war and some people aren’t.

But here is a problem I have encountered: I have nothing against those who aren’t equipped to go to war. The Marine Corps has a saying about them. We wouldn’t want such people in a foxhole with us. That is, if they don’t want to fight, if they don’t have the proper spirit to be a Marine, then they aren’t going to be dependable in a battle. That’s one of the reasons the Marines prefer an all-volunteer service.

So while I don’t blame those who aren’t equipped to be Marines I notice that I am not granted the same consideration. The people I debate, typically, don’t want me to be a Marine. I haven’t made a principle out of this situation. I believe some people are equipped to be a Marine and some are not, but my conversational opponents insist that no one should be a Marine. They want to make a principle which may at least in part be based upon their disinclination to fight in a war. They want their own timidity to be made into a Universal Principle. But even if their principle were entirely disinterested, it would be detrimental to the well-being of our country – or to any country.

I firmly believe that when any nation produces an inadequate number of young people willing to defend it, it will fall. At least that used to be the case when every nation was on its own. It is part of the realpolitik argument of Hans Morgenthau. Power is the irresistible element in Foreign Affairs. Nations will exercise as much as they are able. I don’t utterly agree with Morgenthau, but the U.S. hasn’t exercised as much power as it is able. I’m sure we would have no difficulty conquering Canada, for example, if we had a mind to, but it is preposterous to think we would ever be of such a mind. Our impetus is for nations to be free, to be Liberal Democracies, as we are – not to conquer them in the old-fashioned British Empire sort of way.

And also as we have discussed, the Cold War period was one in which the U.S. protected Europe from any possible threat from the USSR and its allies. Thus, Europe, Western Europe, didn’t need to worry about other nations’ realpolitik power. I question whether that situation still prevails. It may in a sense. The old fashioned movement of armies around through Belgium into France for a look at Britain isn’t likely to happen, but there are other threats which may or may not develop into more serious ones. Iran is a current consideration. We may have to bomb them. Now if they were building nukes and we let them, you Europeans would be more at risk than we Americans. They would have the means to launch nukes as far as Britain. Ahmadinejad claimed that when he was head of the Pasdaran. He threatened to bomb Britain. But he also threatened Israel. Would we trust him not to? Are we willing to take the risk that he won’t. More importantly, is Israel willing to take the risk that they won’t.

A pacifistic stance doesn’t help with this problem. If Iran bulls ahead with its nuclear plans we (the U.S.) will be faced with a decision about whether to take out their nuclear facilities, or wait to see if Israel does it. It seems to me there would be more of a reaction in the Middle East if Israel did it, but Israel may very well give us an ultimatum: either you do it or we will. It would be understandable for them to do so. Their very existence is at stake. If you bomb one of our American cities, we have plenty more, but that isn’t true of Israel. Bombing Tel Aviv would be the end of them.

If what I have written is true, then pacifism is not an option. To do nothing is in effect an action. It blesses the actions of an aggressive Islamist regime.

Lawrence Helm

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