As the world continues to change and disagreements and even battles continue to be fought, the foreign policy debate has begun to really heat up. And there seems to be at least two camps: the “neohawks” (such as Linsday Graham, John McCain, and may others) and the “neorealists.” And the two see the world and the causes of the conflicts in the world completely and totally differently. Neorealists tend to focus on better understanding the underlying causes of conflicts and often try to avoid escalation by seeking a compromise that should be acceptable to all parties. Neohawks, however, tend to see this as weakness and believe that those we say are our enemies perceive it the same way. You can almost hear the voice of Colonel Nathan R. Jessup from the iconic movie A Few Good Men. “Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns.”
You’re right, we do. We do live in a world that has walls. And sometimes, those walls do need to be guarded by men with guns. But it seems unfortunate, if nothing else, that because we have men that guard walls with guns, that sometimes encourages other people to get (even more) guys with guns to guard their walls. And then occasionally you have arms races. But, certainly we can’t really afford to be so naïve as to disarm ourselves as a nation. There really are some evil leaders who aren’t afraid to use guns. And so we do really need walls guarded by men with guns.
One question, though, is whether or not other people’s walls need to be guarded by our men with guns. Because even as left-wing as I might be on some issues, especially defense, I don’t know anybody (including me) that’s saying that we shouldn’t have men guarding OUR walls with guns. But any time the military has the opportunity to fight somebody in some other part of the world and somebody questions whether or not it’s worth it to us, then they’re soft, naïve, and don’t understand that the world is a dangerous place. And the only thing standing between us and a horrible death from so many different bad people who want to harm us, we’re told, is them. So, we really need for them to fly over to the other side of the world and fight a war against people who they don’t know and have never met before so that people over here (on the other side of the ocean) can be safer and more free. And I guess that’s why we went to Vietnam and Iraq…
You can hear Colonel Jessup’s voice continue: “I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it.” I do appreciate you being willing to die for our country (even if I honestly would not) and that you’d be willing to die to keep me safe. That really is admirable and something for which you deserve a lot of credit. But, it still doesn’t give you a license to do whatever the heck you want, however you want to do it. It doesn’t work that way. I have no doubt that war is horrible and that when bombs are falling and somebody is shooting at you and just killed your friend and brother, you have to go into a different mode. And I can appreciate all of that. But just like this world has to have walls that are guarded by men with guns, those men with guns need a lot of people, from a lot of different backgrounds, to let them know when is the right time to shoot. Because let’s be honest: a lot of guys who join the Marines love fighting. They signed up so they could go to war (and protect their country). They love to fight and they’ll tell you they love to fight. And so there simply has to be people who question the manner in which they are claiming to be providing freedom…because although the military is doing a great service, that service can be abused or used incorrectly.
The neohawks of today love to pretend like they have a superior understanding of the world, how it works, and the real risks. They rarely stop to understand the history that caused the conflicts in the first place. The only answer is always strength. Because then they feel important. You see, we need them on that wall. If they weren’t over there a million miles away killing people, then we’d all have been nuked or be speaking Russian and Chinese by now. And that seems to be the basic message of neohawks: if you don’t let us go over there and kill them first, then they’re going to come here and kill you. And one problem is that although this is occasionally true, you can’t always kill your way to a solution. Occasionally, you have a Hitler who is trying to take over the world (or at least an entire continent). But far more often, you have a genuine disagreement between two countries (more specifically two leaders; I don’t have any problems with any Iraqis and any Iraqis that might have a problem with me live far, far away). Now, part of me wants to say, “Fine. If you want to go over there and risk getting yourself killed over something that probably needs to be solved through discussions and negotiations (and in fact, that’s the most likely way it ultimately will be solved), then go ahead. I won’t be behind you this time. But it’s your life…”
But firstly, it’s not just their lives. It’s also the lives of the innocent women and children that get killed (accidentally) by our bombs. I care about them, too. And their deaths might be a tragic but necessary sacrifice for some kind of noble greater good of making the world safer. But there also might just be another way of solving the conflict (politically) that the neohawks haven’t thought of before (or just don’t really like). Neohawks seem utterly captivated by the excitement of battle and the strategic nature of war. For those neohawks (especially those not on the front lines), war is like a real life combination of Call of Duty, Risk, and Command & Conquer. But the lives of women and children in the countries that we have disagreements with are as important as our own women and children. And if people don’t question the foreign policy strategies of those neohawks in our country whose aggression leads to accidental civilian deaths, we risk their actions actually making us less safe in the long run. Do you think that the civilians in the countries where we fight see themselves merely as unfortunate collateral damage? Is that how they see their wives, sons, and daughters? Their husbands? Is that how their media portrays it? But, the other thing worth noting is that many of the neohawks are eager to risk other people’s lives (and other people’s children’s lives) for these wars they claim are so absolutely necessary…but aren’t usually willing to risk their own (with the exception of some of the older war heroes like John McCain who served his country bravely, but has grown up his whole life around the military and war…and so might not even believe or realize there might be other ways to solve things).
So, yes, I will question the manner in which you say that you provide my freedom. Because I’m not 100% convinced that what you’re doing is actually providing me with the blanket of freedom that you say it is. I think that sometimes you want to go to war when it might actually make me no more free or safe…and MAYBE even occasionally when it might actually make me less free and less safe. There’s no doubt that we need walls in this world and that we need men with guns to guard them. But we’ve got two big oceans separating us from any enemies and we’ve got friendly neighbors bordering us. Every time there’s a disagreement somewhere in the world, it’s not always the next Hitler that we must go to the other side of the world and defeat. And I’m not the least bit weak, naïve, or unpatriotic for suggesting so.