27 January 2013

Week 29 from Afghanistan

It was another frustrating week here.  I'm sure it is the same for anyone in a situation where you are trying to wind-up a war--decisions are made for pragmatic reasons and short term gains, and the ultimate values that we hold dear are sacrificed to the practical.  It is a tough thing for people of high moral standards...the "why" doesn't make sense.
I had a conversation with my deputy tonight about this.  She is an Air Force Academy grad, and is of the mind that we should pull everyone out as fast as possible.  Her rationale is "why should we ask my friends to fight and die for something that just isn't worth it."  I think this is a common mantra over the decades of conflict since the second world war.  My answer to that is that we don't swear our allegiance to a conflict or policy, but to the constitution.  Under our constitutional framework, congress has a powerful role in conflict--both declaring war and funding it.  The people also have a significant role, as they can vote out Presidents with bad policy records.  Unfortunately, Congress has abdicated its role, and except for the War Powers Act and a couple of funding red lines in Vietnam and Iraq, have done little to debate and sanction or limit our conflicts.  The people likewise, are more disconnected than ever to our military, and it will be more so in the future--in 30 years or so, when the Vietnam generation has passed and is passing, there will be nothing left but the volunteer veterans of the growing warrior class.  57% of currently serving active duty military had a parent who served in some branch of service.  
It is sad and probably unsustainable.  I'm not sure how morally or ethically correct it is to send men and women into conflict without having a real stake in their fortunes.  It will be more and more difficult to answer these young captains when they ask why their friends should die, when the principals that provide strength to our constitution--an engaged public and Congress--give way to partisan interests, pragmatic political solutions, apathy and comfort.
I think her view is fairly consistent with what the majority of our young leaders believe.  It is the more senior folks who toe the line.  There are many reasons for this--certainly we have some good leaders--but there are also many seeking promotion, or profiting from the conflict, with less altruistic motivations.
In the sunset of my career, all I can think to do is to pray for our leaders, try to educate our people, and to inculcate the coming generation with a sense of duty and care for more than their personal and localized interests.
Fortunately, through faith, we have a surety of hope for a better world, and while this is concerning, I have plenty of peace in my own life, having a confirmation of good things to come.  I am thankful for the prayers for our family, for a Church family who serve and pray for us, for those in temples who remember our men and women in uniform, and our family specifically.  We are blessed.
Hope all is well.  Warmest regards.

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