by Michael J. Corgan
I don’t consider myself a pacifist. I believe there will always be those who choose to resort to war for little or no good reason and others of us must deal with them. However, sometimes we ourselves are the ones who resort to war for little or no good reason.
Those of us who were in the military as a profession have a particular moral responsibility to speak out.
Like my longtime colleague Andy Bacevich, I am a service academy graduate. I served several tours in wars whose justification was uncertain at best. Like him I am concerned about our propensity to get into wars with no justification: Mexico in 1846, Spain in 1898, Woodrow Wilson’s 20th century Latin American invasions, Granada and Panama in 1982, Iraq in 2003, and others.
At the Naval War College in the late 1970s we began studying Thucydides and Clausewitz to try to determine why we, a supposed 1st-rate military power, lost to North Vietnam, a supposed 4th-rate military power.
From Thucydides one learns how easily the arrogance of power leads to foolish and disastrous military adventures, in which many are killed for no worthy aim.
From Clausewitz a more important lesson, know when to quit–when you’re not going to ‘win’ and all you’re doing is killing people, however worthy the original reason.
What prompts my concern now is our war in Afghanistan, the longest war in our history. According to New York Times interviews with commanders there, we are farther from ‘winning’ than ever.
According to international law, we probably had justification for going to war after the Al Qaeda attacks of 9/11 – that group operated with either the acquiescence of the Taliban or the inability of Taliban to prevent using their country as the operations base. But after 14 years, what is our justification for continuing this war that kills civilians without end?
Five hundred years ago, the Mongols couldn’t control the land; 200 years ago the British began their futile attempt to control it; in the last century the Russians also failed. Now, in our arrogance we think we can create a stable country- though we come as foreigners, don’t speak any of the languages, and are infidels.
It isn’t working. and meanwhile people who want no part of either side are dying. There needs to be a solution to problems in that unhappy land but we and our war aren’t providing it even with all our incredible precision weapons and dropping of the largest conventional bomb ever.
The only right thing to do is to extract ourselves and admit the final answer, if there is one, will be attained by those who live there. The moral imperative is that we must go home.