Saturday, September 10, 2011

Looking Back, With Regret

Richard Cohen, columnist for the Washington Post, looks back with regret, in a 6 Sep 2011 post called The Longest Day.  The opening quote is from one of my all-time favorite books.

The teacher stands before a class of young men. He is flanked by open windows. A military parade passes outside the school, and martial music fills the classroom. The teacher, Mr. Kantorek, is exhorting his students to enlist. "I believe it will be a quick war," he says, "and there will be few losses." It is 1914, the war lasted four years, and the losses were staggering. This is how the movie "All Quiet on the Western Front" begins. So did Sept. 11, 2001.

Now it is 10 years later, and the war is not over. We fight still in Afghanistan and Iraq, wars now without purpose or, in the case of Iraq, reason. Like those students, we got high on war fever and marched off led by men - a president and his vice president - at least as incompetent as the German kaiser or, on the other side, that gaggle of statesmen and field marshals who allowed Europe to be convulsed by a war whose effects are still being felt.

The passage of time blurred its purpose, and so we fight, as Hannibal did in Italy, because we can't think of what else to do. This is an odd reason to die.

It seems we have become habituated to war. It's the new normal for anybody under the age of about 15 or so--a state of perennial war is all they now know.


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