Following the horrific destruction of the World Trade Towers in New York City on September 11, 2001 that led to thousands of deaths, a war was authorized against the government and people of Afghanistan in retaliation for this attack. This war was begun with use of staggering air power against which the enemy had no possible defense. Of course, the claim was made that only the perpetrators of this act were being targeted. The First Gulf War began with a blistering and relentless attack from the air on the sovereignty of Iraq including its capital city of Baghdad. In the beginning of the Second Gulf War this assault was referred to "Shock and Awe" by the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, with a barely contained sense of pride and arrogance. During that conflict, President George W. Bush rationalized this violent incursion upon the premise of preventing the use of so-called Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) by Saddam Hussein with the use of WMD of our own making.
Now we have an air assault on the country of Libya. President Obama authorized this attack ostensibly to curtail the assault led by Col. Muammar Gaddafi on those within his own country who seek his ouster. Here we go again around a very familiar wheel. Let us assume, for arguments sake, that the ostensible reasons for this warlike behavior are true. These sophisticated weapons are incredible devices, the products of an advanced technology, constructed for one purpose – destruction. Cruise missiles and bombs have no moral imperative, exhibit no remorse, and demonstrate no reluctance; they merely follow the laws of physics and carry out, meticulously, their programmed instructions. If they should collide with a bus filled with school children, or a school, or a train filled with passengers, or a wedding party, or a market place filled with shoppers and deliver their deadly munitions, so be it. Fighter pilots, likewise have been trained to follow their precise orders. Those who have shown any reluctance have, of course, been culled from the ranks. Should their ordinance go astray and incinerate innocent people, this is not construed as killing, but simply as regrettable mistakes. In military parlance, such outcomes are referred to as collateral damage.
The questions I pose are simple ones – why do we allow ourselves to accept this violence as appropriate; why is any collateral damage acceptable? Furthermore, why is the death of a soldier in the field, obeying his own commander's instructions, from devices that he has no defense against and from an enemy he cannot see, acceptable? These horrendous acts are deemed acceptable; because the stated goal seems to conform to what we believe is right and moral. It is, in essence, a defense of morality using methods employing acts of deadly force. War has become permissible, for we have become a warlike people. We cherish and pay homage to our arsenal of weaponry; we spend a lion-share of our national resources on the military while our people suffer from neglect and from unnecessary hardships. Our history is replete with the use of violence to resolve conflict, to oppress an entire people within our own borders, to decimate the native population to propel our own material interests, to control the destinies of other nations by forceful means. It is what we have become.
This reality exists; because, we permit it. This is our history; because, we implicitly accept this definition of our country and, more importantly, ourselves. If the idea of violence as a viable method to resolve conflict is to be uprooted, we need to change the paradigm.