In Memoriam, 2016

by Robert Gore

You don’t fight for your country, you fight for your government.

The Golden Pinnacle, by Robert Gore

On Memorial Day, America remembers and honors those who died while serving in the military. It is altogether fitting and proper to ask: for what did they die? Do the rationales offered by the military and government officials who decide when and how the US will go to war, and embraced by the public, particularly those who lose loved ones, stand up to scrutiny and analysis? Some will recoil, claiming it inappropriate on a day devoted to honoring the dead. However, it is because war is a matter of life and death, for members of the military and, inevitably, civilians, that its putative justifications be subject to the strictest tests of truth and the most probing of analyses.

Millions have marched off to war believing they were defending the US, which implies the US was under attack. Yet, setting aside for a moment Pearl Harbor and 9/11, US territory hasn’t been invaded by a foreign power since the Mexican-American War (arguably—Mexico claimed the territory it “invaded” was part of Mexico), or, if the Confederacy is considered a foreign power, the Civil War. That war ended a century-and-a-half ago, yet every US military involvement since has been justified as a defense of the US. That has gradually attenuated, in a little noted slide, to a defense of US “interests,” which is something far different.

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