Nothing gets my blood boiling more than people implying, either blatantly or subtly, that the US military is full of immoral psychopaths who enjoy nothing better than killing innocents. We hear rumors and accusations in the news about actions in Haditha, with the Marines in question being convicted before investigations are complete or charges have been brought. Some people seem to be of two minds about when US military force is useful. There are those who today call the military action in Iraq “illegal” but didn’t seem to have a problem with our involvement in the former Yugoslavia in the mid 1990s when the troops would “be home by Christmas”. Now, more than a decade later, the US military is still there. Never mind the US military in Iraq includes some of the same people who participated in the “approved” intervention in the Balkans. Others say there is absolutely never any justification for violence. I am not a violent person, and I don’t think violence should be used unless or until all feasible non-violent options are proven to be ineffective. George Orwell’s commentary in his 1941 essay “Pacifism and the War” still holds true in today’s conflict:
Pacifism is objectively pro-Fascist. This is elementary common sense. If you hamper the war effort of one side you automatically help that of the other. Nor is there any real way of remaining outside such a war as the present one. In practice, ‘he that is not with me is against me’.
We cannot forget there are evil, violent people in this world. We have seen it throughout history. These people are found across the country and around the globe. LTC (ret) Dave Grossman, in his essay “On Sheep, Wolves and Sheepdogs”, refers to these kinds of people as wolves. The analogy goes on to describe those of us that are productive members of society as sheep – we are kind and gentle and can only hurt one another by accident. The wolves prey on the sheep. Thankfully, there are also sheepdogs – law enforcement, our military and others – who protect the sheep by killing the wolves.
No one will ever be able to convince me that violence is never justified. One of my favorite quotes on this subject is attributed to Orwell: "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” Another thought comes from John Stuart Mill in “The Contest in America”, first published in 1862:
War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.
How would history be different if we did not have these rough men, these sheepdogs, standing between the wolves and us sheep? What would have been the result if the Spartans had not sacrificed themselves for the sake of all Greeks, delaying the Persians at the Battle of Thermopylae? Would a modern Western Civilization have developed if Polish king Jan Sobieski III had not defeated the Ottoman Empire at Vienna in 1683? Would the United States of America ever have come into being without the Revolutionary War? How long would slavery have been tolerated without the Civil War? Would Hitler have been able to realize the complete annihilation of the Jews if countries like Great Britain and the United States had not opposed Nazi aggression? What would have happened if Soviet expansion had not been halted because of US military might? Today, the sheepdogs might look a little different than they did in the past, but they are no less important to the welfare of the flock than they were before.
I grew up around the military. Although I am one of the sheep, I have always been surrounded by sheepdogs. I was born in Kimbrough Army Hospital at Fort Meade. We always lived in base housing, except for when my father was stationed in San Antonio, and my parents bought a house.
When we were living in Germany from 1978 to 1982 and I was in elementary school, I was eventually allowed to go places by myself. I never felt unsafe when walking to and from the PX, school or a friend’s house. The members of the US military were my father, my best friend’s dad, my neighbors and friends of my family.
It was no different at my father’s next duty station in El Paso from 1982 to 1986. The members of the US military were my father, my best friends’ dads, our neighbors, my dad’s company commander for whom I babysat.
In the fall of 1986, we moved back to Augsburg. I was a junior in high school. Being a teenager, I had “things to do and places to be.” My friends and I would go to the base movie theater, bowling alley, Burger King or snack bar. When I was a manager for the high school basketball team, we would sometimes use a non-school gym for practice. I remember riding my bike home one night. I was more concerned about having forgotten my gloves than for my personal safety – it was winter, it was cold and it was dark, and I would have to ride from the gym on Sheridan Kaserne, along Augsburg’s city streets to our building in Sullivan Heights, something that probably took me between 15 to 20 minutes to do. The members of the US military were my father, my best friend’s dad, classmates’ parents, people I babysat for, a volunteer coach for the boys’ basketball team and my customers at the PX.
One summer while I was in college, but before my father was re-assigned to Fort Hood, I dated a GI whose best friend was dating my best friend. I would sometimes visit with my boyfriend at the barracks, even helping on a “GI Party” or two so my boyfriend’s chores would be finished sooner, and we’d be able to get on with our plans. Not once did I ever feel like I was in a dangerous, risky situation.
My father has been retired from the Army for about 15 years. Some of the faces of the military have changed over the years. Now the US military are people I went to school with, as well as my pen pals.
The vast majority of the US military are good people, ones that have chosen the warrior’s path and live that life with courage and honor. I have never felt threatened because of the sheepdogs. I felt unsafe or uneasy because of the wolves: terrorists setting off bombs at the Oktoberfest in Munich, terrorists gunning down people at airports in Rome and Vienna, terrorists kidnapping Americans and holding them for years somewhere in the Middle East, terrorists bombing the Marine barracks in Beirut, the Iranians taking over our embassy in Tehran, bomb threats called into my school, or the prospect of being evacuated out of Germany with all my family except my dad – he was one of the sheepdogs, and he’d have a job to do.
Today, what makes me feel uneasy are the terrorists who wish to destroy our way of life. These terrorists are the wolves. They are the evil ones, who take pleasure in killing innocents. They are the barbarians who recently captured two United States soldiers. These soldiers were brutally tortured: unofficial information indicates their genitals were cut off and their hearts were cut out before they were beheaded. Their bodies were so badly mutilated that the only way to confirm their identities was through DNA testing. When these two soldiers were found, they had been booby-trapped by the terrorist, no doubt in the hope that more people would die. Nothing that any of our military has been accused of compares to what the terrorists are doing as a matter of course.
Personal experience confirms it: members of the US military are the better men, the rough men, who allow the rest of us to be the sheep. They are not the wolves. They are the sheepdogs, sniffing the air for any hint of a threat. They are there to protect the flock, and for that I am grateful. They are noble creatures, willing to sacrifice themselves in order to keep the sheep and their fellow sheepdogs safe.
This being a "touchy-feely" class about writing ("Connecting Reading & Writing in the Classroom"), we all had to share "positive" comments about each piece, written on strips of paper, to be read later. I finally read the comments I received this evening while working on getting all the links. Only one said something negative about my topic - "I felt that my desire for PEACE was attacked." - but she also said it was well written and that I was "brave for saying what you think." The lady whose poem inspired my writing picked up on that fact, and commented on it. She did, however, say I had done a good job. Most comments were truly positive, with some being supportive of my views.
Linked to Mudville Gazette