Swickard: War unseen on the horizon

© 2017 Michael Swickard, Ph.D.  “There never was a war more easy to stop (which wasn’t) than that which has just wrecked what was left of the world from the previous struggle.” Winston Churchill about World War Two
            It is good that our world has not been in global military conflict since 1945. There have been some very nasty regional conflicts, but it has been seventy-two years since the entire world was at war.
            Unfortunately, in that time three generations of American leaders have emerged not steeped in the horrors of WWII. That puts all Americans in danger now. We are seeing saber rattling and belligerent talk out of today’s world leaders.
            These hot hasty words may push our world into a global conflict. Worse, there is an amnesia in our country as to the results of any real military conflict.
            I was speaking to a couple young men. The potential for global conflict came up and they didn’t seem concerned. I said, “You realize that you young men will fight the next war.”
            “No,” one countered, “I don’t want to be in the military.” The other one also didn’t fancy serving in the military. “But you signed up for the military,” I stated.
            “Did not,” they both said. “You signed up for selective service when you turned eighteen.” They were confused. “But we had to so that we could get student loans.”
            “Yes,” I agreed. “But you signed up with selective service so you can be drafted into the military if our country needs you to fight a war.” That got their attention. Neither of them believed me but I could see they were thinking about this and would get to the truth shortly.
            Prior to the first and second world wars, America had a small professional military. That was exhausted in a few months and then came the push for civilians. In WWII about sixteen million Americans served in the military. Most were civilian volunteers and draftees.
            What to do about this possible war unseen on the horizon: Ronald Reagan said, “Of the four wars in my lifetime, none came about because the U. S. was too strong.”
            For our country to stay out of war requires three interconnected actions: first, our country needs a very robust well-trained professional military. Second, we need political and military leaders who can make tough decisions. Finally, a firm strategy for winning conflicts.
            More so, we need to know at what point do we wave our flags, our bands play and we come home. We experienced the lack of this in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.
            It is what our country had in WWII and what it has lacked ever since, with the exception of the Persian Gulf War. America must have a firm grasp of the end in mind when it gets into shooting conflicts.
            If history is any guide, a larger rule is to take the politics out of military action. Hard to do but never use a political solution for a military problem. Never.