Veterans who voluntarily join the military abound with courage. But veterans have separate intentions from the political class. Men and women join the military to defend their country and make the world a safer place (among other reasons). Unfortunately, politicians distort this noble purpose by using the military to fight perpetual wars or attempting to “nation-build.” Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Vietnam War are classic examples of the United States’ failure to establish free government through the use of military force. Iraq is less stable today than when the U.S. first entered, and Vietnam still has an authoritarian government.
Not only does nation-building fail, but it is an immoral use of force that trivializes the lives of soldiers. The U.S. does not have the moral authority to tell foreign countries which style of government is best. The U.S. lacks the financial stability to continue fighting costly wars. Above all, the U.S. cannot risk the lives of American men and women to set up a government that the citizens of foreign countries do not even desire.
Michael Aavang (‘Veterans are not victims,’ Sept. 10) claimed that “the terror and pain a soldier experiences often serves to expand, not diminish, the potential greatness of his soul.” But 20 percent of those who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom experience post-traumatic stress disorder, as do 12 percent from the Gulf War and 30 percent from the Vietnam War, according to the Department of Veteran Affairs. Even if war truly makes man’s soul better, which is unlikely, human lives cannot be risked for an abstract sense of greatness.
We must have the courage to look back and admit that sacrifices made by soldiers have not always reaped positive benefits on a global scale, and we must stop senselessly sending our troops to die in unwinnable conflicts.
Aavang said that the victimhood mentality of soldiers originates from postmodern, relativistic, and progressive thought. In reality, the idea that militaries can forfeit soldiers’ lives to spread democracy or to merely champion a noble yet undefined purpose stems from Woodrow Wilson, a president who was as progressive as they come. Only in recent history have conservatives adopted the idea of “righteous battles,” as Aavang used the term. The only wars that are morally justifiable are those that are fought in self-defense. Military occupation for even the noblest end is immoral.
War does not bring out the best in society. Aavang said, “[War] realigns the soldier’s moral paradigm with what is truly important and higher.” But war does not refocus society on morality. It rather strips people of what makes them human. Aavang also claimed that “in peacetime experience it is so easy to mistake what appears to be higher for what is higher in actuality.” If this were true, then humanity should have been focused on the highest morality for thousands of years prior to the modern era, when men and women were in constant strife with one another. But this was not the case. Recent history shows that peacetime allows people to develop morality and strive for what is good.
Since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. military has fought many battles and lost many soldiers. In the 14 years since, global terrorism has increased by a factor of five, according to the 2014 Global Terrorism Index. Aggressive war does not make the world a safer place. War does not make men and women better. War is not glorious. It should always be our last resort.