Are We Getting Calloused and Where’s the Moral High Ground?

I’m one of those people wondering if we should be celebrating Osama Bin Laden’s death.  Did he deserve it? Yes. Am I relieved?  Maybe.  Do I feel some closure from 9 – 11?  Definitely, but more importantly does it provide any closure for those who lost friends or family?  It certainly won’t stop terrorism, and now they have a new martyr.  The one thing it does is show that you can’t run and hide forever., and Bin Laden is no longer a magical, mystical, defiant figure.

But back to the original question, I’m having a hard time with feeling joy over a death. [Disclosure – I voted for GW Bush, both times.]  The hunt for Bin Laden & attack of Iraq were not his shining moments. I disagreed with the “Wanted Dead or Alive” attitude that Administraton displayed.  It seems to me that a more appropriate attitude would have been, “We have a dirty, disagreeable job that needs to be done.  Similarly all the “glorious war” talk in the run-up to invading Iraq, all the “Shock and Awe” talk seems typical of people who will send others to the front line.  War is the most wasteful of all of man’s major efforts both in resources and especially in the loss of life.  Maybe doubly so because it takes some of the best people we have, people willing to put the needs of country (you and me) ahead of themselves.

Digression:

“A Veteran- Whether active duty, retired, national guard or reserve – is someone who at one point in his [or her] life wrote a blank check payable to the United States of America for an amount of ‘up to and including my life.’  That is honor.  There are far too few people in this country who understand it.”

Author Unknown

These are the people we lose in wars.

Back to the original question: There was another related death, actually three (or four?) deaths, Muammar Gaddafi’s son and two (or three?) grandchildren.  While the U.S. didn’t pull the trigger on that one, we supported it.  Are we getting calloused? Did we celebrate these deaths or were we saddened by them?

There is a bigger moral question here.  Who are the terrorists? Which governments are “legitimate” and therefore people bearing arms against those governments and killing people are “terrorists”, and which governments are “illegitimate” and therefore the people bearing arms are “freedom fighters”?  Did anyone post a “No Fly” zone over Hungary in 1956 when Russia invaded?  Did anyone suggest a “No Fly” over Tiananmen Square in 1989?  Or have we suggested there might be a “No Fly” zone over Taiwan if a Chinese invasion appeared imminent?  If I were a young Arab, I believe I might look at the U.S. and Europe as war mongering bully nations who pick on small weak Arab nations and then swagger around but don’t stand up to other large nations (or trade partners like Saudi Arabia).  Where is the high moral ground here?  Where is the clear demarcation between “terrorists” and “freedom fighters,” between legitimate governments and illegitimate ones.  Are we still in feudal Europe and “might makes right.”

If we are going to hand off a better world than we found to our Grandchildren, we need to be taking the high moral ground.  We need to stay on it if we are to have any hope of continuing to be the (a) world leader.  Americans have always prided themselves in not pursuing global conquest and empire building.  This is noble and honorable high moral ground.  We are giving it away with actual and perceived international bullying.  We need to return to the high ground.

Here’s the hard part.  We can only claim the high moral ground when we walk our talk, when we stay on the high ground during challenging times.  We need to avoid being an invader, even when our emotions are running high.  The use of arms may appear to be a necessary solution, a quick fix.  But in this modern era of mostly asymmetric warfare, it rarely is.  More times than not war just eads to long-term losses.  We need look no further than the Iraq war to see this.  The high moral ground leads to long-term wins.  We need to think broadly and long-term to produce wins for our Grandchildren.

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