When will we ever learn?
By Jim Poling
Published Sept. 14, 2017
Most of us have gone through life thinking little about nuclear war. The chances of it have been minimal because everyone understands that launching just one nuke could bring global catastrophe, perhaps even end human civilization.
What increases the chances is reckless talk by people who should know better. That’s what is happening now. The odds of nuclear catastrophe increase weekly because some people can’t control their mouths.
We have the young North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un talking about delivering “a merciless sledgehammer blow to the U.S. imperialists.” Then from the U.S., aggressive statements threatening war that will deliver fire and fury.
Even the diplomats, from whom we expect calm and thoughtful negotiation, seem infected by the war bug.
Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, says North Korea is “begging for war.” Instead of trying to cool the heated war talk, she inflames it.
“We have kicked the can down the road long enough,” she said of the North Korea nuclear threat. “There is no more road left.”
Well Nikki, there’s always more road, more room for talk about preventing the planet from being blown up.
North Korea is like a spoiled child who feels the entire world is against it. There are reasons it feels that way and maybe if someone tried talking to those folks about why they feel that way, some understanding and real negotiations could begin.
We seem incapable of learning, and accepting, the lessons of so many past conflicts. Surely the most important is that war is futile and unwinnable by any side.
Afghanistan is an example. It has been a battleground for centuries yet no country, no empire, has ever been a winner there.
The 1960s novel Caravans by James Michener had a protagonist telling a diplomat that one day both the U.S. and Russia would invade Afghanistan and both would regret it.
It was an uncanny prediction by a brilliant novelist. Russia invaded and is still regretting its Afghan adventure. The U.S. did too and regrets it, and yet it is still there. It is sending even more troops in despite the fact it will never win the country from the Taliban, or other forms of muslin extremists.
The U.S. has 7,000 troops in the country as part of a NATO coalition against terrorists. It also has another 1,500 special forces troops fighting the Taliban.
The U.S. learned little from its Vietnam nightmare in which 60,000 of its soldiers died and tens of thousands of others were maimed. Meanwhile, sons of the allied South Vietnamese military leaders were sent abroad to be out of harms way instead of fighting for the cause.
The U.S. could never win in Vietnam because it did not have the full support of the people.
Ditto the 1950s Korean War. Actual combat ended, no side won and a war of words continues.
Canada did the right thing when it withdrew from the fighting in Afghanistan. Our active combat role there ended in 2011 and the last of our soldiers and policing force left in 2014.
We were part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) force sent in because of the 9/11 attacks on America. The NATO-led forces remain there, minus Canada, to help the Afghan government learn to look after itself and build a self-sufficient, stable society.
Good luck with that. Afghanistan is a hopeless pit that swallows any country that tries to remake it. It should be left to the Afghan people to figure it all out.
NATO are in there supposedly to defeat the terrorists. The billions being spent on that would be better spent containing the terrorists and keeping them away from the rest of us.
NATO countries all can help Afghanistan by providing it with money and tools. They should not be sending their sons and daughters there to risk their lives in combat, policing or advisory roles.
More than 60 years after the world’s most powerful anti-war song was written, its haunting question remains unanswered:
“Where have all the soldiers gone?
Gone to graveyards every one.
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?”