I just read two very different opinion articles: the first, by Michael Yon, the second by Peter Fulham.
Yon is 44. He did a stint many years ago in the US Army’s Special Forces, and now, as an independent blogger correspondent, has been embedded off and on for the last several years with soldiers and marines in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Conversely, at 18, Fulham is a prep school student in Delaware.
On the two main fronts of The Terror War, as far as covering it from “where the fighters meet the fight,” Michael Yon has been one of THE most objective chroniclers I’ve found. In fact, a couple years ago his critical observations resulted in a refusal by the Army to allow him to re-embed. Lucky for us, the army had a change of heart, or was forced to it. In fact, his “tell it like it is reporting” along with his willingness to suffer the same fate for weeks on end, right along with the dirtiest, scruffiest grunts out there, has endeared Yon with most low to mid-level elements of US and British warfighters.
Young Master Fulham’s opinion piece is titled, “When will young Americans get angry about the war?" His concern is that many of his peers are bored with it all, that because our young warfighters are volunteers and not drafted, he grouses: “Why should we worry when we have no personal stake in the conflict?”
I’ll grudgingly give him that; actually, he makes a good point: most folks today have seemed to have lost interest in what we are doing in Iraq, and NOT just young people.
Yon, on the other hand, is ALSO concerned with what the average American thinks about the war in Iraq; only Yon’s concerns are based on what he’s seen “over there.” In his words, “Our soldiers are turning defeat and disaster into victory and hope. But we could still fumble—if the American people don’t hear the truth now. There remain serious perils in Iraq and this is a time for action.” (I suspect Yon plans to vote for John McCain…)
Now, from the knee-jerk cataleptic antiwar side, here’s more from the Fulham boy:
“American students have an obligation to be outraged about the war in Iraq — not just disapproving of it. We need to make this administration and the remaining pro-war lawmakers start to worry.
Young people need to get involved — and soon. We must organize protests. We must write letters to the editor. Most important, we must vote for a president who will acknowledge and act upon our anti-war sentiment. We have wavered too long on the fringe of electoral irrelevance, and 2008 is the year to fix this problem.”
Comments like the ones from this preppy kid in Delaware are exactly what’s got Yon so alarmed. The kid’s heart seems in the right place, he seems to be against war for being against war’s sake, but other than the two reasons he lists as to why this war should immediately end—“…its steep death toll and mounting costs…”—he seems totally unaware of WHY young volunteers continue to go back over there, tour after tour, at great risk to themselves.
If Fulham would take just a moment to look beyond the most recent Democrat talking points as to why we should immediately abandon Iraq (to Al Qaeda, albeit a trounced one, and to the Iranians), he might want to read what Michael Yon had to say about that in his recent Wall Street Journal Op-Ed article:
“…I may well have spent more time embedded with combat units in Iraq than any other journalist alive. I have seen this war – and our part in it – at its brutal worst. And I say the transformation over the last 14 months is little short of miraculous.
The change goes far beyond the statistical decline in casualties or incidents of violence. A young Iraqi translator, wounded in battle and fearing death, asked an American commander to bury his heart in America. Iraqi Special Forces units took to the streets to track down terrorists who killed American soldiers. The U.S. military is the most respected institution in Iraq, and many Iraqi boys dream of becoming American soldiers. Yes, young Iraqi boys know about "GoArmy.com…
…Iraqis came to respect American soldiers as warriors who would protect them from terror gangs. But Iraqis also discovered that these great warriors are even happier helping rebuild a clinic, school or a neighborhood. They learned that the American soldier is not only the most dangerous enemy in the world, but one of the best friends a neighborhood can have…"
So, in partial answer to Squire Fulham, war in and of itself is not evil; sometimes wars MUST be fought, and in the interest of civilization, including the continuation of Mr. Fulham’s safe little piece of it, those wars must be waged until won. American youth in Iraq regularly risk having to give “the last full measure,” and most do so entirely for selfless and decent reasons: because of the men and women they serve with, because they are professionals, AND, because, slowly but surely, they see that they are doing something truly wonderful and inspirational: they are breathing life into a new nation, even as they defeat the people who would destroy us.
Yet, Fulham, completely unaware of the miracles being accomplished in Iraq by HIS peers, continues to agonize:
“I can't help but imagine that the tone in high school was different in 1970, as the Vietnam War raged and 18-year-olds were sent into its deadly grinder. There must have been anger and no small amount of fear. The idea of a draft is almost laughable today. So we don't worry. We live our lives.”
I’m sorry, but I have to say it. How pitiful. The kid whines that none of his well-to-do schoolmates (AND him) give a fig enough to take to the streets (all Fulham does is write about it), even as he whimpers about how scary it must be for 18-year-olds to go off to war. Instead, totally inconsequential, he admits that all he and his buds do is “live our lives.”
To this pathetic lad I say, there ARE some things worth fighting and dying for. Bringing democracy and a chance at peace to Iraqis seems like a pretty noble thing to do, whether or not you agree in the reasons that brought us to it.
When it comes to the money we are spending, I say “The costs be damned.” The price of leaving the job undone would be FAR more costly, and not just in money and lives. To date, we’ve lost 4000 precious Americans in Iraq. To properly honor THEM we MUST stay until Iraqis are able to go it alone, whether it takes one, two, or even five more years to do so, EVEN if it costs a TRILLION plus dollars. And to the naysayers that claim the Iraqis aren't stepping up to the task, Yon, who knows, says that they ARE.
Being against war because it’s costly in lives and money has got to be THE most cynical of reasons. Notice that Fulham never once mentions being against the war because of ethical or moral grounds; I suspect that’s because he can’t substantiate such reasons. Thank goodness that we DON’T have the draft, as it keeps self-serving, wimpy individuals like Fulham and his preppy friends from being forced to serve alongside the like of truly brilliant young people who at this very moment are putting service over self, while continuing to do so, year after year, tour after tour.
(And yes, Michael Yon DOES have an axe to grind. HE has spent years in the region and KNOWS that we DO have HUGELY important national interests there; and if we simply wash our hands of the Iraqis, “cut our losses,” and run away from our responsibilities there, we will, in effect, be voluntarily ending ANY influence we have in that part of the world, and probably in the rest of the world as well).
He also knows that the best way to destroy the fabric of our marvelous military is to withdraw even as they are winning. Now that WOULD be immoral. Ask them if they want to come home now; most will say, “Yes, AFTER we’ve accomplished the mission!" If ANYONE knows if this war is the right thing to continue with, THEY DO! Listen to them.”