How do you evaluate a war?

I wrote my piece on the Iraq War this morning, and have nothing much to add. But I’ve also come across a few other pieces today, and they’ve shown a particular chasm in how we think back on a subject like war. We made decisions as a nation, and those decisions have cost lives.

How do you measure such things?

I heard NPR interview with Richard Perle, today. It included this exchange.

Montagne: Ten years later, nearly 5000 American troops dead, thousands more with wounds, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead or wounded. When you think about this, was it worth it?

Perle: I’ve got to say I think that is not a reasonable question. What we did at the time was done with the belief that it was necessary to protect this nation. You can’t a decade later go back and say we shouldn’t have done that.

What we did at the time was done with the belief that it was necessary. That is all it takes for Perle, looking back, to move past all the casualties resulting, directly, from him and his friends. It doesn’t matter if he was right or wrong, only that he believed at the time that it was necessary. Earlier in the interview, Perle said: “You have to deal with the information that’s available to you and you have to do what you believe is necessary to protect against that most horrendous of possibilities.” That’s absolutely right. Then, later, you have to go back and say: should we have done this or not? Were we right? Did we do something good? That’s called: Learning.

Hopefully at night Perle’s sleep is fitful, as he grapples with all this loss, but I doubt it. He believes in his righteousness.

There is a blog out there from a talented northeastern writer called Granite Bunny. From Granite Bunny comes this:  The Moon on the Night of War (read it all!):

They say that there is no part of history more distant than the recent past. My history lessons ended with Nagasaki, barely touching the wars in Korea or Vietnam or Iran or Kuwait, the bombings and skirmishes and occupations elsewhere. I suppose my teachers thought, because this happened in their lifetimes, their adulthoods, this was not history.
Thus we are disconnected from the grounding events of our present.
I used to think that war was more like chess, that soldiers lined up and faced off, and whoever had the most dead lost the war. That the bodies would be counted, and the battle could be quick and organized. I was five or six, thinking this. But the idea of tallying the dead, of killing people at all to solve a fight, didn’t make sense.
I see war as a vehicle for multiplying such sights across every place it touches. A bomb lands, goes askew and kills civilians. Men, women, children, babies and grandparents, their loved one lost to violence. Grief, in a place where the air thunders with anticipation of death, can lead nowhere good. Children with lost parents will have to go somewhere, homes and businesses destroyed and neighborhoods unsafe, all this foments poverty, desperation, and most unjust of all, the strain of living with constant terror. I will take expensive oil and the loss of America’s global dominance, gladly, as the price of stopping all of this sadness.
So say we all.

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