Out of the mouths of babes

Last night, my husband had the kids join him while he watched the last 45 minutes of Julie Taymor’s Across the Universe. I blogged about it here.  If you haven’t watched it — and I don’t recommend it — I would summarize it briefly as an incredibly stupid anti-War, anti-American movie that cannot be salvaged by Taymor’s really beautiful and imaginative staging of lots and lots of wonderful Beatles’ songs.

When my kids came to me to get ready for bed after having watched the movie, my daughter, 10, said, “War is really bad.  Why do we have to go to war?”  I drew in a breath, and mentally collected my arguments that no one likes war, but that some wars are necessary because the alternative is worse.  Before I could even open my mouth, though, she chattered on:  “But the Nazis were really bad and the only way to get rid of them was war.  If we hadn’t gone to war with the Nazis, they would have put everyone in concentration camps.  Sometimes you have to fight wars.”  My planned lecture instantly shrank down to one phrase:  “Sweetheart, you’re absolutely right.”  Her brother nodded knowingly.

Having satisfied herself on this point, she came up with another question:  “But isn’t it horrible to have to fight?  I’d be so scared if I had to go to war.”  Again, I gathered my argument, which was going to be that war is horrible, something I, as a physical coward, fully understand.  Nevertheless, some fates are worse than war, such as being marched off like lambs to a slaughter to a gas chamber.  At least with a gun in your hand, you have a fighting chance.  I never got the chance.  I’d just started my preface about understanding how frightening war is, when my daughter interrupted me:  “But you know, I’d rather fight than go to a gas chamber.  If they take you to a gas chamber, you know you’re going to die.  But if you’re in a battle, maybe you won’t die.”  Again, my contribution was “You’re absolutely right.”

The one thing I added to the mix is that people who assume no one wants to be a soldier lack empathic imagination (although I toned down my vocabulary for the elementary school set).   While freely acknowledging that I’m too in love with my creature comforts (a clean home and a comfy bed) to want to be in the military on a day to day basis (and that’s not even considering the fighting part), I pointed out that a lot of people don’t mind the discomforts and that many people, while they find battle and death horrifying, nevertheless like the purpose and excitement of military service.

My Dad was an example of that mentality.  While he had nightmares to the end of his days about some of the more horrible battles he experienced (with Crete and El Alamein at the top of the list), he also was at his happiest when he was in the military.  He didn’t mind the discomfort too much, and he loved the purpose and camaraderie.  From an aimless Marxist living (or, should I say, starving) on the streets of Tel Aviv, he suddenly had a life that mattered.  He mattered.  For the most part, that more than offset the truly terrible downsides he experienced.

I have smart kids, if I do say so myself.

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  • Ymarsakar

    “War is really bad. Why do we have to go to war?”

    That’s like asking why do human beings have to die eventually or why human beings can’t breath oxygen in water like fish or why human beings can’t teleport ourselves to a land of free food at any time we wish.

    People do things, like war, because somebody else made that choice for them. Even if you don’t want to, all it takes is one to make it happen. If you don’t like how things are, then learn more about them so that you can change them. Become stronger in mind, body, and spirit so that other people’s decisions won’t drag yolu into their wars as easily.

    You will never achieve the power of a god, the power to delay death forever or the power to change the physical laws of the world, but you can achieve power as is defined by human beings. The power to change your life and the life of your loved ones.

    I’d be so scared if I had to go to war.

    If you weren’t scared of going to war, you’d be a fool. ANd if people weren’t scared of war, then war would happen all the time. Nobody would want it to end and nobody would wish to avoid it if it was all fun and happy play time.

    War is scary because humans are scared of death. That is not only how it is but also how it should be.

    The one thing I added to the mix is that people who assume no one wants to be a soldier lack empathic imagination

    People who can’t imagine the draw of military discipline and order lack an understanding of human nature and the human need for order, security, hierarchy, and friends. Human beings cannot survive simply on hope in the absence of bread and life.

  • George Bruce

    Smarter that a lot of so called “adults.”

  • jj

    Actually, there wasn’t a reason in the world to go to war with Germany. By today’s standards, we probably wouldn’t. Had they attacked us? No. If they’d wanted to, COULD they have attacked us? No. Was there, in real terms a thing in the world they could do to damage us? Nope. In fact the Nazis were pretty scrupulous in their observance of our neutrality. Hitler, being evil, crazy and wicked – but not stupid – wanted no part of a fight with the US, and did just about nothing to provoke one until his ally made it impossible to avoid. (In fact, the Nazis observed our neutrality a lot better than we did, as we shipped tonnes of cargo to one side ["neutral" means you don't favor one side] but not the other, and our Navy seemed [by accident - faulty navigating or something] to wander ever farther out into the Atlantic before we were engaged.

    But (something democrats will apparently never understand): some things you do for no better reason than that it’s the right thing to do. Knocking down the Nazis was, manifestly, the right thing to do.

    But I wonder, if we had the current crop of democrats in congress and the senate during either 1916 or 1941, would we have ever gone to war with Germany? Certainly in 1916 the Kaiser had even less capability against us than Hitler did, and one is free to wonder (as many have) just what we were doing in WWI at all. Hitler, as noted, was as incapable as the Kaiser of shutting off our water, stopping our milkman, or doing much of anything meaningful to harm us.

    So – why? Because it was the right thing to do – which used to be a good enough reason. I wonder if it still is.

  • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

    A little known historical fact (and one I know only because of a bet with someone) is that, a couple of days after Pearl Harbor, and after the U.S. declared war on Japan, Germany declared war on the U.S., not the other way around. Here’s a website that describes what happened:

    Should they begin to pull back the buildup on the Atlantic? Roosevelt, who wanted war with Germany, particularly worried that the European war, a far greater threat in his estimation, would be seen in the United States as a European problem and Japan as the Americans’ sole concern. Within days, Hitler would alleviate his concerns.

    In Berlin on December 8, 1941, Adolf Hitler was elated. “We have ally that has not been defeated in 1500 years!” he told Minister of Propaganda Josef Goebbels. On December 11, 1941, Hitler gave a speech to the Reichstag. Confused and rambling, he compared his own childhood of poverty to that of the wealthy Roosevelt. He declared war on the United States.

    In doing so, he ensured his own destruction. UK Prime Minster Winston Churchill, when he heard of Pearl Harbor, remarked, “so we have won after all!” The American public would have been quite content with dealing with Japan and leaving the European War to the Europeans. The treachery of the Japanese attack burned bright in the minds of most Americans, and they wanted revenge. If not for the declaration of war by Germany, Roosevelt would have had a hard time justifying declaring war on Germany until Japan was destroyed. But Germany did declare war, and the U-boats moved the Eastern seaboard in January 1942.

  • Ymarsakar

    a couple of days after Pearl Harbor, and after the U.S. declared war on Japan, Germany declared war on the U.S.

    Like three days or something. But that was because Hitler had once admired the plucky Americans because he saw the most adventurous of Aryans had come here. After Hitler saw the race mixing and what not going on in America, he assumed that America would be too weak to put up a strong fight.

    This is called trying to fight wars based upon ideology. Assuming Americans can’t put up a fight on two fronts because their blood lines aren’t pure. Coincidentally, Roosevelt got a two front war that ended up sapping the resources from the West to go to Europe. But the only war the left talks about in this context is Bush sapping critical resources from Afghanistan, that attacked the US, to Iraq, which didn’t.

    Given the ignorance of many Leftists to true history, this should not be surprising. What is surprising is that these folks think they know something about warfare when they don’t even know or acknowledge the history of their own party. The Democrats has historically been America’s war party. The Civil War being only one example of that.

  • Ymarsakar

    Btw, Book, I highly recommend people watch this if they wish to watch something entertaining and informative about war.

    It has very simple explanations of tactics and why they matter in warfare. They also explain the ethics involved, political problems that occur, and they accurately portray the reckless disregard some acquire in war compared to the careful husbanding of resources that others have in war.

    Their treatment of planetary insurgency was also original.

    To make a long story short, most stories or documentaries about warfare or wars are inadequate in the portrayal of both sides, their motivations, and the strategies employed by each side’s commanders. Those of us that study warfare as a personal field of interest eventually realize that warfare is pretty inefficient so long as you are seeing things only from your own perspective. By understanding the enemy’s point of view, you can outmaneuver him, predict his next actions, and prepare your defense against his attacks.

    This requires not only the comprehension of an alien culture and an alien mindset, but an accurate perception of basic human nature as well. Thus it may be said that to know one’s enemy, one must first know oneself.

    I drew in a breath, and mentally collected my arguments that no one likes war

    That’s not exactly true, Book. While no warrior or good soldier likes killing, they do find a personal satisfaction in being a professional at warfare. For the Marines and the general officers that can find no better test than the cauldron of warfare, they are drawn to it. In a sense, it is the same paradox concerning why human beings love life but dislike death. Having a life means you will die. War is the same way. Its advantages only exist because of the horror of war. The forge has to be really hot to produce quality metal. The heat is the price for the temper of steel. So it is very easy for people to like war, as it is easy for people to like death. They will probably still dislike death and the horror of war, but it is the price one must pay for the benefits.

    It has been said that some soldiers get the “command bug”. Which is a micro-scale example of the macro issues of life in warfare. The command bug is the attraction of an individual to leading men and women into combat. It is not that they wish to play god, it is that they are at their best when fighting and leading others in the fight. And they believe that another commander would not be as good and thus would kill more of the troops. The anime series Naruto gave an exposition of that, actually, in one episode. You won’t ever see that kind of explanation in an American show, except by chance.

    Btw, I recommended LOGH because it would be a good educational experience for your children, Book. The same issues brought on by Vietnam and political infighting is also presented very accurately and justly in LOGH. You know what my views are, so you can gauge the show’s quality by my claim that it accurately portrays the military, civilians, tactics, strategy, and human nature.

    I would summarize it briefly as an incredibly stupid anti-War, anti-American movie that cannot be salvaged by Taymor’s really beautiful and imaginative staging of lots and lots of wonderful Beatles’ songs.

    This is pure speculation but if you can get your husband to watch the first 15 episodes of LOGH for at least 50 times in a row, maybe he’ll understand something about why the jane Fonday Complex is so mistaken.

  • SGT Dave

    All,
    Thanks for the post BW; it is satisfying to see that some lessons still get through despite the rhetoric and anti-war spin. I’ve posted why I am still wearing the tree suit – and considering returning to active duty from the guard – elsewhere. If not me, then someone else would be in this place. And though it sounds vain, I don’t think many could do the job as well as I can (though I know a few; they’re already committed either here, Baghdad, or Kabul). The call, when it comes, is not unlike the way I heard the Christian Brothers who helped in my education describe it.
    And it is not a call to violence – it is a call to responsibility.
    Have a good day, whereever you find yourself, and think kindly of us, despite our fearsome mein.

    SGT Dave – “A true soldier’s fondest dream is to awaken one day and find that he is without work for lack of need.”

  • Ymarsakar

    A Marine holding a puppey for the cameras doesn’t look particularly fierce anymore. I suspect the same goes for Army and other service branches.

    Actually, there wasn’t a reason in the world to go to war with Germany.

    JJ’s point is still valid, given that the first troops America fought in WWII were the French in Africa. The French would surrender to the Germans when they asked, but when we asked, they told us to shove off. That’s the French for you. And if Europe was the target and if Germany had declared war on us, what exactly is America and Roosevelt the Democrat doing fighting in Africa against the French? Course, the Left don’t really care about that since they can’t derive any benefits from the corpses in a long ago war.

    Dave, for curiosity’s sake, did you write your 7 after or before reading my 6?

  • SGT Dave

    Y,
    I started reading the comments after I posted; I have that habit of commenting and then going back to read the other comments so I sometimes repeat what has been said before. The phrase is one that I learned from one of my mentors back in the ’91-93 time frame. It is actually funny in retrospect to find out how many of my former brothters-in-arms have gone into the ministry after retiring from the military. The point of view is quite unique, though my faith has been sorely tested and I’d not be comfortable with the pulpit.
    In any case (aside from 24 beers), one can say that soldiers are the ultimate peace advocates – we are willing to lay down our lives so that others might live.
    That is either very deep or very egotistical – I really can’t tell which right now.
    Be well and may peace find you, even if it be only fleetingly;

    SGT Dave – “Peace is the singing of the bird on the bloody wires in no-man’s land, proclaiming that, for this moment, man has decided to lay aside his arms and rest his weary soul. And like that bird, peace flies from us the instant one man, any man, makes his ill intent known.”

  • jj

    I wouldn’t have supposed it was anything other than widely known that it was Hitler who declared war on us, but given the state of contemporary education perhaps it is. It was four days later, December 11.

    But it was also what Roosevelt had been angling for. Churchill’s remarks are instructive. He was sitting home at Chequers in England with – surprise, surprise, what a coincidence! – Averell Harriman and Joe Winant (US Ambassador to England) on Sunday evening, December 7th, knocking back the brandy after a late dinner. (There was also a relative of mine at Chequers that weekend – he was surrounded by Americans.) Churchill turned on his radio shortly after the nine-o’clock news had begun. He himself said later (in “The Grand Alliance,” among other places) that he did not “sustain any direct impression” from what he heard on the news – (probably owing to the brandy) – but Harriman said there was “something about the Japanese attacking the Americans.” Churchill’s butler, (servants weren’t allowed into the booze: somebody has to notice if the house catches fire), a lovely and patient guy named Sawyer, came in and confirmed it.

    Churchill immediately put in a call to Roosevelt, and the deal was instantly done: “Germany first.” Churchill wrote in his diary: “So we had won after all! After Dunkirk; after the fall of France; after the horrible episode of Oran; after the threat of invasion… Hitler’s fate was sealed. Mussolini’s fate was sealed.” That’s pretty prescient, isn’t it? Mere hours after the attack and long before anybody had declared anything on anyone, Churchill knew America was coming for Germany.

    On December 8 the Japanese Ambassador to Germany met with Ribbentrop at one-o’clock in the afternoon in Berlin (6 AM in Washington) and demanded that Japan’s allies, Germany and Italy: “issue formal declarations of war on America at once.” (Source: Ribbentrop’s diaries.) Ribbentrop told him Hitler was out of town (in, I believe, Rastenberg), but he’d get in touch with him. He did, later that night. “Both Hitler and his Staff were astonished,” Ribbentrop reported. From Jodl: “Hitler came in the middle of the night to my chart-room in order to transmit this news to Kietel and myself. He was completely surprised.” And not very happy with the Japanese.

    Hitler declared war on the US on December 11. He doubtless didn’t know it, but the “Germany first” strategy was already fully operational, and the US, openly or not, acknowledged or not; had been at war with him for four days.

    Would we have gone fully ahead had Hitler not declared on us? Yes, we’d have declared on him and done it anyway – just because it was the right thing to do. But it would have been a lot more difficult – guys like Joe Kennedy (ex-Ambassador to England), Lindbergh, and a whole bunch of others – particularly in the Senate – were fed up picking up after Europe’s problems, and made the point repeatedly that Germany had done nothing to us. Hitler made it simple and above-board for Roosevelt, but make no mistake: he would have taken it difficult and sleazy had there been no other way.

    Private information (relatives) has always made it perfectly clear that it was not a coincidence Churchill was surrounded by Americans on the weekend in question; and further makes clear that it was not a coincidence the carriers weren’t at Pearl, and most of the Navy was on shore leave. The terrible casualties at Pearl could very easily have been ten times as bad had everyone been aboard and the ships fully manned. (The debate about whether Pearl Harbor was a put-up job or not has raged since the day it happened. I grew up surrounded by people who knew it was. At this point I doubt it’ll ever be admitted more than it already has been – which, to an extent, among the scholars, it has been.)

    War is clearly bad, but not always avoidable. There are times there is no other moral choice, and even times when you have to manipulate the choices (and maybe the morals) in order to end up where you should be. That Hitler had to go is not,and was not, a question, but it was a convoluted trail to get us into a position to do it. He only assisted at the last instant, by swallowing his misgivings, being faithful to his ally, and declaring war on us at that ally’s behest. (Horror that he was, he wasn’t stupid. Whatever he said in public was for public consumption. He knew as immediately as Churchill did that America’s entry into the war was the end.)

    All of which wanders off the point of your post, BW, for which I apologize – but it is, I think, interesting. And the moral point remains: sometimes you do it because there’s no choice, and it’s the right thing to do.

  • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

    Thanks for that extra info, jj. You’ve led not only an interesting life, you’ve lived it smartly, acquiring massive amounts of knowledge along the way. And I do certainly agree with your last point, in spades.

  • jj

    I didn’t do anything – I was a little kid!

    But some of my progenitors were interesting…

  • Ymarsakar

    http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/2008/03/04/admiral-husband-kimmel-and-pearl-harbor/

    The Story Ends

    AGAIN AND AGAIN in my mind I have reviewed the events that preceded the Japanese attack, seeking to determine if I was unjustified in drawing from the orders, directives and information that were forwarded to me the conclusions that I did. The fact that I then thought and now think my conclusions were sound when based upon the information I received, has sustained me during the years that have passed since the first Japanese bomb fell on Pearl Harbor.

    When the information available in Washington prior to the attack was disclosed to me I was appalled. Nothing in my experience of nearly forty-two years service in the Navy had prepared me for the actions of the highest officials in our government which denied this vital information to the Pearl Harbor commanders.

    If those in authority wished to engage in power politics, the least that they should have done was to advise their naval and military commanders what they were endeavoring to accomplish. To utilize the Pacific Fleet and the Army forces at Pearl Harbor as a lure for a Japanese attack without advising the commander-in-chief of the fleet and the commander of the Army base at Hawaii is something I am wholly unable to comprehend.

    While I am still able to do so, I feel that I must tell the story so that those who follow may fully realize the imperative necessity of furnishing the naval and military commanders at the front with full and clear information. Only in this way can the future security of our country be preserved.

    – Husband Kimmel, former commander of Pearl Harbor’s naval forces

    This is the difference between ambitious politicians and true patriots, Book. Patriots don’t mind that you are out to enrich or acquire power for yourself, so long as you don’t weaken America’s security and the safety of her men and women because of it.

    On this level, Democrats have always treated their subordinates, military or civilian, as tools to be used and then discarded. It is not surprise the tactics used by Democrats in 2003-8 concerning Iraq and Bush.

    And the moral point remains: sometimes you do it because there’s no choice, and it’s the right thing to do.

    The Left has no conscience and neither does the Democrat leadership. They don’t even have the excuse of Roosevelt, that their actions were both by intentions and by the actual reality, centered towards defending America. Roosevelt, for all of his love for Stalin and the Soviet revolution, at least got the stance on Hitler and Japan correct.

    Tell me where the Democrats have their ethics and head screwed on straight concerning a threat facing America? North Korea, is that where the Democrats and Left have got it right? Traffic in human beings occuring down south, have the Democrats got their heads screwed on right about that issue? What about Iran and Hizbollah, are Democrats morally and ethically justified in their policies against them? What about Syria and Saddam’s Baath, now defunct, party? Israel? Palestine? The Left and the Democrat leadership, not to mention the Democrat masses, couldn’t do something positive for humanity if you paid them.