Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Flying Flags Is Too Easy

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I touched on this issue in my NASCAR blog this week but I wanted to expand on it here.

I think there is no question that NASCAR is the most patriotic sport, the sport most supportive of the military. Generally, that is a good thing. We love our flags and fireworks and flyovers, and we especially love our soldiers. This year, every car on the track had the name of a fallen warrior where the driver's name usually goes. Teams brought the families of those so honored to the race.

But even on weekends not celebrating Memorial Day, NASCAR goes above and beyond. No invocation neglects to mention the members of our Armed Forces. Uniformed personnel are usually front and center at races. Driver's foundations support veteran's groups. Flags fly on every race day.

Having said all that, I wonder how many race-watchers really think about whether the soldiers whose names were on those cars went to their deaths for a good and just cause? Face it - America is a war-like nation. We are ready to send our planes and ships and tanks and yes, our kids off to battle at the drop of a hat. We have been at war many more years of our history than we've been at peace.

We've fought Germans and Japanese and Native Americans and Mexicans and southeast Asians and Koreans and Iraqis and Spanish and Italians....and we've fought each other. We've fought for territory and we've fought to defend friends and we've fought for abstract geo-political principles.

As the old saying goes, "if all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail." The military is America's hammer. We have the biggest and the best. We spend more on our military than the next 20 nations combined. We let other critical matters go unattended to ensure we have the most ships and tanks and missiles.

When it comes to war, America is Justifiction Nation. We had to drop those atom bombs! We had to torture those people! We had to engage in extreme rendition! We had to exchange guns for hostages! We had to assassinate bad guys like Allende! We had to get Saddam Hussein!We have to send out our death-dealing drones! America, it seems, has to do bad in order to do good.

It is estimated that America has lost 1,411,397 soldiers in all our various wars (with the Civil War and World War II accounting for the most, by far.

And yet, looking at all those deaths and all those years of war, what have we really accomplished? I will grant you World War II. I'm not an expert but it seems to have been necessary, although in the end, we traded Germany for Russia, which seems like something of a toss-up. Still, I suppose we couldn't let England fall. And, perhaps, Korea was a more positive outcome than if we hadn't gone.

But we committed genocide on the American Indians and took a lot of hits on our side too, but hey, we had to have that land, right?

We fought the Civil War to keep the country united but all these years later, it seems the South still harbors an enormous grudge. Maybe we'd have been better off to let them go their own way.

Over all, is the world a better place because of all our many interventions? We've supported corrupt governments at least as often as honest ones. We mucked around in South America. In Nicaragua, for instance. Do you know what finally happened in Nicaragua, the country Ronald Reagan told us was of such great importance? Do you care? Well, the the bad guys won against our chosen side, the Contras. Nicaragua is a republic now and recently moved to liberalize its policies.

We went to Vietnam to keep the dominoes from falling but they fell anyway. Vietnam began to be less dictatorial and more prosperous when the war was over. We trade with them now.

Afghanistan is now our country's longest war. The Taliban is as strong as ever and the "real" government is gutless and deceitful. Just like Russia, we'll eventually withdraw, much the worse for wear.

Iraq. Can anyone say things are better there? ISIS makes Saddam and even al Qaeda look like pikers in the brutality department but they are taking over huge swaths of territory in both Iraq and Syria. Meanwhile, the official government military run like whipped dogs with their tails between their legs, leaving the weaponry we gave them behind as a gift to ISIS.

The entire Middle East is a giant cauldron of boiling hatred. In my opinion, anyone who believes America can change that is delusional, no matter how many of our kids we're willing to give to the effort.

I don't believe there is never a time for war but certainly, we hop in and out of deadly conflicts as if the lives of our children were no more than fuel to keep the military-industrial complex running.

Our children - "our" being the key word. Which brings us back to NASCAR. There has recently been something of a baby boom in the sport. It's fun to see all the drivers with their little ones during the pre-race ceremonies. But for all that NASCAR honors the troops, what do you want to bet that none of these little NASCAR kids will ever be a troop.

If we really thought all our wars were vitally necessary, we would insist on a shared sacrifice instead of allowing less than 1 percent of our citizens to bear the entire burden. That makes it too easy for us to say, "sure thing, on to the next war." (Iran, perhaps.)

In light of that, excuse me if having my dead child's name on the side of a race car wouldn't mean that much.