Sunday, August 26, 2018

Thoughts for Elul 5



The death yesterday of Senator John McCain prompted some discussions about the moral and ethical issues associated with being part of the warrior class – the military/industrial complex – in the US. I was in the US Navy for 22 years, and will pay for that for the rest of my life with the injuries I suffered in that service.

One cost I have not incurred, however, and for which I will be ever grateful, is the cost of taking a human life. Call it the Grace of God, Providence, Fate or what you will, but I missed out on combat operations a number of times by virtue of the assignments I had. I should note that my gratitude for avoiding combat did not truly develop until my time in Seminary, when I was learning intensely about the values, morals and ethics which we should all strive for.  This was, of course, concurrent with the Post 9/11 state of war, in which we are still embroiled, so this heshbon ha-nefesh, self-accounting, was rather easy.

One of the six warships in which I served was a ballistic missile submarine, which could potentially have been armed with Trident D-5 ICBM’s.  These are of course extremely long range, destructive nuclear missiles.  The motto of this submarine force was “If you shoot your missiles, you have failed.”  In this force we saw our mission as one of peace through force – the “enemy” knew what was aimed at them, and so they wouldn’t dare attack us.  Of course they had the same kinds of weapons aimed at us. Thankfully we never used them!

In my near 60 years on this planet, I have seen our country involved in many illegitimate wars, and ONE legitimate war – Operation Desert Storm.  I detailed this in my Memorial Day post.  Iraq illegally took over Kuwait, and the world said, “wait a minute, we don’t approve.” We went in with a true multi-national coalition and liberated Kuwait.  Many people attacked President Bush (senior) for ending the war when he did. They felt he should have gone into Iraq and killed Saddam Hussein.  But Bush wisely ended the war (for the most part) once the objective of Kuwaiti liberation was met. Why was this important? Because of the truism that if you depose a Middle East despot, what you get in his place is way worse.  This came true of course, when Bush’s son did in fact depose Hussein.  The country was irreparably destabilized, resulting in the formation of ISIS/ISIL/DAESH (depending on how you name it).

We should not have gone into Iraq in 2003 with the escalation that we did. It was technically a new war, but in reality just an escalation of the remnants of Desert Storm, which remained.  We did, after all, attack Iraq at least weekly during President Clinton’s entire presidency.
The Prophet Isaiah writes of a time when “they will beat their swords into plowshares, their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn war any more.”  The rub with this prophecy is that it is about the Messianic era. The challenge, though, is to understand that this is not for us to just keep on going about business as usual, and Messiah will fix it.  To bring the peace of the Messianic Era, we must work for it by bringing peace to our planet.
I do believe that our country needs to have a military force. But the key is that we need a National Command Authority that is deeply moral and ethical.  Even the relatively scandal free Obama Administration was unable to lead the military with the morality needed. It isn’t just about moral orders though.  A soldier who carries out illegal orders is just as guilty as the one who issued those orders.

And further, we face a new kind of threat.  The latest issue of Wired magazine details the cyber terrorist attack by Russian actors, aimed at Ukraine, that took down the entire Maersk Shipping industry, among others.  These actors can bring the world to its knees from the comfort of their living room couches. Warfare is no longer about guns and tanks. So we need a flexible force able to respond to these threats.

What we do not need, however, is a National Command Authority that is unable to distinguish good from evil. One which chooses to engage in warfare in order to line the pockets of their cronies, or to satisfy their lacking manhood. We need moral ethical leadership in this country more than ever.
That work starts now, if you haven’t started already.  We have national mid-term elections in less than 3 months.  We need to elect leaders in Congress and local offices, who can lead us properly, and not though ego, bullyism, cronyism, and greed. We need to ensure that Kavanaugh is not confirmed to the Court, that the balance of Congress changes, and that state houses change hands as needed. Do NOT rest on your laurels if you live in a safe district. Do what you can to impact districts where risk exists.

Do your best to bring the conditions which will lead to the Messianic era.  The alternative is destruction.  May we be blessed with a new year of peace and prosperity throughout the world.

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