Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
It’s hard to gin up a lot of emotion over the air strike in Syria last week. I’m drifting instead into a weary sense of déjà vu, that sense you get when you realize you’ve lived this before and there was never anything you could do then to change things, and there isn’t now. You recall that marching and protesting and speaking out and confronting power didn’t produce the results you hoped for. In fact, I remember watching a news broadcast where protesters against the first Iraq War (that would be ‘91 — Desert Storm) started approaching the camera, and the reporter blurted out to her producer, “Shut us down, we don’t want to give them a platform!” The bleached blonde in her pantsuit was all in for the war.
My own memory goes a lot further back than ‘91, though, and there’s been plenty since then too. I eased into a general belief in pacifism all the way back in the later part of the Vietnam War, when even as a teen I could see that all the killing hadn’t accomplished anything except unintended consequences. And we were lured into a false sense of security in the seventies and eighties when things seemed quiet on the front and we only had to put out some small brush fires here and there — Grenada, Panama. Cynically, because cynicism was appropriate at the time, those were seen as practice wars, staying-sharp-for-later wars. They were swift and politically expedient actions to give the president a little cop-on-the-beat cred. People died in them, I guess. We were never told. We avoided war with Iran somehow, in the context of the hostage crisis, though I’m sure there were calls for bombing Tehran and teaching those ragheads a lesson. It wasn’t protest that prevented it, though. It just wasn’t going to achieve anything useful, as Reagan must have accepted, reluctantly. He was busy with covert interventions in Central America instead.
But in the ‘90s we started lobbing cruise missiles into Baghdad and Somalia and God knows where else, and I remember being at a writers conference in Idaho in ’96 when Clinton shot off a few. We were all saddened and disturbed to see it happen — this time it was to stop Saddam from attacking the Kurds — because it predicted worse to come. Accurately. More cruise missiles in ‘98 and beyond, hitting nine different countries. Three years later we entered the war in Afghanistan, and we’ve been at war ever since — almost sixteen years.
So I look at what Trump did in Syria and I nod a heavy nod, seeing that this is what they all do, and they don their warrior’s mantle and wear their new poll numbers with pride as they go about the business of war without fear of reprisal (except more terrorism) or of, here at home, much opposition to other things they want to do.
In fact, cynically, you might be tempted to say that they’re stupid not to launch a few cruise missiles when the chips are down. It works every time.