By the time you read this essay, it may be old news. The content might seem hopelessly outdated, or we will have troops on their way to Syria, or something in between. That is how fast and furious the news cycle has been since Trump took office: something written on Wednesday may be irrelevant by Sunday. But this was the news as of midweek:
"It's possible that you may see conventional forces hit the ground in Syria for some period of time," one defense official told CNN.
Donald Trump has not even been in office for one month, and the drums of war are already beating. It’s easy to wonder if the people who make these decisions have any skin in the game. You can guarantee that we will not see Tiffany, Ivanka, Eric, Junior, or Barron at the recruiting office anytime soon. My 17-year-old son Everett wants to work in the space program, so he is looking at the Air Force ROTC. The young men on his high school wrestling team—well, there is a good chance some of them will end up in any war Trump starts.
in 1946, then-Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower stated, "I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity." There is no better description of war. It is something Trump would not understand. He and his family have never made sacrifices, despite his laughable claims:
“I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices,” Mr. Trump said to Mr. Stephanopoulos. “I work very, very hard. I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures. I’ve had tremendous success. I think I’ve done a lot.”
That is not sacrifice. Sacrifice is sleeping in a foxhole in some backwater of the world with nothing but a poncho liner for warmth. Sacrifice is spending Thanksgiving and Christmas away from home. Sacrifice is sending your son or daughter off to war, not knowing if they will come home.
The human costs of the civil war in Syria are almost incomprehensible. The human suffering is unfathomable. But this is not our fight. Sending troops into a confusing mishmash of changing alliances is not something we should even be considering. We already made a mess of that part of the world with an unnecessary war. Going back there is not going to make things better.
The opening weeks of Trump’s presidency have been startling, to say the least. He is clearly easily manipulated by his staff, which is why it is so troubling to see a report of ground troops being proposed in Syria. Many on the right have had, for lack of a better word, a hard-on for another war in the Middle East. They don’t seem to care if it is in Syria, Iran, or another country in that part of the world. The hawks who want these wars have no skin in the game—they will not be the ones coming home broken. They will not be the ones coming home missing limbs. They will not be the ones who do not come home.
I grew up under the cloud of the Cold War and served in the Army in the very heart of the beast—the Fulda Gap. We lived with the specter of nuclear war but even with that hanging over our heads, we always thought that cooler heads would prevail and nuclear weapons would not be used. With the current leadership in the west wing of the White House, I am not confident that anyone is there to tell Trump “no” when a bad idea is presented. The failed raid in Yemen may have been just a preview of things to come.
As the parent of a enlistment-age son—for my son’s sake, for his teammates’ sake—let’s hope that someone in the Republican Party grows a backbone and tells Trump and his sycophants: “No.”