St Augustine can boast about a lot of things, besides being my birthplace. Our military history begins with our European founders; and, today, the only state agency to remain headquartered in St Johns County is our National Guard and the Florida Department of Military Affairs.
We have our share of war heroes, a National Cemetery, as well as descendants of soldiers who stood in defense of St Augustine against the French, British, and tribal natives, from the still-standing remains of two 16th-century fortresses.
St Augustinians did not shirk their patriotic duty during World War I, the Korean War, World War II, the Vietnam War, or even the most recent “war on terrorism”. Our community supports our troops, and so do we at Historic City News — as editor, I think you should know that both my mother and father were officers in military service to our nation.
So, St Augustine’s men and women, trained in combat and heirs to the rich military legacy of our ancestors, should be ready to go — first in line — to board the ships and cargo planes being readied by our president for deployment to Syria; and, they would be … if the notion of our presence there would somehow protect our homeland and the generations of St Augustinians that will follow. But, it doesn’t.
I’m part of the Vietnam generation, for what it’s worth. I followed the United States involvement with more than casual interest. The television set had been bringing the war into our family room every night at 6:00 p.m., since Lyndon Johnson was president. Even if not in living color, it really didn’t need to be. By the 1970′s, places I had never heard of before, at least in St Johns County schoolrooms, were starting to be talked about in geography class. The Selective Service had me, and most of the other males in my class, fully expecting to learn that “our number was up” in the draft lottery. Thank God, at least for me, I was accepted into college at graduation, so, that never came to pass. Not so for a lot of my friends.
The “war to end all wars” stands in stark contrast to the Vietnam War, or, are they still calling it a “conflict”? Americans had a clear mission, with our allies, and a plan to end hostilities could be articulated and the path to achieve a victory was understood. With only a loosely defined mission to drive the communists out of South Vietnam, and the power of televised glimpses from the rice paddies of the Mekong Delta that didn’t always agree with government reports, there was tepid support, at best, for the war that could not ever be won.
Committing combat forces and entering a war in a land as foreign to us as Syria, where we are universally hated, where there is no defined goal, or exit strategy, is starting to sound, to me, like what I saw in Vietnam.
On one hand, the president takes no action in the murder of four Americans, including our ambassador, which happened a year ago on a diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya. But now, the president feels the need to conduct military strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad because he used a lethal nerve agent against civilians and opposition fighters near Damascus on August 21 — two weeks ago. Really?
The public debate has nothing to do with being a “hawk” or a “dove”, “conservative” or “liberal”, “Republican” or “Democrat”, “Christian”, “Muslim”, or “Jew”. It cannot be labeled based on your race, sex, or any other immutable condition. There is, however, a clear divide from this writer’s desk — this “war” is not an “American” war, it is a civil war between two factions of people who would as soon blow up the United States as look at you.
We are not welcome in Syria; a land where “moderates” within the ruling parties still will not recognize nor respect women as human beings, neither will they allow Christians, Jews, or others, the basic freedom to worship as they choose. The entire Western culture is anathema to those defending the corrupt dictatorship as well as the so-called “freedom fighters”.
Not only are we not ready, for very good reasons, we shouldn’t get involved. And, they don’t have any oil.