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War in Our Time

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World War One was called “the war to end all wars.” Obviously, it didn’t, and nobody made the same mistake characterizing World War Two. We consider those wars American success stories, but what about the rest?

Recall that in between the two, we waged war on alcohol, dubbed Prohibition, which resulted in our total surrender.

And, lest we forget, we fought the Korean War that devolved into an uneasy truce, and then the Vietnam War, which failed at great cost.

Also in the sixties came the War on Poverty. We put up a good fight, but in the end poverty won. Especially among mothers and children and dark-skinned people.

Next came the War on Drugs. Illegal substances took that one in spades, and now the drugs are declaring victory as pot gets legalized and heroin makes a comeback. Millions of us are hooked on something we score from the street or the apothecary.

At various points along the way, quests to secure law and order—mostly in “urban neighborhoods”—was dubbed a War on Crime. But the hoods breed faster than we can build prisons, and organized crime simply moved downtown and onto the Internet.

More recently, the War on Illegal Immigration hasn’t been going so well either, even as we incarcerate and deport them like crazy. It’s because those foreigners don’t fight fair. Why can’t they play by the rules?

And so now we have the War on Terrorism. So who’s winning that one? Makers of armaments and torturers, among other shady types. After 15 years, not the US. Not Europe. Certainly not our civil liberties. But maybe ISIS and even North Korea.

Two for ten: two wins, one draw, and seven defeats so far. Not a commendable record given all the costs and collateral damage incurred. We even get beat in minor skirmishes, such as the War on Christmas. Saint Nick seems to be doing pretty well in the face of godless liberals, even though Jesus surely wept.

But hold on, you say. Didn’t we win the Cold War? Did not the Soviet Union capitulate in the face of our superior moral force? Well, after a massive arms race, various red scares, and any number of pre-emptive coups and proxy wars over 40 nerve-wracking years, we won one for the Gipper by threatening to destroy humankind to save it from communism, not unlike how we destroyed southeast Asian villages in order to save them.

On the home front, you have various undeclared wars—on the environment, on unions, on women, and on government itself—which are more like guerrilla campaigns and a bit more successful. By using stealth tactics, insurgents seem to be gaining ground against the establishments they seek to overthrow. Some say War on Obama is one of them, but I say that’s just a high-profile clash in our country’s longest undeclared campaign, the War on People of Color. And abroad, of course, our undeclared wars are legion, and it hardly matters whether Congress gets around to legitimizing any given whack-a-mole operation or not. In the end, they all fail to bring desired results. Maybe government really can’t do anything right. Perhaps superPACs would have better luck overseeing our military adventures.

Given our track record, maybe we should stop shooting ourselves in the feet by declaring wars we are bound to lose, not to mention wasting countless lives and livelihoods. But if we can’t stop spoiling for a fight and change our ways, how about we make war on kindness, on human brotherhood and sisterhood, or even on peace itself? If you won’t join ’em, let ’em beat you.

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Geoff Dutton hails from Boston and writes about whatever strikes his fancy. Beneath his picture in his high school yearbook, the editors wrote ‘Never argue; he’s always right.’ He has spent the better part of his life proving them wrong.

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