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  • Writer's pictureDoug Weiss

Fair Weather Friends

Growing up, the values of friendship and loyalty I came to admire as an adult were nurtured by both personal experience and the stories I read, fictional and true. Then and now I read voraciously and like many young men I had an appetite for stories that extolled the virtues of bravery, honor, chivalry, the camaraderie of like-minded individuals, and loyalty to one’s fellows.

These values are not dead today, but often seem obscured by a jaundiced cynicism posing as modern life in all its gritty reality. We still yearn for the triumph of good over evil, but heroics these days are often mediated fantasies—while our real heroes stand clay footed in the glare of criticism for what some describe as an antiquated morality.

There was a time I believed in fighting the good fight, as did my father and his before him. That was, after all why we Americans rallied to just causes and went to war. Not just to obtain our own freedoms, but to protect those of our allies and the world at large. I will not gainsay the precious purpose which was paid for with so many lives, but the motives that inspired those men and women to the just causes they died for, seem at odds with our nation's current political agenda.

It is undeniable that irrespective of the cost in human life, we as a country have prospered whenever we have gone to war abroad. The victor enjoys the spoils, and even when that victory was in every way denied us, the machine we built to power our forays on foreign soil enjoyed the benefits in wealth, resources and advantages that fueled our country’s growth and prosperity over the past century. And to that end, in our darkest moments as a nation we have suborned the leadership of other countries, propped up dictators, conspired with others to subjugate the very people to whom we were an ostensible beacon of hope, in service to that engine of commerce. These facts are not my opinion, they are demonstrable facts not subject to question. Shamefully they are part of our historical record.

It is also true that American lives, resources and will power have stood in defense of real evil, prevented the total destruction of races and countries and not so long ago served as a source of inspiration to those citizens of the world who aspired to the ideals symbolized by our republic. That was America too, at its finest moments. I wish that I could say that we had learned our lessons and were committed to a nobler path going forward—a role of moral example, but that would be naïve in the face of current events.

A decision on the part of our government to withdraw forces engaged in a long prosecuted civil war in Syria stands as the most recent example of callous disregard for our democratic principles. Whatever our purpose in first engaging, this conflict has seen a country conduct actions that violated every standard of human rights and create a diaspora that strains nations across Europe and the US. Our decision to withdraw sent a clear sign to those we so recently called allies and a cautionary signal to those who would be, that we cannot be counted on to remain loyal in the face of adversity. Such loyalty as we have—and our justification for risking American lives going forward, apparently now rests solely on preserving a strategic advantage over foreign oil deposits. We can spare nothing for the people who fought by our side.

I sympathize with those who question why our country is engaged in so many foreign disputes—why American lives are put at risk. This is a question we should always lay open to inspection and vigorous debate before we venture beyond our borders. But it is quite another thing in the midst of conflict to abandon those we committed to and who have fought by our side-as we did in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Vietnam and so many other wars. Such behavior is shameless and cannot be defended. Our country is not made great by these actions, it is diminished in the eyes of the world. In the words of founding father, John Dickinson, written eight years before we fought for our own freedom, aided by allies from foreign lands “by uniting we stand, by dividing we fall”.

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