Memorial Day Reminds Us: War Is Terrible, Costly. Sometimes Necessary

Written by Chuck Gruenwald on May 25, 2013

750px-Camp_Nelson_NC_Memorial_Day_2010In the days leading up to Memorial Day, much will be written and said about the sacrifices made by a small fraction of our population during this country’s brief history. Memorial Day, along with Hanukkah, Veterans’ Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, Passover and July Fourth are holidays meant to commemorate the great struggles and sacrifices made in the seemingly-perpetual war between good and evil. Some of these days are American, while it could be argued that the other holidays commemorate the milestones that made possible the reasons why we celebrate the Fourth of July.

The United States is a strange creature among other countries. It has become a superpower despite its young age. Although it is a superpower, its representative Republic form of government is fragile. It does not extract loyalty from its citizens through force, intimidation or death; the loyalty that American citizens feel for their country is voluntary, sincere. This voluntary loyalty is a major difference between the love of country, and the love of government.

As an American, I believe that my country has never let me down. However, when my government involves itself in matters that are reserved for the states, or individual citizens, the government almost never fails to disappoint.

As a nation, the United States has gone to war numerous times. Yes, horror and misery are by-products of war, but the penalty for avoiding war at all costs perpetuates that misery.

While there are those who believe that a healthy dialogue between world leaders would spare us the horrors of war, the members of the “peaceful negotiation” crowd fail to recognize the reasons why nations sometimes fight.

The act of war is the result of the breakdown of civility on one side. What course of action would be necessary from a government which faces military hostility from another government, a government that decided to ignore the terms of a peace treaty? If a healthy dialogue and a written contract failed to prevent an act of aggression, what good will more dialogue do? From Nazi Germany, to the Soviet Union, to North Viet Nam, treaties had been signed by these governments, only to be broken later.

When disagreements arise among the United States and its allies, they do not go to war against each other, since their leaders practice civility. At the very least, civil leaders do not threaten their foreign counterparts – they tax each other’s products.

In those instances when the United States does go to war, it faces enemies that not only proved that they cannot be trusted, but they rule with an unimaginable brutality. This brutal treatment is not confined to the citizens of that nation, but it is extended to the citizens of invaded nations, and to prisoners of war. Yes, the Geneva Convention was supposed to establish protocols for the humane treatment of POWs, but if one treaty has been broken, why expect any others to be upheld?

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Born in Chicago and raised in northwest suburban Cook County, Chuck Gruenwald developed an unfavorable opinion of machine politics quite early in life. In addition to cars, electronics, law enforcement, and politics, Chuck enjoys writing, and is also a horse racing fan. He has recently written op-eds for