Monday, February 12, 2007

The Futility of War?

Clint Eastwood, on the message of his two new movies, "Flags of Our Fathers" and "Letters From Iwo Jima":
"I think every war has a certain parallel in the futility of it and that's one of the reasons for telling these stories -- they are not pro-war stories." ***

"I grew up in the war pictures in the 1940s where everything was propagandized. (In) all the movies, we were the good guys and everybody else were bad guys," [Eastwood] said. "I just wanted to tell two different stories where there were good guys and bad guys everywhere and just tell something about the human condition."
Except that WWII wasn't futile. It was a life or death struggle for freedom, against the forces of evil. And had the US and the Allies (who really were the "good guys") chosen not to fight the fascist Imperial Japanese, or Nazi Germany, (who really were the "bad guys"), the world undoubtedly would be a darker place.

War is a dark, terrible, awful thing. It destroys families and often shatters the lives of the soldiers on either side. Innocent people die, and cities are demolished. At no time in the national debate should we loose sight of that. But as terrible as war is, sometimes the alternative is worse. As John Stewart Mill said,
"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."
Some wars are futile. The one we currently find ourselves waging is not. The choices we make now will determine the fates of millions for centuries to come. Life or death? Freedom or slavery? Theocratic Fascism or liberal secular democracy? Calling these choices "futile" is to discount these differences; and to declare our disagreements illegitimate. It is to say that our history is no more noble than that of the USSR's. Or to Nazi Germany's. It is the worst kind of moral relativism.

The veterans of WWII were fighting for more than futility, as the millions they liberated can attest to. I am a fan of Clint's movies, and I even look forward to seeing these. But I can only shake my head that the disappointing simplemindedness of this American icon.

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