I just finished a longer than normal reserve tour of duty with an AF squadron stationed outside the CONUS. I was trying to pep some of the people up from some of the doom and gloom they were feeling.
My Farewell to My Squadron by Deuce Traveler
As I head out to wrap-up my five month active reserve tour, I am sad to notice a certain questioning about the direction of the War on Terrorism. So I have something to say to my fellow military members as I walk out the door, and it’s something I feel must be voiced. Please bear with me, as this has been on my mind often in the last few weeks.
Every day we hear on the news about another bombing in Baghdad, or about unrest on the Pakistani border to Afghanistan. Recently, another five soldiers were killed in Iraq and sectarian violence is threatening to rip the country apart. And the question that keeps being asked is, "Can we win this?" A simple question, but one that is entirely misguided. We’ve already won our fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. The only question left is "How far can we take our victory?"
Never again will Al-Queda use Afghanistan to train and send terrorists to attack our homeland. Women now hold elected positions in the country and are going to school, homosexuals aren’t being killed by having walls collapsed upon them, children can fly kites with their fathers in fields without being beaten, people may now listen to music, adults vote in a representative government, and the soccer fields are now used for games instead of mass executions.
Never again will Saddam Hussein use his once-large army to invade his neighbors. The Kurds will not be gassed with WMDs, and have turned their portion of the country into the safest part of Iraq. The two sons of Saddam, Uday and Qusay, will never again patrol the streets of Baghdad looking for women to abduct. The Hussein’s will never again oversee the dropping of their enemies into human-sized shredders, nor will they ever house international terrorists in their country on guests. Terrorists such as Abu Nidal, who killed over 900 people in 20 countries and who was a guest living in Iraq for nearly a decade. And al-Zarqawi, the Iraqi al-Queda leader who fled to Iraq after our invasion of Afghanistan, obtained medical treatment under direction of Uday, and is now taking the eternal dirtnap.
Sometimes it doesn’t seem like a victory, especially since al-Queda appointed a new leader in Iraq to continue the war. But we know his name and we know his face, and his time will also come. And as tiring as the violence in the Middle East may be, we must acknowledge that we’ve moved the forward edge of the battlefield from the skyline of downtown New York City to the territory of the enemy. This may be our greatest victory.
So where do we go from here? How do we capitalize on our achievement of removing two despotic regimes placed on the opposite end of the globe in the course of several years? By giving the Afghan and Iraqi people their shot at republican democracy. Note that I did not say by creating democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan, because that can only be done by the citizens, and can never be imposed. That is the moral strength of what we are trying to accomplish; to come as saviors and not as an empire. It took our country eight years to win our own Revolutionary War, and four years later we had to create a new constitution before we could make it work. The French Revolution took longer than two decades, and failed, returning the country back into a monarchy. The Afghans have had five years to attempt the same; the Iraqis three.
I’m not a predictor of the future. I’m not a seer. Maybe the nascent Afghan and Iraqi governments will fall into chaos. Maybe the will of the people will be to slaughter one another, neighbor against neighbor, cousin against cousin. But for now our fellow brothers and sisters in uniform are performing amazing feats everyday to give those citizens their one shot at achieving a way of life that those regions have never known in all their existence. And should it fail- should chaos tear their countries apart- there will be people who will dream of a time when their voices were represented by those who governed, and a time when a statue of a tyrant was pulled down and people came from the voting booths while raising purple-stained hands in pride. And maybe those memories will allow for the next generation to step forward when their forebears did not.
But if they do succeed now? Then the band of authoritarian countries that wrap around the world from Morocco to Indonesia will have been sliced, and many of the world’s tyrants will sleep uneasily in fear for the rights that their own people will demand. For this I pray.
As for me, I have nothing but pride in what my country has done, and for what it is attempting to do during these chaotic times. Instead of sitting back, we are attempting to change the world for the better, and are making the conscious decision to try to actively engage the world instead of the passive, depressed manner of other nations. Whether we succeed in establishing democracy in the region or if we fail, we entered with the righteous intention of keeping our civilians safe, and the enlightened hope of freeing people locked in servitude to the vicious and brutal elements in their midst.
When my daughter grows up, in whatever uncertain state the world will be in, I know I can look her in the eyes and say that I was there during the initial chaotic years of the new millennia, and that I fought to leave the world a better place than I had found it. For this opportunity that my country has given me, and for the honor to serve alongside the greatest military servicemen in the world, I will always be proud.