Monday, March 2, 2015

American Viper



"If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life ..."
- Thoreau

This is my reaction to recent news stories discussing the possible future deployment of tens of thousands of US solders in Iraq to fight ISIS. There has also been a lot of talk about he American sniper, Chris Kyle, so my view of his "heroism" has found its way into my post as well.

According to the ancient Greek code of conduct, a hero must defeat his adversary in hand-to-hand combat. According to this code, an archer, who is a soldier that strikes his adversary from a remote location, could not earn the epithet of hero. I recently wondered what Homer, who derided archers in the Iliad, would think of a sniper like Chris Kyle. I concluded that he would consider a sniper, no matter what his reasons, as anything but a hero. Yes, the people Kyle killed were going to kill American soldiers, but the American soldiers were invaders! Isn't it right to do anything you can to drive out an invading force? In so far as a nation needs a military, no soldier should ever set foot on another nation's soil. The people killing American soldiers in Iraq were fighting off invaders, just as we would be doing if they came here. If ISIS invaded the US, we would be plotting to kill them off at every opportunity. Would an ISIS sniper then be a hero, since he would be killing Americans who were going to kill ISIS soldiers? Nazi snipers killed Poles who were certainly planning to kill Nazi soldiers. Why not extol individual Nazi snipers in our celebration of the individual soldier? I really see no difference.

America is a good nation, and other nations I've visited, and I've visited quite a number, are just as good in their own uniquely wonderful ways. The United States extols values that are suited to the people who decided to live and/or stay in this land. Our values are suitable for "here" but not necessarily anywhere else. We should stop believing in the universality of our values. Face it, values are relative.

America will do well to just leave other people alone. If we feel guilty about the mess we have made in the Middle East, we should put our money where our mouth is, and see to it that every person threatened by ISIS or any other sectarian group in Iraq, Afghanistan, or Syria should be guaranteed safe haven in the United States. We have already spent upwards of a trillion dollars messing up that part of the world. Surely the trillion we are preparing to spent to blow up ISIS would be better spent simply taking care of the millions of refugees that are fleeing that part of the world.

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