I was watching a program which featured veterans of WWII who thought back on the Germans they fought and killed in Europe. Several of them commented on the fact that, given other circumstances, these soldiers and the men who wore the gray tunics of the wehrmacht may have become friends. Many of the soldiers shared the same skin color, heritage, religion and in some cases, spoke the same language as those they faced on the other side of the battlefield.
It reminds me of Thomas Hardy's poem.
Had he and I but met
By some old ancient inn,
We should have set us down to wet
Right many a nipperkin!(a small cup)
But ranged as infantry,
And staring face to face,
I shot at him as he at me,
And killed him in his place.
I shot him dead because--
Because he was my foe,
Just so: my foe of course he was;
That's clear enough; although
He thought he'd 'list, perhaps,
Off-hand like--just as I--
Was out of work--had sold his traps--
No other reason why.
Yes; quaint and curious war is!
You shoot a fellow down
You'd treat, if met where any bar is,
Or help to half a crown.
The veterans of the Pacific theater don't seem to hold this view of enemy they faced. Or if they did, it was to a far smaller degree. I wonder if this view of the enemy as friend given a different situations gives rise to the anti-war sentiment that we can get along if we don't fight each other.
I believe that sentiment is very misplaced in this war. The enemy our soldiers are fighting would not sit down at a pub and right many a nipperkin. Their view is not one peaceful co-existence, it is one of total domination through any means possible. If you look at the world right now, almost every conflict is either Muslim on Muslim or Muslim on Christian, Jew or fill in the blank. The terrorist in the Muslim world share the same religion, culture and language as those they slaughter in most cases. If anyone could 'help to half a crown' the people they hack to death with machetes or blow up with car bombs, it is the terrorists. What chance do democratic westerners have sharing a bond with these killers?
None I think. The only exception would be if you took an infant from Afghanistan or the Sunni region of Iraq and sent him to America to be raised with our values. Not the self loathing, blame America first values that come from the far left, but traditional Judea-Christian values. That young child would have every chance to become a force for good in the world. When left in the slums of Baghdad or Kabul, he will be taught in the madrasas to hate the West and the freedom that we love.
One could look at the Japanese people and their culture before WWII and say that we may defeat them, but they will never become a western democracy. But they have, and have done quite well. I believe the way this came about is the total defeat and subjugation of the Japanese people. They knew they were defeated, all they had to do was look around the rubble they lived in and look to the empty chair at the table and realize they lost the war and must do what the victor said. I know that seems cruel and very un democratic, but that is war, not a city council meeting.
I believe Sherman summed it up well when he said 'War is all Hell', he also said when he drove to the sea through Georgia.
"I would not coax them, or even meet them half-way, but make them so sick of war that generations would pass away before they would again appeal to it."
That is victory, and defeat. I am not sure we have the stomach for the kind of victory we need to defeat this enemy. I hope we do, but we may need have several more 9/11s before we untie our other hand and start fighting this war.