War is hell. You’ve heard the phrase, and I suppose it’s true. The worst things I’ve ever seen have been in a war, though some of the most courageous and admirable things I’ve ever seen have also been in a war. With extreme darkness you notice the contrast of a little light a whole lot more.
But there is another thing I’ve learned from war: it’s really complicated.
Apparently we have to take sides these days — either you’re a die-hard Republican or you’re a die-hard Democrat. Either you’re pro-war or anti-war. Either you hate Muslims or you embrace every facet of Islamic culture. Any disagreement toward one extreme means you must be on the other side. A leftward pull just feels like a leftward pull to someone on the far right — it doesn’t matter if it comes from someone in the middle. The same goes for someone on the far left.
As it turns out, in my experience anyway, things are just a whole lot more complicated once you get in the weeds of it all; like the controversial drone issue, for example.
Drones are dangerous and their usage is disgusting. America goes around blowing up schools and hospitals just to hit ONE high value target (that they might even miss), as if the lives of these civilians are somehow expendable. Don’t even get me started on the detachment of these drone pilots, firing like it’s some video game. They have no ability to realize that these are real human lives at stake, and that some emotionless explosion on the screen is not the same as having to do it yourself,” said the person with zero connections to the real-life use of drones in the real world.
I get it. I despise the use of drones against civilians, and I don’t believe that the ends justify the means. Period. But war is complicated, so consider this:
When I was on my second deployment, we were watching drone footage quite often. We were following one particular group, and the opportunity arose to fire a missile and blow them all to hell. They were loitering just near a crumbling, low wall. However, due to all the controversy surrounding drone strikes in the U.S., the drones were not authorized to fire on an enemy if they were near a structure — the crumbling wall was technically a structure. And they knew it.
We watched as they armed themselves, checked each other, walked over to a Afghan National Army outpost, and killed everyone there before we could warn anyone or say anything. The only thing we could have done in time was fire on them, but due to political restrictions because of many Americans’ uninformed outcries on the subject — there lay before us, on the screen, a pile of dead men.
If you were to make the argument that the deaths overseas are a product of the lawmakers back home allowing unrestrained drone usage, then you would also have to admit that preventable deaths in the proximity of the incredibly formidable weapon that is the drone, is on the lawmakers that worked towards such restraint.
I have my beliefs, but the purpose of this article isn’t to distinguish one right from another wrong. I disagree with wanton use of force and think that it stifles creative problem-solving and devalues human life. I also understand that you can’t just wipe your hands of a conflict when you’re in a position to do something about it, and sometimes the only way to do something about it means getting your hands profoundly dirty. But I’ll leave those distinctions to you — just know that it’s all far more complicated than most people understand.
Featured image courtesy of the Associated Press.