Going to war always involves paying the price


January 18, 1991|By ROGER SIMON

We all had to work the next day. We had to drive the cabs and wait on the tables and take care of the kids and punch the numbers into the computers.

We had to be normal on a day when the world was not.

But every chance we could, whether it was running over to where there was a TV or sticking a radio up close to our ears, we watched and we listened.

We watched and we listened to our nation at war.

When war came, it seemed as if we had been holding our breath for a week and now we could let it out.

And even though the first reaction was that queasy jolt of fear, that terrible creeping feeling that makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck, it was quickly followed by something else:

The thrill of victory. It is the ultimate medicine. It cures all pain; it banishes all doubt.

America, a nation that has seen its economic might and glory fade and fade, suddenly looked like a winner again. We may not be all that good at peace, we seemed to be saying, but don't mess with us in war.

And just as we were beginning to feel that the good news would not stop, the heart-wrenching moment came when we heard that Iraqi missiles had landed in Tel Aviv.

Yes, we had been cautioned against overoptimism. And yes, all the briefers and experts said that not every Iraqi missile had been destroyed.

But those were just details. We thought we knew the truth: America, in the immortal words of our president, had kicked some ass.

And it seemed no accident that our bombs and missiles hit Baghdad just as the nightly news began and the Iraqi missiles hit Israel just about 24 hours later. This seemed to be a war that both sides wanted America to watch.

The White House had already packaged it: The name of the operation was changed from "Desert Shield" to "Desert Storm." It now had a title, just as if it were a movie.

And that is how we watched it. The networks had different logos for it, but NBC said it best: "America at War."

That is where we are now. The peace protests continue and probably will grow. Some people are outraged. Others weep for their country and for Israel. But, by and large, we are not a nation of second-guessers. Not when the lead is still flying. America is at war and there will be plenty of time for agonizing reappraisals after the war is over.

Remember when they called George Bush a wimp? Never again. He is George the Giant Killer now.

Is there some tinhorn dictator in Panama dealing drugs?

Let's go get him!

Is there some blustery windbag in the Persian Gulf threatening our oil supply?

Saddle up!

It reminds me a little of the Vietnam War-era T-shirt that had a towering giant with a big club saying: "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil. Because I'm the meanest mother in the valley!"

It is impossible to do this without paying a price. Israel was hit last night, and surely more American lives will be lost, too.

And there will be another price later on. Every time a military solution gives you a victory, the temptation to use it again grows greater.

President Bush has emphasized the "free hand" the military is now getting. But a free hand is paid for with an open wallet. There will be no peace dividend from the end of the Cold War. We know that now.

We will not be able to take the money we could have saved by not having to fight the Soviets and spend it on our cities, our poor, our homeless.

No, instead, we will have to spend it on the military to make sure they have the weapons to take on the next dictator.

It is like being the best gunfighter in town. You might want to live in peace, but there is always an upstart who wants to take you on.

It is a struggle. Diplomacy can seem so weak and slow compared to the sweeping winds of war. Even given the attack on Israel, some must feel we are almost invincible now. But so did Goliath. Right up until the end.

It is no time for celebration. Rather, it is a time for prayer. For the safety of our troops and the troops of our allies. For the survival of the civilians. And, yes, even for the souls of those Iraqi soldiers who are fighting us not by their choice, but who are sure to die at our hands.

It is time to pray also for our president. God has obviously granted him the strength that he needs. May in the days and weeks ahead He also grant him the wisdom.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.