All who serve this nation overseas do not wear uniforms. State Department Foreign Service officer Anne Smedinghoff, 25, was one of five Americans killed by a car bomb blast in Afghanistan Saturday.
She served her nation with distinction.
Not all who give their lives are trained warriors. The four U.S. soldiers who also made the ultimate sacrifice in the attack were likely well armed. Ms. Smedinghoff was bringing textbooks to schoolchildren in Afghani villages. Car bombs, and other improvised explosive devices, kill with wanton abandon.
America is on its way out of its lengthy Afghanistan misadventure. It’s about, nay, past time to end our involvement. We should have known better. Britain and the former Soviet Union learned the hard way. Our painful and costly lessons learned, it is time to move on.
One would think we would have learned from Vietnam long ago that we cannot be the world’s policeman. We don’t like to lose. The conflict in Indochina was my first war to oppose and protest. There was certainly no honor, except for those ordinary Americans who fought and died answering the misguided call of politicians. When was our last victory parade?
I remember American Family Association radio pundit Bryan Fischer decrying the “feminization” of the Congressional Medal of Honor to Army Staff Sergeant Sal Giunta for saving his fellow soldiers’ lives rather than for how many enemies he killed in battle. For all of Fischer’s tough talk, of course, he never served.
Failed GOP presidential candidate Mitt “Mitt WHO?” Romney demonstrated for the war in Vietnam as a college student, but for him “service” was bicycling around France battling Gaulist fondness for a decent Bordeaux. Weepy wifey Ann “Stop it! This is hard.” Romney never had to worry about her sons going in harm’s way. Nah, Ann maintained they “served” as Mormon “missionaries.” Of course, Mitt & Ann’s progeny had nothing to worry about with Romney wanting to stay in Iraq.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney’s hypocritical saber rattling has to be measured against Cheney’s five draft deferments forty-odd years ago. The peril of war fighting from inside the Washington Beltway are rush hour traffic snarls on the 14th Street Bridge. Newt Gingrich would rather write novels set in nineteenth-century wars than be bothered to himself serve in uniform. I’m still waiting for a Republican politician to have his or her son or daughter come home in a box.
If it weren’t so costly in American lives and treasure, the conservative fondness for war would be comical.
There was a time in the last century where even hardened British troops during the bad, old days of strife in Northern Ireland came to the realization to ponder “Leaving Fort Apache to the Indians.” That conflict, as with most others, was resolved through diplomacy and negotiation, however imperfectly, rather than by the force of arms.
There are frankly countries not worth saving at such a perilous cost to young American and allied lives. Diplomacy has no video game precision guided weapon or drone bombings. It’s long, tedious work around the globe. It tends to work better, and cost far less, than military alternatives. Our Foreign Service officers in trouble spots world wide risk their lives for all of us. They’re not just balancing a Chardonnay and crackered brie at some embassy soireé. Some pay with the cost of their lives, as Anne Smedinghoff did.
Our top diplomat, Secretary of State John Kerry, learned firsthand the horrors of war as a decorated naval officer aboard riverine craft in Vietnam. He returned home to courageously oppose that lost cause war. Unlike the saber rattlers, Kerry bore the wounds of combat. He viscerally knows the value of diplomacy.
Let’s remember the selfless sacrifice of Anne Smedinghoff and the other diplomats killed in the line of duty, and rededicate ourselves to the pursuit of diplomacy first, and military action only as a last resort.