It is a curious artifact of American politics that the showcasing of a soldier’s widow (as Trump did during his recent address of a joint session of Congress) has the opposite effect one might imagine. If little Johnny were brought before the class by his teacher to show them how he lost a finger playing with firecrackers, one might expect that frightful outcome would instill in the other children a sense that perhaps holding a lit firecracker in your hand is perhaps not a good idea. We would not expect the children to feel emboldened to engage in the same activity.
Likewise, shouldn’t parading the grieving loved ones of fallen soldiers instill in our “leaders” an instinct to be more parsimonious when using this scarce human capital? We would hope they would become progressively less inclined to engage in bellicose rhetoric that necessitates sending soldiers into harms way. But no, it has the opposite effect. In order ensure the recently departed have not “died in vain” and to defend the “honor” of the country, the leaders become even more inclined to retaliate or engage in new overseas adventures with the supposed goal of “furthering US interests” or “consolidating US power.” Why is that? Because for all the high-minded sounding rhetoric (equality, peace, freedom) and apparently “civilized” structure of the modern democratic state these political decisions still turn on raw emotions. The same emotions that drove primitive bands of hunter-gatherers to raid each other’s villages today drive men in suits sitting under gold domes to murder people half a world away. There is no logic, there is no thought, just raw, visceral emotions of revenge, anger, and pride, all wrapped up in some twisted nationalistic package we label patriotism and uniformly applaud like trained seals when shoved in our faces.
Patriotism, literally “love of one’s country” drives not just American leaders but every other country’s ruling elite to engage in the stupidest, most ill advised behavior – from hot wars to trade wars – all to advance the goal of autarky in an “us vs. them” board game. I suppose it is true what they say, “love is blind,” but in combination with political power this aphorism becomes lethal if love of country blinds one to reason and logic. In the war on terror reason and logic would dictate that blowback and the desire to control others is the proximate cause of virtually the entire problem of terrorism. Stop throwing rocks at the hornet’s net if you want to stop getting stung; beating it harder only makes the problem worse.
You’d think we all want no more widows and orphans resulting from pursuing inane policies. That should have been the point of shoving into the face of Congress the results of their polices. If we keep wasting these fine men and women in vain political pursuits, we will one day find no one left to defend us from an actual external attack.