Given my diverse military, intelligence and international background, I often hear one question from people who already have the answer firmly nailed into their minds, but who want to make the point that they are open minded by reframing their fully-formed opinion into the form of a question:
“Is ‘G.I. Jane’ realistic?”
Just kidding. Of course, I have heard that one many times, but my response as an old SEAL is too passionate and lengthy to include in this forum.
No, the actual question I’ve heard 1,000 times is, “Do you think we should have gone into Iraq (or Afghanistan)?”
This to me is more appropriately the domain of our nation’s policy makers. More specifically, this issue is a valuable tool for politicians from every point along the lib-con spectrum to point to their record and convince you that they were the only one in Congress to be on the correct side of the Iraq (or Afghanistan) debate. Re-elect me.
A much more appropriate focus for you and me and all the other regular folks is this: We ARE There. Now What?
I think back to when my best friend Jerry and I were kids, and we found a stash of gentlemen’s magazines in an abandoned house. By the soft but menacing light of kerosene we cleverly ignited in a tin can, we were able to peruse this literature at leisure. Until, that is, my disproportionate size 12 boot tipped over the can of flaming kerosene and threatened to immolate Jerry, me, the abandoned house, and our newfound lady friends.
One question we might have deliberated is, “Do you think we should have been reading by the light of flaming kerosene in a tin can?” At the moment that didn’t seem appropriate. At that moment, the most appropriate response for two young teens was summed up in one word: “Douse!!!”
And douse we did. There weren’t many fluid sources around that abandoned house with the flames licking toward the tinder-dry old wood walls, but we managed to put it out all the same. (The subsequent stink rendered that property un-sittable for long afterward, and nobody would have wanted to peruse the charred and soiled remains of those girlie mags.)
It is very useful to keep one eye on history to avoid repeating its mistakes, but there is no value in self- or others-flagellation once a threshold has been crossed. The stakes and the search for solutions are large enough to demand the bulk of our attention. We are there. No matter who started what, we are the owners of a big mess and had better maintain a proper focus on dousing…lest we all go up in smoke.