What We Owe

 

24wheeler-web-superJumboIf you haven’t already, take a few minutes to read The New York Times’ obituary for Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler, the Delta Force operator killed on Thursday during a raid on an ISIS prison. Seriously, go read it. Just be warned that it may break your heart a little. To say that Wheeler appears to have been an exemplar of American values and masculinity is to rather miss the mark.

There is probably no more manipulative question than to ask whether a war is worth the life of a given soldier. It’s a stupid way to judge things. It asks you to judge a macro event by a micro standard in a way that grossly stacks the deck in favor of the latter. It’s also usually dishonest in that it denies our soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen their agency. Surely, MSG Wheeler, a veteran of nearly 20 years, thought his fighting was worth the risk, and there are pesh merga forces and ISF prisoners alive — as well as ISIS fighters dead — in no small part because of his actions. Moreover, it’s abundantly clear that the Army is a huge part of what made Wheeler such a great guy.

But it is, regardless, infuriating to see heroism like this spent on a conflict so ill-defined and mismanaged as the current one against the Islamic State. The president seems bored by — and deeply resentful of — the matter and his greatest desire seems for it to go away. For its part, Congress cannot be bothered to explicitly vote their support for the mission … or even define it. And lest the rest of us get too self-satisfied, these are our representatives and our president, all of whom were democratically elected and could be unelected if we wanted. As it is, America seems content to throw some bombs, waste some money, and provide some occasional air support and transportation. It’s very nearly the worst sort of compromise: We accomplish little, feel bad about it, and get to look weak in the process.

If we’re going to be fighting the Islamic State — and I very much think we should — it requires a real commitment by the American people, expressed through both the executive and legislative branches of our government. If we’re just going to putter around like this, then let’s at least be honest about it, adjust accordingly, and brace for the consequences. Some good may well come of it, but I doubt it’ll match the bad.

MSG Wheeler didn’t die in vain, and no political decision can change that: He died in service to a great country while killing people in service to an evil one, people who were about to massacre some of our allies. But if we’re going to keep that nation great, we need to make better, clearer, stronger decisions about how we spend our blood and treasure abroad. We owe our veterans that much. We owe ourselves that much.

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There are 17 comments.

  1. Herbert E. Meyer Contributor

    Bravo! Well said.

    • #1
    • October 26, 2015, at 7:53 AM PDT
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  2. Inwar Resolution Inactive

    Here, here! A tribute well made. Thank you for the piece and the link to his NYT obit.

    • #2
    • October 26, 2015, at 7:55 AM PDT
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  3. Man With the Axe Inactive

    Let’s nominate and elect a president who understands the nature of the conflict and the need for winning it.

    • #3
    • October 26, 2015, at 7:57 AM PDT
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  4. EJHill Podcaster

    God, we keep going around in circles, don’t we? The disconnect is too great.

    On the one hand, you have the new post-Vietnam military professional: Men with various numbers of stripes on their sleeves who have made a conscious decision to offer up their lives, if necessary, to secure the future of the country. On the other hand is the political class who’s idea of “service” never seems to stray far from whatever feeds their narcissism. And, unfortunately, there’s the brass in the middle with a pretty good dose of that ailment, too.

    I may not live to see it, but this puts us on a path to self destruction. “Thank you for your service” is already getting trite. We either need to be all in, or split amicably, into two countries, one dedicated to liberty and its appreciation and the other on the selfishness of eternal adolescence where the nanny state can care for you.

    • #4
    • October 26, 2015, at 8:00 AM PDT
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  5. Tedley Member

    A very honorable man, and a great loss. Had things gone the way they should have, there’d be a lot more like him there, providing vastly more training and support, and helping the Iraqi military and society to stand on its own.

    • #5
    • October 26, 2015, at 8:24 AM PDT
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  6. Could Be Anyone Member

    The loss of such good men reminds me of a passage in the Battle Hymn of the Republic.

    “In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,

    With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me.

    As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free*”

    MSG Wheeler gave his life, willingly, that men might be free (not free to pursue only certain choices but all choices) in a foreign land – not for his sake but theirs. Such service embodies the concept of virtue (manliness in Latin) as it ought to be. May we honor such a virtuous life through our own actions and may the first action be a change in our foreign policy in the Middle East towards outright destruction of those things that call themselves IS.

    • #6
    • October 26, 2015, at 8:41 AM PDT
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  7. Bob Thompson Member

    EJHill: And, unfortunately, there’s the brass in the middle with a pretty good dose of that ailment, too.

    Isn’t this being structured to be this way by the ruling political class as well?

    • #7
    • October 26, 2015, at 8:50 AM PDT
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  8. PsychLynne Inactive

    Tom, thank you for posting this piece. I had seen the obituary and really appreciated your comments. Excellent job!

    • #8
    • October 26, 2015, at 9:26 AM PDT
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  9. Profile Photo Member

    Compare and contrast:

    download

    • #9
    • October 26, 2015, at 11:31 AM PDT
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  10. LC Member
    LC

    We lost lots of good blood in Master Sgt. Wheeler and more before him over in the Middle East. The best we can do is a committed backing of our warriors. What we got is a fickle citizenry with a cold and bloodless commander-in-chief.

    • #10
    • October 26, 2015, at 12:24 PM PDT
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  11. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

    Bob L:Compare and contrast:

    download

    Every time I see that, I have to remind myself that important people actually thought that was a good ad.

    And that they the subsequently won the election.

    • #11
    • October 26, 2015, at 1:19 PM PDT
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  12. Bob Thompson Member

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Bob L:Compare and contrast:

    download

    Every time I see that, I have to remind myself that important people actually thought that was a good ad.

    And that they the subsequently won the election.

    And please tell us who are the important people and who doesn’t make the cut.

    • #12
    • October 26, 2015, at 1:29 PM PDT
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  13. Stad Thatcher

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: He died in service to a great country while killing people in service to an evil one, people who were about to massacre some of our allies.

    He was also willing to die in order to save people he never met. General Patton said:

    “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.”

    I say we do both. We should give thanks for men like Joshua Wheeler, but we should also mourn the loss of someone who gave up his life to help these people simply because they were about to meet a brutal end.

    • #13
    • October 26, 2015, at 1:36 PM PDT
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  14. Bob Thompson Member

    Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler honored the oath he took to serve and he did it well. My bet is he was familiar with and understood the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution and what he stood for.We have yet to fulfill the promise made in these historical documents and the numbers of those with the will and courage of Sgt. Wheeler are diminishing. The foremost principle embodied in these founding ideals is that of individual liberty for all. Nothing in there about race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual preference, or any other group, but that seems to be where the focus is for our ruling class.

    • #14
    • October 26, 2015, at 2:16 PM PDT
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  15. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

    Bob Thompson: And please tell us who are the important people and who doesn’t make the cut.

    In this context, “Important People” = “People running the re-election campaign of the president of the United States.”

    • #15
    • October 26, 2015, at 2:27 PM PDT
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  16. Bob Thompson Member

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Bob Thompson: And please tell us who are the important people and who doesn’t make the cut.

    In this context, “Important People” = “People running the re-election campaign of the president of the United States.”

    Thank you. That’s a small group, after all.

    • #16
    • October 26, 2015, at 2:33 PM PDT
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  17. Front Seat Cat Member

    It is a painful kick in the gut to read his obituary. It should hurt and bring tears. I keep adding people to my prayer list – it keeps getting longer – he and his family are now included specifically. Thank you for posting – I am passing this along.

    • #17
    • October 26, 2015, at 2:39 PM PDT
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