Location: Shanghai, China
I am an American, a war veteran, and I have lived in multiple countries since my honorable discharge.
Over the years, I’ve been asked many questions about my stance on issues related to war, violence, and nationalism.
These questions have been asked by people in Asia, Latin-America, and the United States.
Contrary to the perception of some, most people in places like China and Colombia do not hate Americans.
Seek to Understand and then Be Understood
In fact, people outside of the US show me a daily willingness to understand and be understood.
Colombia has a seen a lot of conflict, some of which has involved the US Army, and yet I’ve been made to feel more at home every time I’ve lived there (3 times and counting).
The People’s Republic of China has had its own interesting relationship with the government of the United States, and still I feel more welcome here with every day that passes.
In my encounters with people in these two countries, and others, I have never been the recipient of any negativity upon disclosure of my service as an American Soldier.
On the other hand, I have received more than a few drinks, handshakes, and inquiries about my experience.
Anytime that the use of military force comes up in the news, some of my civilian clients, friends, and colleagues ask my opinion of the situation.
My response, first and foremost, is that I control myself, I control my reactions to the things around me, and I control my environment to the extent that I can.
I am not in control of the actions of any government.
I focus on things that I can affect positively.
Things that I can affect include my work, my health, and my relationships with people that I care about.
Therefore, I limit my opinion to what I know.
My experience is that of an American citizen who has seen the best and the worst of what war has to offer.
Sharing what I know is one way that I can positively affect my work, health, and relationships, so I do share at the appropriate times.
The Truth as I See It
The core purpose of a military (the warrior class) is to protect a nation’s non-warrior citizens from those who would harm them.
The way that a military is able to protect its citizenry is through its ability to win wars.
Wars are won through violence, strategy, and collective tenacity.
If a military is ordered to fight, the reason for doing so must be very obviously necessary to maintain the life and liberty of a nation’s civilian population.
This one reason must be good enough to justify sending sons and daughters to fight and kill and die.
If one sees a member of the political class giving multiple reasons to justify sending the warrior class to act violently, be aware that good people may die horrible deaths for shoddy reasons.
We call this an unjust war.
“We do not start trouble, but we do finish it” is the paraphrased mantra of a good national defense policy.
Any orders or policies forced upon a military which do not help it to win wars are cumbersome, and will often have a negative effect on an Army’s ability to serve its core purpose (protect the civilian population).
Wars that politicians are unable to justify with one reason will also often have a negative effect on an Army’s ability to serve its core purpose.
Nationalism Is a Powerful Force
I’ve seen nationalism on display in every country that I’ve ever lived in.
It can be used by cowards as a tool to get courageous people to fight and kill and die for them.
This type of nationalism is destructive.
Destructive nationalism leads to more loss than gain for most parties involved.
The wise man guards his mind carefully against this type of nationalism.
My observation is that nationalism is best used as a force of construction.
This type of nationalism has a unique way of uniting people to work hard, take care of each other, and cooperate towards common goals that benefit all parties involved.
I love that type of nationalism, no matter what nation I’m in when I observe it.
That type of nationalism is worth fighting for.