How does one memorialize a losing cause?
This may be a strange question for an American on Memorial Day, but as I pause to reflect on those we lost in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere, it becomes increasingly important.
It is one thing to remember the fallen on D-Day, or Saipan or the Chosin Reservoir as sacrifices for the cause of freedom. The Korean War ended without a decisive victory, but the southern portion of the peninsula is free, prosperous and a living vindication that the lives spend there were not spent in vain.
Even Vietnam no longer carries with it the sting it once did. There is a strange affection growing between our two nations, a recognition that we were trying to help them, but couldn't. Now they want us to help them against China, and so we will.
But in Iraq, the pain is still fresh and the outcome of the matter still in doubt. When my old friend Capt. Sean Grimes was killed there in 2005, it felt like victory was assured. Our cause was just, our strength overwhelming and it seemed impossible that we should abandon the field to a group of savage killers who make the Nazis look cultured and erudite. (The Nazis stole priceless artifacts and adorned their homes with them; ISIL destroys them outright.)
There is much talk about mental illness among our returning vets, just as there was after Vietnam. Part of this is the reflexive hatred of the left for military people. To them, our military is populated with mind-numbed killers who were too stupid to study erotic renaissance poetry at Oberlin.
But how should people who were asked to risked their lives and who lost close friends supposed to feel about what is going on? This administration has managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and then pats itself on the back for its cleverness.
It is a strange placed to be.