“Two boys in Illinois took a short (cut) across an orchard, and did not become aware of the presence of a vicious dog until it was too late to reach either fence. One boy was spry enough to escape the attack by climbing a tree, but the other started around the tree, with a dog in hot pursuit, until by making smaller circles than it was possible for his pursuer to make, he gained sufficiently to grasp the dog’s tail, and held with desperate grip until nearly exhausted, when he hailed his companion and called him to come down.
‘What for,’ said the boy.
‘I want you to help me let this dog go,’ he said.”
Pres. Abraham Lincoln relayed this story after a messenger ended his report of Union losses at the battle of Fredricksburg by saying “I wish I could tell you how to conquer or get rid of these rebellious states.”
He concluded: “If I could only let them go, but that is the trouble. I am compelled to hold on to them and make them stay.”
America has many times sent men and women into the field of battle. In our history, we have faced off against many of our current allies.
Now once again it looks like we may be called upon by our leaders to reach out across the seas and intervene through aerial strikes on behalf of a people suffering atrocities under a foreign leader. Since I originally wrote this last week, a “peace process” has been underway through talks with Russian leaders and the United Nations representatives.
Are we carrying a directive given us by our forefathers to police the world? For much of the last century, that is what we did, we stepped in expending our people and our resources to end reigns of cruelty. I think every soldier who contributed to the efforts deserve our never-ending thanks and admiration.
As Americans, do we carry that same directive into our future? Can we afford it? Can we afford, if we don’t?
I sure wish we could do a better job of policing back home first. When our people live in fear to walk down city streets or stand in their front yards, why are we concentrating on the well being of people elsewhere?
We are still waging a war not against one country but a movement. Like an octopus, its tentacles reach across borders and find their way into dozens of countries — including the U.S. mainland.
It has been over 100 years since Americans faced a battle on the mainland. Of course, there is no one here today who can share firsthand the experience of watching thousands of Americans stand against one another on fields in Gettysburg or Chickamauga, but there are gallant survivors of battles in Germany, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Somalia, the former Yugoslavia, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan and countless other countries where our troops have served.
The basis of any fight is often a struggle between ideas. One party thinks one way. The other party thinks another. Without middle ground, a battle ensues.
It is a rather simplistic view of a very complicated matter that in this new engagement probably has little relevance.
Are our leaders right who desire to intervene? Are the foreign leaders who feel we should not involve ourselves right?
I am saddened to see the atrocities that a perpetrated upon our brothers and sisters around the world each and every day. Can we intervene in every case? No. Can we plug our finger in the hole and pray we can hold back the water from the dam? Sure. Will we be successful? Only history will tell us. When you choose a side, you become the enemy of the other side. Sometimes I wonder if we as a country have not created enough enemies in this world.
My cousin Frankie once shared with me a book, “The Popular History of the Civil War,” featuring firsthand stories of Civil War veterans compiled just 20 years following the events. Within its pages, I found descriptions of the battles waged on the ground where my father played as a boy around the home where my grandparents lived. The stories have given me new insights on one of America’s greatest struggles. Following Sept. 11, 2001, a new generation of Americans has memories of the horrors of war on our native soil.
For over a decade now our country has struggled ahead as we set out on an effort to rid the world of terrorism. I pray that God stands with our servicemen and women and all our citizens as they step out in the field whether at home or abroad as this struggle continues.
I fear no matter our choices, we will be like Lincoln’s boy chasing the vicious dog — once we grab hold of the tail, will we know what to do?