Thoughts from A Military Spouse About Manchester


By Spencer Helsel

I woke this morning, as I have lately over the past few years, to news reports about the deaths of innocent people. It has become “the new norm” as they say, as if somehow that helps to make sense of senseless violence. Because, let’s be honest, it doesn’t make sense at all. Killing concert goers, many of them teens just trying to have a good time, makes as much sense as killing concert goers in Paris or people on a bridge or or people just trying to have fun in a culture that doesn’t accept them. The bottom line is, nothing make sense when it comes to these attacks, except that it happened and will continue to happen.

Because we haven’t changed.

In the next few days, you will see the government condemn (and rightly condemn) this attack and make promises to put an end to it. Unfortunately, they aren’t going to put an end to it.

In a world where our government gives billions of dollars in arms to other countries and stock prices in defense spending soar there is no incentive to change. In a world where the president’s most staunch opponents in the Democratic Party praised his missile strike on Syria, even though it did nothing and was not part of any larger strategy (basically, a giant publicity stunt at taxpayer expense), there is no incentive to change. No one really wants to change. It’s not politically convenient to do so.

We as a country have done this over and over and over again. Any mass slaughter in the name of religion is wrong, but any response by presidential candidates to use drone strikes, missile launches, or (as one politician I particularly have ire for put it) drop so many bombs that is “makes the sand glow at night” won’t put an end to warmongering. After all, we’re the greatest country in the world right? We spend more on “defense” (see real definition: offense) than any other country in the world, right? So why not use our massive military to bomb the crap out of some country? That’ll teach ’em!

Unfortunately, all it teaches them is that we’re the enemy and that we’re willing to kill thousands in response to hundreds. Don’t mess with us!

Human nature tells you that threatening people you’ve already killed only increases opposition, not lessens it.

How does this relate to Manchester? Because it’s all interconnected. Terrorism is about changing our behavior. It’s about instilling fear; to motivate us as a country. Strangely, what terrorist want most of all is for us to continue down the path we’re on. I won’t go into specific details about the changes to security over here, as to do so is against the law, but you can logically guess that there have been changes since Manchester. These are minor, of course. I don’t fault them. But if on such a small scale things are changing, what about the larger picture?

When we will invade next in the name of security? When will be commit to to an airstrike that destroys a mosque? Or we send in ground forces to a country we supposedly pull out of?

I will admit that my view of the military is much different than some of my colleagues in the Libertarian Party. My wife is in the service. It changes how I view military service. I will not go so far as to say they are wrong. Everyone can, and should, have their own views and debating on that subject would imply I know the topic inside and out. Sufficient to say, I disagree and actually welcome people to have divergent views. After all, isn’t that the point of freedom and liberty? To disagree?

But putting that aside, there is something I agree on with the Libertarian Party: if we use Manchester or any tragedy as a rallying cry to bomb, destroy or attempt eradicate a group, it won’t stop terrorism. In fact, it will give terrorists exactly what they want: more recruiting material.

So here is how I will end. I would urge anyone, of any party and political thought, to not commit to a wholesale bandwagon to go into the Middle East for another war. And I don’t need to argue Libertarian principles to necessarily do it. To commit to more overseas military offensives would not benefit anyone. To my Democratic Party friends, I would remind you we have debts we can’t pay, so if you believe in using federal dollars to help the least of us, this means we will have less to give. To my Republican Party friends, I would remind you that war will sully the name of America abroad and make us the enemy to more than just our enemies, but our allies as well.

And to my Libertarian friends, I will finish by telling you this: the message should be clear. Urge peace, or at the very least non-aggression, in a time when many are tempted to do the opposite. It is one of a few things that attracts political independents like me. People are receptive to it and looking for a third voice instead of the first two chanting for war.

If you’ve read this far, thank you. I appreciate it. I’ll be returning to my “Lessons from Abroad” series when things calm down.

Categories: Politics

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