Saturday, August 2, 2008

Children of the Juggernaut

The other night as I was about to turn off my television after watching a recorded show, I decided to surf channels to see what was on in real time. I happened to land on a rerun of the PBS series “CARRIER, “ a 10-part series filmed aboard the USS Nimitz during its 2005 deployment. The producers describe the show as a character-driven, nonfiction drama which “...closely follows a core of characters, from the Admiral of the fleet to the elite fighter pilots to the lowliest scrubs” while “...addressing larger themes as family, faith, discipline, patriotism, love and war, the rites of passage and the war on terror.”

I was riveted.

My interest certainly wasn’t based on any gung-ho, “lets-go-bomb-something” militarism. Nor did it come from a patriotic commitment to “support-the-troops-while-they-defend-us-against-the-evil-doers-and-make-the-world-safe-for-democracy-and-SUVs.”

In fact, I’m opposed to war on ethical, moral, and practical grounds, though I believe certain military actions can be justified (WWII and the first Iraq War, for instance). I am very much against Bush’s Iraq war.

So, what was so fascinating to me? I’m really not sure. One thing may be the scale and complexity of the social environment aboard the Nimitz – clearly a world unto itself. Another thing was how extraordinarily young many of the sailors were and how endearingly innocent they seemed despite the lethality and danger of what they were doing, Finally, it was clear that they were committed to doing their very best in keeping this juggernaut working smoothly, regardless of the tremendous personal sacrifices required.

It seems essential to me on moral grounds that the sacrifices being made by these sailors be justified by the magnitude and certainty of the threat they are facing and the efficacy of military action to reduce that threat. Sadly, I don’t think that is currently the case.

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