Vlad The Terrible’s war on Ukraine and Communist China’s looming war on Taiwan should be a wakeup call about the worst of the real world to dreamy, wishful thinkers. I’m reminded of this mentality in folk songs of the 1960s, in the midst of Woodstock, hippies, communes, peace signs, the drug culture and anti-Vietnam War protests. Not all folk singers were political but those like Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Joan Baez, and John Lennon were routinely leftists and pacifists. To their followers, the simplistic platitudes of the lyrics offered a utopian mixture of love, peace, and collectivism that captured the yearnings of some callow, idealistic young minds.
A classic example is “Universal Soldier,” written by Buffie Sainte-Marie, a Canadian singer-songwriter, in the basement of the The Purple Onion Coffee House in Toronto in 1964. The song caught on and reached an international audience when recorded by the popular Scottish folk singer, Donovan, in 1965.
I’ll summarize the lyrics describing its composite universal soldier: “He’s all of 31 and he’s only 17; five foot-two and six feet-four; he fights with missiles and spears; and he’s been a soldier for a thousand years. He’s a Catholic, a Hindu, an atheist, a Jew. He knows he shouldn’t kill but knows he always will. He’s fighting for Canada, France, the USA, the Russians, Japan. He’s fighting for democracy; he’s fighting for the Reds. And he thinks we’ll put an end to war this way. But without him, Hitler couldn’t have condemned those at Dachau; Caesar would have stood alone. Without him all this killing can’t go on. He’s the universal soldier and he really is to blame. This is not the way we put an end to war.”
Brilliant! It’s all the soldier’s fault, and if no one will soldier, all wars will end. Just make that plea to the Taliban, the assassins of the Mexican drug cartels, gang warriors in Chicago, Vikings in the Middle Ages, modern Somali pirates, or those who would dare to refuse service in the conscripted armies of North Korea or China. The notion that all soldiers would ever disappear is worse than wishful thinking, it’s preposterous.
The false premise of the “Universal Soldier” is that it lumps all soldiers, all causes and all nations together, making no distinctions. American soldiers who liberated the Jews at the Dachau Concentration Camp weren’t the same as the Nazis who tortured and murdered them. American soldiers who enlisted after the attack on Pearl Harbor weren’t the equivalent of the Japanese forces that launched that surprise attack. Americans who fought and died in the Revolutionary War did so to win their freedom from the tyranny of the British Empire. The Catholic Church has long recognized the principle of “just wars” under certain conditions.
Here’s a dose of reality for flower children of all ages: War is a constant in human history. We will never “put an end to war.” It’s an element of human nature. There are individuals, groups, tribes, cultures and nations that are predators, just as some animals are predators. As Plato noted, “Only the dead have seen the end of war.”
The First World War was waged by the allied forces in the name of “the war to end all wars.” In its wake, 63 nations signed the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928 to disarm and outlaw war. That didn’t deter Germany, Japan and Italy from starting World War II.
Wars of aggression, large and small, may be motivated by hatred, revenge, religion, territory, expansion of empires, or simply to plunder and pillage. The nations they attack go to war to defend themselves — or don’t go to war and surrender. Beating your swords into plowshares isn’t an effective defense policy unless you believe the next war will be fought with plows. And those who surrender to tyrants will wind up pulling a plow under the whip of a man with a gun.
George Orwell succinctly explained to self-indulgent pacifists that people can sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf. Henry Kissinger observed, “If peace is equated simply with the absence of war, if the yearning for peace is not allied with a sense of justice, it can become an abject pacifism that turns the world over to the most ruthless.” In this world, noble American soldiers aren’t “warmongers.” If anything, they’re freedom mongers.
And they’re as essential as the police. We’ve seen the resultant crime wave that predictably followed the defunding of police by idiotic progressive public officials across the country. If it were up to them, they’d defund the military as well.
For the record, Pete Seeger’s “Where have all the flowers gone?” is even dumber than “Universal Soldier.”
Longtime KOA radio talk host and columnist for the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News Mike Rosen now writes for CompleteColorado.com.
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