As our veterans agonize over the probability of military strikes against Syria, I’m sharing some words from heroes of the past. These were giants who once stood among us, with piercing knowledge of warfare and wisdom to face evil with resolve, tempered with equanimity. They admonish us to tread forward with restraint at a time like this.
“Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter. The statesman who yields to war fever must realize that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events.”
Sir Winston Churchill, British statesman who guided Great Britain through World War II
“There’s no difference between one’s killing and making decisions that will send others to kill. It’s exactly the same thing, or even worse.”
Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel who led her nation through wars and terrorist attacks.
And this dialogue between two of our Founding Fathers, who argued that only Congress should have the power to send troops into combat. In a 1789 letter, Thomas Jefferson expressed hope to James Madison that the Constitution would restrain “the dog of war, by transferring the power of letting him loose from the executive to the legislative body.” Madison, in turn, made clear his belief that the Congress could end wars as well as start them. He even suggested that the Commander in Chief couldn’t be trusted with that responsibility. “Those who are to conduct a war cannot in the nature of things be proper or safe judges whether a war ought to be commenced, continued,or concluded,” he wrote in The Federalist Papers.”
Perhaps we need to listen to our pathfinders.