I grew up the son of an Army officer well-schooled in military history and tactics. During family vacations and trips, my dad would often take us to Civil War battlefields or old Revolutionary War forts and spend hours wandering around, reading about their historical importance. He would always buy a couple of books to add to his home library.
Later in high school, I would borrow a book from time to time and read about American soldiers and leaders in combat. The stories I read fascinated me — long-forgotten tales of bravery and sacrifice shown by ordinary men who likely would have lived ordinary lives but found themselves in extraordinary situations and fought, and won, to keep their country free.
Growing up during the later part of the Cold War, I remember my dad teaching me about American exceptionalism, that America was good and the enemy was bad. There was no gray in the discussion. It was very clear-cut. My dad was in Special Forces, whose motto was “De Oppresso Liber” or “To Free the Oppressed.” I listened as he explained the difference between our free country and most of the others, and how brave soldiers must always stand ready to defend that freedom.
My dad also taught me about leadership and part of our history lessons involved great military leaders and the struggles and triumphs that they experienced.
On this day after the attack in Paris by ISIS, I frame the events against the stories from long ago and lessons that I learned. I realize war is an awful thing, but there is no such thing as half measures if a people want to win a war. I contrast America’s resolve in World War II, where we bombed cities of Japan and set them ablaze.
That generation realized the point of war was to defeat the enemy and destroy their resolve to fight. In this day of limited drone strikes and declarations in the “strongest possible terms,” I do not think we are achieving either, and I see innocent people dying as a result.
I call for a leader who does not see gray, only good and evil, and who understands war is upon us and will mobilize the might and will of our country. Our new enemy has televised beheadings of medical workers, mass executions of Christians, lighting prisoners doused in gasoline on fire and now an orchestrated attack against one of our oldest Allies. We should always remember that France came to our aid in our struggle for liberty.
It is hard for me to understand how we continue to allow an enemy like this to survive. ISIS has made clear its intention to murder innocent Americans and bring the battle to our homeland. It is frustrating to know we possess the weapons and soldiers that could bring justice to them in a way they cannot imagine.
I hope that our next president, whoever that may be, will be a leader.