A discussion between a U.S. Marine and a Political Scientist: On “True Victory,” Who Marines Fight For, Nationalism, the Ultimate Sacrifice, and Acts of War vs. Atrocities of War


‘It sort of haunts you:’ The moving story behind the preservation of Sgt. Rafael Peralta’s rifle


The above article was the initial inspiration for the discussion to follow, and that is why it is included in this article.

U.S. Marine’s response to the article linked above: “Oohrah!”

Political Scientist: “Thank you for your service to our country, and thank you for agreeing to have this important political discussion with me. I’m sure any American Marine who fought, shed blood, or saw buddies fall in the field of battle in Fallujah during the Iraq war are likely mad as hell to see it being occupied by Sunni militants opposed to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s government now. I’m sure it makes some wonder what in the hell was the point, if they (U.S. politicians and the Iraqi government) were just going to give it away after it was taken.

Seems like we aren’t learning from the mistakes of the past, U.S. politicians prevented soldiers from bringing home a true victory in that engagement as well. It takes a major sacrifice and toil out of our own soldiers and their families to be asked to go half-way round the world to topple foreign leaders for questionable motives, or to drive out militants from a region for a time, but it takes much more than force, or perhaps something other than force, to resolve complex internal conflicts we often know so little about. Politicians should keep this in mind before they go beating war drums, and then maybe we wouldn’t have so many American soldiers suffering so much only to see their hard won victories lost the moment we pull out of the region. No one should have to make the ultimate sacrifice for America, if after the next Presidential election, the new President can drastically change the trajectory of military operations, and basically just spit on the graves of all those killed in action, simply because a majority of Americans decided they don’t like the U.S. being at war anymore. There is something fundamentally wrong with this scenario being repeated over and over again throughout our nation’s more recent history.”

U.S. Marine: “I don’t know if I comprehend the definition of a true victory with the complexity of political military engagements, especially in environments with a complex and historically volatile ethnic structure as the Middle East. I do know, there is neither such a thing as a total victory nor a permanent outcome in such environments. Unless we decide to colonize, we must at some point leave and allow them to stabilize their own society.

What we, as Americans, do not understand is, at some stage, EVERY country needs an iron rule. A country whom is barely surpassing 100 years of existence must progress through stages AND have rule by iron fist in early formation. The second requirement is a stimulus to form a sense of national patriotism.

You can look at our own history and the westward migration into Native American lands as a great lesson of successful, albeit by iron fist, civil stabilization of a young, multi-ethnic country. Even then, something must spark a sense of nationalism to achieve long term success. Ours occurred in the form of the American Civil War.

There is no loss here in vain just in short gain. The People of Iraq must learn what they wish to accomplish and defend what is to be or move aside to allow a force with stronger will to do so.

What the bleeding hearts of the world need to understand is they must accept that perceived atrocities will be committed in the process. Our very own country would not have had a chance of formation in today’s world if we had to repeat the westward migration again.

Since not one soldier or Marine fights for politics, not one soldier or Marine dies for politics. As they only fight for one another, they only die for one another. So long as they do not forget or quit, they honor EVERY warrior that fell before them, with them, or to follow them. Brothers in life. Brothers in war. Brothers in death. Semper fi!”

Political Scientist: “True victory is a very slippery concept I know, kind of like Nixon’s “peace with honor” quote to describe the January 23, 1973 Paris Peace Accord to end the Vietnam War, because it first implies their is such a thing, and secondly it suggests “false victory” is more common (or in Nixon’s case, that either peace or honor are not usually found together when attempting to end a war). I guess I used the term earlier, because I am appalled by the number of times the U.S. has been at war in the modern era only to fall short of any long term gain or success from the effort. In my heart of hearts, I don’t believe “true victory” is obtainable.   Unless of course you bomb your enemy into the stone ages, or basically wipe them off the planet (like ethnic cleansing), but to do so may bring “victory,” but at what price?

Your Native American example readily comes to my mind.  Likewise, “peace with honor” usually only occurs in a situation like the end of WWII, when America avoided charging the Emperor of Japan with war crimes, and chose instead, to turn an enemy into a long-term ally. However, I really don’t view the American Civil War as being the spark that created a sense of nationalism in America, unless you are referring to the “iron fist” of Abraham Lincoln’s Union soldiers against the Southern states when they repressed the Southern states rights of secession.  If the states ratified the Constitution into being, it makes sense that according to the tenants of the Declaration of Independence the South was justified in their efforts to dissolve the Union once it stopped representing their interests. Thus,  I really don’t think there has been much of a sense of national patriotism in America since Lincoln used force to create a supposed “more perfect Union.”  If anything, I think the civil war created a perpetual House Divided, and that division is still alive and well today. Now don’t get me wrong, Southerners are patriotic Americans, but if you ask them if the South will rise again, most of them would be quick to respond in the affirmative. If war weariness and the loss of virtually everything you hold dear is the “stimulus” you speak of, then I guess I can see your point.

In the Iraq example, I think they have already moved aside, or never were in the way really, because we still have over 100 U.S. personnel stationed at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, and they are likely the best equipped to have guided any recent smart bombs or “Iraqi” Air Force sorties against militant targets in Fallujah.  However, your point regarding atrocities is well taken, except the “perceived” part, I don’t understand how an atrocity could be anything other than what it is. Your comment suggests that an atrocity is not really an “atrocity” if it is all a part of the normal process of political transition.

I will also have to disagree with you regarding the westward migration -i.e. Manifest Destiny – comment in principle, because I have seen what motivated Americans looking for new opportunities are still willing to do to each other to get what they want. Those who lacked sufficient courage and ruthlessness would just stay home (or back East), and those ready and willing to engage in ethnic cleansing for the adventure, and to improve their potential station in life would be “gung-ho” to sign up and kill some “Indians,” “Indigenous Americans,” or whoever got in the way. I realize the Marines fight for each other, and not for politics, as you well know their motto is “Unit, Corp, God, Country – Respect and Protect your unit, Respect and Protect the Corp, Respect and Protect God, Respect and Protect your country” in that order. So politics or politicians are not necessarily on their list of priorities. They may only die for one another, but politicians put them in harms way far too often for less than sufficient reasons. That was my only point. Patriotism of the sort you guys display daily should not be wasted for any reason, nor should it be unleashed upon any group or Nation unless there is a clear objective, and long-term benefit for our country in the region.

With Obama trying to focus his attention on pivoting to Asia, and new “fracking” technologies creating a new oil boom in the U.S., the only reasons the region is still a strategic location and vital interest for the U.S. is to off-set Iran’s influence in the region, to be the “big-brother” ready to defend Israel from any Arab nation bold enough to start a fight (or more likely, fight back), and of course, the number one reason is to keep the Suez canal and Red Sea open so as to maintain Mediterranean sea shipping channels to the Middle East and South Asia. But I ask you, are any of those reasons sufficient for American loss of life, or will they ensure a long term benefit to our country? I can see why Europe would have a vested interest in keeping the canal open, but if the U.S. will no longer be dependent on Middle East oil in the future, what difference should it really make for us who is in control of the canal, or whether or not Israel can fight its own battles, or whether Iran becomes a modern day Persian Empire yet again?

We should let Europe take care of business in their own backyard in the future. But instead, any amount of atrocities will likely be justified to keep those lucrative shipping lanes open, even toppling Democratic governments and the Presidents they elect. I wonder who trained the Egyptian military to do that? I have a pretty good idea who paid for it, or rather, who’s kids will have to pay for it, once the final bill has been calculated and sent to the U.S. taxpayer.”  However, It has occurred to me that when I spoke earlier of not learning from our previous history, I did not mention what conflict I was referring to when I said, “politicians prevented soldiers from bringing home a true victory in that engagement as well.” So I only wanted to clarify to you that I was not referring to Iraq, I was, or at least I had intended to refer to the Vietnam War at least in that reference. In essence, I was trying to suggest politicians (and/or the American people) did not learn from that conflict, and seemed to be repeating some of the same mistakes more recently.

Americans are easily stirred into an emotional froth by political “Hawks” who seek the spoils of war, but then “Doves” and other “bleeding heart Liberals” quickly grow weary of war, and influence a sufficient number of “moderates” to swing the pendulum the other direction as too many of your “brothers in arms” begin to return home with American flags draped over their caskets. Thus, in the bigger picture, far too much of this Nation’s “true potential” (I know, yet another slippery concept) is sacrificed on the altar of war due to the wishy-washy nature of American politics. Sorry for any confusion or potential aggravation I might have caused as a result of my lack of clarity on the Vietnam/Iraq lessons-learned issue I raised at the beginning of this discussion.”

U.S. Marine: “By perceived atrocities, in part, I was referring to the variable transition between what are acts of war and what are atrocities of war. The line between the two is gray and murky and varies by era. For example, bombing Dresden was once considered an act of war. In the more ME, it would be considered an atrocity. As would the fire bombing raids on Japan be now considered as such.

I also attribute perceived as a delineator between violent and political atrocities. And there is a stark difference between those such as between Nazi concentration camps, American-Japanese concentration camps, Afghan/Iraqi interments and Native American Reservations. Were any necessary? That in itself is a lifelong debate and relevant to their perspective eras.

Also for the “credo” of the Corps… It’s God, Country, Corps, Unit, Brother/Sister not in reverse or otherwise except in the isolated confines of momentary battle in which it becomes the reverse. Our motto is Semper Fidelis. Intended to be for each.

As for the American Civil War being Our stimulus, oppressive rule only commenced with Reconstruction. Something that is more appropriately attributed to Johnson and successors than Lincoln. Death ended his contribution to the matter. The “South” will not rise again. Mostly due to a lack of commitment by people. It’s been turned more to a stated joke than a reality. But the Civil War also gives credence to the benefits of the philosophy of total war. The same type of war illustrated by WWII. To defeat a nation and have long term success, you must break a people’s will to resist. Not a government or regime BUT a people’s will. Limited engagements beat politicians. Total war beats the will of a populace. And Lincoln does not get credit for the concept in this either. Grant and Sherman are the masterminds of implementation with Lincoln riding the coat tails of victories.

Further on the ACW, most will acknowledge that following it we became WE. An acknowledgement of the result of the stimulus. And yes, the will of a populace had to be quelled to accomplish it. Sherman’s acts of war are now considered atrocities yet in era known as an act of war. The victor defines atrocities of war. The American-Japanese concentration camps might otherwise be defined as an atrocity. Which might bring us to the perception of ethnic atrocities.

Perceptions are not so easily defined. But what they are… Is one persons reality… And can become a people’s reality. This is why they are defined by era not necessarily by act.”

Political Scientist: “Thank you for your clarification regarding the “perceived atrocities” issue, I can see your point. Although I see less of a delineation between violent and political atrocities, because I think they are one and the same for the most part. Perhaps political motivations are the impetus for violent atrocities, and vice-versa. My apologies if I misspoke regarding the Corps motto or credo, or got the order wrong. I have a great respect for the Marines, and if I had not gone to college I would have liked to have found out if I could have had the “right stuff” to be one of the “Few, the Proud, the Marines.”

Regarding the U.S. Civil War, the moment the Federal troops stationed at Fort Sumter refused to vacate their posts inside the newly secessionist South Carolina, they and the election of the “Black Republican” Abraham Lincoln set the stage for a nearly decade long division to erupt into the bloodiest war America had ever fought. The atrocities of Grant and Sherman are legendary, and are still viewed by many in the South as heinous atrocities. Oppressive rule actually commenced years before as the North and the new abolitionist “free-soil” Western states began to outnumber the Southern states in Congress, and “Bleeding Kansas” resulted. States rights, the John C. Calhoun political concept of secession expounded during the Great Compromises, and the Federalist ideals of respecting minority rights outlined in the Federalist Papers (that minority rights – of the type in the larger context of the political battle between the North/West States and the South – should always be valued) fell by the way side, and led to the civil calamity that only got worse after the war when Reconstruction took on a “punish the losers” mentality under the more radical President Andrew Johnson. “The South will rise again” is no joke, if you have ever spent any time in the “Deep South.”

However, I agree with your sentiments about “total war.” However, I think in many respects, because of “a lack of commitment by people” that this type of war has become archaic and unnecessary. It is far easier now to topple democratically elected Presidents behind the scenes, label their supporters as terrorist sympathizers, and then hold new elections. Please see my latest blog article to see how the NSA is likely intricately involved in this ancient, but now technologically advanced form of warfare. I will readily admit, the use of force during the civil war did force the “These United States” to become “The United States,” but I would also argue that the use of force to create in Lincoln’s words, “A more perfect Union” was actually unconstitutional, and set us on the inevitable path of unlimited Federal government we now have.

There is only one truth, but many interpretations or “perceptions” of that truth. When a violent act or “atrocity” occurs, many may jockey for position to define and mold the “meaning” of that act for others to believe to suit their specific political objectives. And yes, the winners of war write the history books, but does that mean an atrocity has not occurred, if no one believes it is an atrocity, except the victims? In any era, a violent act may be perceived one way or the other, but the act itself, when analyzed historically, can be separated from its era-specific baggage or subterfuge, and recognized for what it truly was – an atrocity. We may not like to think of Japanese internment camps as being atrocities, but they were. They had a long-term devastating impact on many Japanese-Americans and Alaskan Natives, many of whom died while in captivity. So the victor can only define atrocities of war for an era or so, but over the long term, it is the violence that is remembered, and when looked at through fresh objective eyes, the true nature of the heinous acts of war become far clearer. Likewise, so called “terrorist acts” of the type arising from the recent environmentalist protest poster that was unraveled and dropped glitter indictment should be considered to face the same fate. A true terrorist act that creates wide-spread fear and panic due to the heinous nature of the violence committed, will withstand the test of times, and be recognized as the atrocity that it was. Anything else, like glitter falling from a protest sign will fall short, and will not pass historical scrutiny in any era, except perhaps the politically charged paranoid one we currently live in.”


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