Editorial: Wartime déjà vu, all over again

So, we're at war.


It's not "officially" a war, but our aircraft are blowing people up and we have advisors in place and we have declared an enemy, although no one can seem to agree on the enemy's name - ISIS or ISIL or QSIS ("al-Qaida Separatists in Iraq and Syria"), or Islamic State, or un-Islamic State, or even "Daesh," which apparently has some connection to the Arabic term "crush," and the group itself hates the term so much that they threatened to cut out the tongues of anyone uttering it.

Anyway. We're at war.


In basically the same place, with the same old familiar lines whispered in our ears.

It's only airstrikes.

We have a coalition. It's not just us; it's a shared burden.

No "boots on the ground." (Unless it's absolutely needed. Which it won't be. Except maybe. But only in certain situations. Which we don't expect to happen. Even though we do.)

We fight them over there so we don't have to fight them over here.

Despite the fact that we've been attacked, this argument has never held much water for me. Yes, there are thugs who will scheme to tear things down, be they a group of psychos who commandeer airplanes or a disturbed loner who stockpiles an arsenal and opens fire at a "Batman" premiere in Colorado.

These threats will always be with us.

We can take it.

Did order collapse after Sept. 11, 2001? No.

Did Hurricane Katrina end New Orleans? Did Superstorm Sandy end the Northeast?

Do tornadoes in the Midwest, or floods in Phoenix, cause societal collapse?

Did the disputed 2000 election cause the United States to end?

We should be wary, and vigilant, and take every precaution. But we also don't need to embroil ourselves in another quagmire.

The atrocities attributed to ISIS are well-documented, and those provide the impetus to strike. But even now, officials are talking about years-long hostilities to root out "Daesh," and end the Syrian conflict, and eventually probably deal with all sorts of centuries-old grudges and slights and scores that would take a busload of scholars and analysts to document.

But even if we figure out how to navigate the maze of conflicting interests and tangled allegiances in the Middle East, is there a solution? Or just another call to arms to keep us from having to fight "them" over here?

The call to arms is always easier, and then we're still at war.


That doesn't mean we have to repeat all of our past mistakes.

This time around, put the costs out front. Don't label it as an "emergency appropriation," as was often done with spending on Iraq and Afghanistan.

Those eye-popping numbers should at least inform our debate over how much to commit to this effort.

For example, one day of the Syrian bombing campaign was estimated to cost $74 million. To put that in perspective, that's about how much India spent on its recent mission to Mars.

We should also re-implement the draft, and apply it as widely as possible. It's a crime that military service members served multiple deployments over the last decade or so while the rest of America pretty much forgot there were wars happening.

If we realize the costs, financial and human, of bombs-and-bullets diplomacy, perhaps we won't be so quick to go to war.