David Brooks, a Best Defense reader who was a sergeant in the Marines before enrolling at Dartmouth, records some thoughts provoked by talk of war with Iran:
Shortly before I left the Marine Corps, I was discussing the folly of striking Iran with my gunnery sergeant, who had served in Operation Desert Storm and in Operation Iraqi Freedom four times. He was preparing to leave for his sixth foray in Iraq and began recounting his days embedded with the Iraqi army as a trainer. He jokingly recalled times running up and down an alley they had dubbed "sniper alley," a name that seemed fitting as our squadron commander had been awarded a purple heart for wounds sustained running down the same alley. After his laughter subsided, he looked at me seriously and said, "Sergeant Brooks, I don't want my sons to join the Marine Corps. I don't want them to have to experience combat. Is that wrong?" I paused for a moment and then looked at him and replied, "No gunny. It makes you a father. You've seen enough combat for all of us."
War has its toll. We've seen 11 years of it. I am loath to mention my military career because I do not want anyone to think that I use my military service to make my views seem more valid. However, those that advocate for the use of military force should always include a sober reminder of what it entails.
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.