Teaching American kids that compassion for deadly enemies can be . . . deadly

Back in 1991, during the First Gulf War, the media was awash with profiles of American troops expressing sympathy for the pathetic Iraqi soldiers Saddam Hussein had placed in the desert opposite American tanks.  The stories definitely showed off American magnanimity, but my parents were still horrified.  Each time one of those profiles came on, one of them would holler out, "You have to hate your enemy to win a war."

My parents knew what they were talking about.  My Dad was a refuge from Germany and, once in the British military, fought the Germans all over Southern Europe and North Africa.  He survived the evacuation at Crete and made a stand at El Alamein.  My mother spent her war years interned in a Japanese concentration camp. 

Aside from native fortitude and the blessing of youth, the one thing that drove my parents them to fight and survive was hatred.  They truly and deeply hated their enemy.  Compassion was not a part of the equation.

Let's fast-forward 70 years.  My family and I are proud members of the Navy League, a wonderful organization that supports the U.S. Navy.  One of the direct benefits for us is that, during Fleet Week, we get royal treatment from the Navy.  With those delights around the corner, I asked my son what his expectations were for the week.  Instantly, visions of battleships danced in his head.  His wish was to see a ship that had actually been in battle.

He was chagrined to learn that our American Navy has not had to engage in battles recently.  The ongoing wars, I told him, are land wars.  I hastened to assure him, though, that the Navy doesn't just sit around and eat peanuts.  Instead, it drills constantly in case the worst occurs, and is always vigilant.  Indeed, I said, the Navy can be a target and, to illustrate this point, I told him about the attack on the U.S.S. Cole.

He was horrified.  "Who did that?" 

"Al Qaeda," I replied.  "The same group that blew up the World Trade Center." 

He had an opinion on that:  "Al Qaeda's evil, isn't it?"  "

Yes," I agreed, "it's evil."

Had the conversation ended there, it would have been a blip in my day, and not a post at American Thinker.  It didn't end there, however, because my son is the product of several years in the American public school system. 

"Mommy," he said, "you can't really blame Al Qaeda people, can you?  After all, it's their religion.  They don't know that they're doing the wrong thing, because they believe that they're doing the right thing, just like we do."

Well!  He's certainly learned his moral relativism lessons, hasn't he?

I agreed with my son that Al Qaeda's members were unfortunate enough to have some profoundly wrongheaded ideas.  Nevertheless, that did not relieve us of our obligation to protect ourselves and smack them down. 

"Imagine," I told him, "if a lion was coming after you.  In attacking you, the lion, unlike a human, isn't even making a moral choice about doing the right thing or the wrong thing.  He's just doing what a lion does.  If you saw that lion running directly at you, and if you had a gun, would you tell yourself that, because the lion doesn't know right from wrong, you should let him eat you, or would you fire the gun to protect yourself?" 

My son fully understood that, despite the lion's lack of moral culpability, it was okay to kill it to save himself.

"Let's take it a step further," I proposed.  "People who grew up in Nazi Germany were sure that it was the right thing to kill Jews, and gays, and gypsies, and the mentally handicapped, and to enslave people they didn't like.  Because they were doing what they thought was the right thing, did that mean we were doing the wrong thing when we fought them in World War II?" 

My son got that one too.  Even though the Japanese and Germans (and Italians) had been raised to the wrong ideas, it did not give them a free pass to kill and enslave the world.  We did the right thing by fighting them to the last man necessary for a complete surrender.  And then we did the right thing again by weaning them away from their foul ideologies.

"So," I asked, "should we excuse the members of Al Qaeda and other people like that even though they had the bad luck to be raised with bad ideas?" 

With the example of the lion and the Nazis before him, my son finally got that one too.  When a truly evil world view rears its head, a nation must smack down that viewpoint and, if necessary, it must destroy the people holding that viewpoint.  There is no room for hesitation.  It is possible to try rejiggering an ideology focused on your complete destruction, but you better be sure to have a gun at your side when you try it.

My son, bless his heart, was easy to convince.  He's a bright kid and he's been hanging around me long enough to have bought into my own world view.  The tragedy, of course, is the fact that so many other American kids are going to stand there waiting for the lion to bite them, all because they feel sorry for the lion's failure to understand that biting them is the wrong thing to do.