“To truly honor fallen soldiers requires self-reflection, questions, and action,” said Army veteran Michael McPhearson. “Are we allowing the blood of soldiers and civilians to be spilled in war because we are not willing to do the hard work of peace making?”
The first time I shared that quote here at Rare was in a column timed for Memorial Day 2015 in which I argued the best way to celebrate the day is to have a real debate about foreign policy.
As I wrote then, my reasoning is that Memorial Day is one of the few times each year — for the great majority of us who have not personally lost loved ones in a recent war — that the human cost of conflict is remembered and mourned. Though many are understandably hesitant to talk politics on such an occasion, the greatest dishonor for the fallen would be to miss this opportunity for reflection, to refuse to think about how we might better pursue peace in years to come.
When I wrote that article, the 2016 election was just getting started. President Obama was in the Oval Office, and Donald Trump wasn’t even on my radar (or anyone’s radar, really) as a serious GOP contender. And I remained hopefully that foreign policy would play a key role in the then-upcoming campaign thanks to Hillary Clinton’s controversial tenure at the State Department and the real disagreements between Republican candidates like Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.).
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Two years later, the election is over; Trump is president; and U.S. foreign policy remains on the forever war autopilot setting it has been stuck in for the last 16 years. Superficially, a lot has changed. But substantively, Washington’s approach to matters of war and peace is as reckless, counterproductive and callous as ever.
So this Memorial Day, two years later, we still need to have that foreign policy debate. We still need to do the hard work of peace making.