We’ve not become so civilized as to end war:
But we’ve become too civilized to win war.
We decry the necessary brutality that war summons
taking pains to avert another Dresden,
While our enemies lop off heads;
and, laugh at our Geneva Convention vanity,
from urban redoubts behind civilian kryptonite.

They are not hypocrites like us,
who pretend that war has rules,
lest we not feel good about ourselves.
Perhaps it is that the wars we have
chosen to fight of late, are not of survival.
Perhaps they have been mechanisms
of greed to oil the economic wheels.

Perhaps we would recover the strength of will
to see war clearly, if the threat were existential.
Perhaps we would then deploy at war
the fullest, most brutal measure of our power
adhering only to the one honest rule of war,
should we be dragged into its madness –
that immoral slaughterhouse –
“Win by whatever device necessary.”

Knowing that afterwards, it is the victors
who will order rules, the vanquished
will be charged to have violated.

© 2014 by Robert S. Steinberg, Esquire
All rights reserved


Most celebrated another memorial day by shopping.  This post deals with the ambiguity and technology of present war.  It should not be read to deprecate by any measure our current men and women in arms for whom I hold the deepest respect and admiration.  Technology makes war too antiseptic.  Non-state foes, asymmetrical insurgencies and the absence of a direct existential threat to our survival, make doubtful the logic for military intervention.  War itself has always been brutal, immoral and in most instances folly.  The Geneva Conventions serve to legitimize war by imposing rules as if it war were a cricket match.  You cannot civilize with rules what is essentially bestial.   The Nazis gave us no choice.  War was war then because the necessity was clear and the battle symmetrical, large armies facing large armies.  Not so in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan where it often has been difficult to distinguish civilians from combatants.    

(To tune of “Where or When” by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart)

There was another time when we were sure
When soldiers wore uniforms of gray or green
The enemy was near and seen
When war was war

Now drones hunt terrorists on sea and shore
Remotely eliminated on a screen
The killing wasn’t neat or clean
When war was war

Back then the wide world was in conflict
We knew what we were fighting for

 The honest carnage when men stormed a beach
Into the breach,
A hero each,
We were, when war was war

Lyric © 2013 by Robert S. Steinberg, Esquire
All rights reserved