Monday, February 12, 2007

A long time back, I screwed up my back trying, but failing, to score a goal while playing hockey. Question: did I 'waste' my back?

A 12 year old boy drowns while trying, but failing, to save his younger brother who had fallen through the ice of a local pond. Question: did the 12 year old 'waste' his life?

Over 3,000 American soldiers have lost their lives trying, but failing, to bring civilization to Iraq. Question: did they 'waste' their lives?

In sports, I've always thought if you're going to injure yourself, you ought to make sure you 'succeeded' at whatever it was you were trying to do, that there was nothing worse than coming up empty while getting hurt. You run into the outfield fence, make the catch. Dive for a ball, make the catch. Launch yourself at a running back, stop him short of the goal line. Crash into the crease going after the puck, put it into the net. I know the end result is the same either way, you're left dealing with the aftermath of the injury, but I know I'd feel somewhat better about having to deal with a busted up back had I actually been able to make the play. And, no, the goal wouldn't have mattered and the game was pretty meaningless... but I still would have preferred to have made the goal.

And as dying is a whole lot more serious than a run-of-the-mill injury, I figured if I was going to die trying to do something, I would to make sure that whatever it was that I was trying to do better be something worthwhile. I would want to make sure that I wasn't risking my life for the equivalent of scoring a meaningless goal in a meaningless game. There are some things that are worth risking one's life for... and there are a whole lot more things that aren't.

And that's why Aaron Robinson, the older brother of Jarris Robinson, didn't waste his life yesterday. He didn't succeed in saving his brother, but he certainly didn't throw his life away doing something stupid, like so many others do with their lives, he lost his life trying to save his younger brother. He saw his brother in trouble and he did everything he could to help... a worthy effort in a worthy cause. What a great kid.

That he came up short doesn't diminish his effort. There are, unfortunately, no sure things, no way of ensuring that a would-be rescuer is going to be able to pull it off. And that is okay, as all anyone could ever ask of someone risking their life is that they try... so long as they had some chance of pulling it off. Dying while trying to do something possible - even a long shot - is one thing, but dying while trying to do the impossible is, well, a waste. One may not have a great chance of pulling off whatever one was trying to do, but one ought to at least have some chance of pulling it off.

And that is why Barack Obama is (mostly) right and Michelle Malkin (mostly) wrong when he said (and she disagreed) that "3,000 lives of the bravest young Americans (have been) wasted (in Iraq)".

Some of the soldiers and Marines who have died in Iraq died while trying to save their comrades from danger. They may not have all succeeded, and they may not all have had the greatest chance of pulling it off, but I am assuming, based on my perception (hope?) that NCOs and officers would have kept their men from trying to do the impossible, that they all had at least some chance of doing what they were risking their lives to do.... and, because of this, for these brave men and women, their deaths were not a waste... even for those who weren't able to save their comrades.

But that, unfortunately, can't be said for all of those who have died in Iraq. Way too many of those who died in Iraq died, not trying to save a comrade from harm, but died trying to do the impossible... they died trying to fulfill Bush's pipe dream of turning Iraq into a liberal western-values democracy that would inspire the world and make our enemies tremble at the thought of getting us upset. Bush should never have kept our troops in Iraq, as what he has been trying to do falls into the category of 'it just can't be done'... in other words, the impossible. No matter how hard our troops try, they're not going to bring peace to that god-forsaken corner of the world. Way too many Iraqis would rather try to kill one another than to live in peace and share power with those with whom they disagree. That's the way they are... and there's nothing our brave troops can do to change that dynamic.

And because these soldiers and Marines, brave as they were, have died trying to do the impossible, I don't know how else to describe their deaths as but a waste.

Sad. Just sad.

UPDATE: And in a case of strange bedfellows indeed, Radley Balko agrees... and for what appear to be the same reasons.