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Saturday, October 18 2014 16:30
A poll among us Codgers has revealed a split.  Three of us have emerged as supporters of the Obama’s adminisTration’s attack on ISIS (The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), while two have opposed it. (Two other members were not present.)

Our group members are all aged, and all male.  We also claim academic contacts, although only one of us is still teaching.

Our practice is to gather each Tuesday for lunch. We find it a pleasure to exchange views on movies, sports, politics, religion, aging, and other stimulating subjects.

There’s something about these gatherings that for me enhances growing older. Coming together regularly gives more substance to valuable friendships.

Although we all frequently consult our medical repair teams, we rarely discuss illness or mortality. Those are realities that will have to take care of themselves.

Getting back to our brief informal vote about the U.S. and ISIS, I find myself feeling awkward about my stance. It’s an unusual one for me. I actively protested the Vietnam War and strongly disagreed with the Iraq invasion. And it is painful to hear old friends often disagreeing with me.

My friend James Carroll, for instance, recently wrote a strong column arguing that America could achieve nothing by force of arms. Air warfare in particular, he argued, will surely prove to be inadequate in the present situation.

“A perverse but existentially minor enemy,” he writes, “posing no real threat to North America, had succeeded in unleashing ferociously unintended consequences.”

I agree with Jim that the United States had no business invading Iraq. Our nation created conditions that have allowed years of suffering for the region.

But precisely because of this fiasco, we hold more than a little responsibility for the Iraqi people and others living within their area. It is sobering to think that ISIS troops at one point were almost within striking distance of Baghdad. Its fall would have been a disaster for more than three million people.

Still, ISIS forces did manage to capture Mosul, the country’s second largest city.  And they did take other cities and towns. Those same armed forces also were able for a time to hold Iraq’s largest dam.

To me it is inconceivable that America should allow ISIS to kill children of the Yazidi tribe who had fled to a mountain in Northern Iraq. Nor do I think that we could abandon the large number of Kurds who faced overwhelming odds against the same forces.

Maybe the United States forces that attack from the air will prove insufficient by themselves.  That’s what our generals seem to believe.

Still, the prospect of “boots on the ground” is unpalatable to many Americans.  President Obama himself has tried to avoid this military approach but may have to use it if air attacks fall short.

One can hope for increasing help from Arab nations in the region. It is remarkable that Arab air forces are already in action. And it is even more remarkable that one of the pilots of the Arabic flights is a woman.

I take no satisfaction in advocating warfare of any kind.  But it is unthinkable to remain detached when journalists and aid workers are decapitated, a woman human rights lawyer is tortured and executed, and countless civilians are massacred.

This warfare against ISIS is clearly very different from the American wars I have turned against in the past.  This time the reasons for acting do have a moral justification. 

My codger friends and I have lived through many wars.  We have little taste for violence. If some of us approve the current strategy, it is because we feel that a desperate situation warrants it.