Not long ago, I ran across the translation of a treatise on war written about 2,500 years ago. Permit me to paraphrase. An ancient Chinese emperor contemplating war summoned his counselors and asked what he could do to guarantee the support and obedience of his subjects in the conduct of that war. According to tradition, the wise Master Sun replied, “To be confident in the support and obedience of your subjects, be thou trustworthy as a matter of course.”
President Obama and the Congress of the United States are about to ask the American people to throw their support into another war. They will ask us to commit the resources of our country, resources that might otherwise be used for the good of our citizens at home and for the good of others around the world. They will ask us to be co-participants in the plans and actions of unscrupulous men whose endeavors will, without question, lead to the spilling of the blood of innocent women and children. That’s what war is and always has been.
They will ask us to approve this destruction, bloodshed and suffering because we believe some good will come of it. They will ask us to harden our hearts to those who cry out for peace because, they will tell us, participation in this conflict is justified. They will recite, as a mantra, we are a peace-loving nation.
The president and Congress will present us with passionate arguments intended to illustrate why involvement in this war is the right thing for a moral nation. They will muster an array of seemingly irrefutable facts and figures calculated to overwhelm any resistance that might be advanced in opposition to our involvement in another brutal conflict in the Middle East. Some supporters of war will label opponents as unpatriotic and insensitive to the plight of children. They will insist that we have much to gain morally, ethically, geopolitically and economically if we’ll get over our hesitations and get into this thing.
Before we, the American people, rubber-stamp this action, before we shout “amen” to the call for war, I have a proposal. Let’s require our political leaders to follow a wise and ancient model. Let’s require them to prove they are trustworthy.
Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen of the Congress, before you get into another war, in our name, tell us why we should trust you.
Tell us why we should trust your experience. Show us how you have skillfully navigated the bloody waters of warfare in the past and brought this nation safely to the peaceful destination you promised.
Tell us why we should trust your judgment. Show us how you have maneuvered through and around challenging international obstacles in ways that cause respect among our enemies, confidence among our allies and pride among our citizens.
Tell us why we should trust your motives. Show us how you have made sacrifices for the good of us all. Show us how you have led by example. Show us that your behavior is the strongest argument to prove you have the best interests of the people — all the people — and the country at heart.
Tell us why we should trust your skills. Show us how you have been good stewards of the resources entrusted to you. Show us how you have competently handled the responsibilities of the job you were hired to do. Show us that you are capable of managing large complex tasks without waste, graft and stupidity.
Tell us why we should trust your word. Remind us of those instances where you have promised us that you would accomplish great things, furnish real benefits, carry out ambitious projects and then delivered on those promises.
Please spare us the double talk, the hot air, the vain self-congratulation, the lies. Be straight with us this time. The American people want to do the right thing. They want their leaders to be on the side of justice, peace and rationality. They want to have confidence in the truthfulness, morality, competence and wisdom of their leaders.
We want to know that you are not making a mockery of our trust. We want to know that you are not chuckling behind closed doors and saying among yourselves, “How many times will they fall for it? How many times will they play Charlie Brown to our Lucy? How many times will they believe us when we promise they can trust us this time?”
The American people have been misled, betrayed and lied to in matters of warfare before. Let’s demand trustworthiness before we go down that path again. I’m Hink and I’ll see ya.
MIKE HINKLE is a retired attorney and Edmond resident.