As I watched the first presidential debate between Senators McCain and Obama I sat up awaiting the candidates response to one question posed by moderator Jim Lehrer possibly more than any of the others. “Much has been said about the lessons of Vietnam, what do you see as the lessons of Iraq?”
John McCain’s response centered on the importance for solid strategy that is necessary to win, and to bring troops home with victory and with honor. Obama began his answer stated that over this issue he and McCain have a fundamental difference. He stated that he opposed the war in Iraq six years ago, and why. What neither candidate even hinted at is what troubles me as I look ahead to one of these two men taking the role of commander-in-chief.
As a Christian whose worldview includes a God who created the world, and loves the people of all nations of the world so much that he gave his only son to die to save them, I have wrestled with the war in Iraq. I don’t take lightly the over 4,000 men and women who have given their lives in Iraq to serve in this nation’s armed forces. But neither can I pass over the deaths of Iraqi civilians during the past 6 years, and am stunned as estimates range in the hundreds of thousands. “…what do you see as the lessons of Iraq?”
Can we please debate the titanic shift in foreign policy that moved from a policy of just war, to one accepting and marketing preemptive war? How I would have LOVED to hear either candidate take the opportunity afforded by such a question to at least allude to the idea that maybe, just maybe, there is a moral lesson to have learned from this engagement that might compel him to take our nation on a different path if we can manage to get out of Iraq, as McCain spoke: “with honor.” And if we can so leave Iraq, will this next president feel any moral burden from the hundreds of thousands of lives lost and injured in this current war? Is there any regret, any remorse for either candidate, or are the only lessons learned strategic in nature?
I guess there remains a part of me that deeply wants to sense in the next president of my beloved nation a moral greatness that would take such a question and respond with a depth of wisdom and concern that makes me want to get off my seat and applaud thinking “there’s someone who get’s it!” Instead I sighed in disappointment and sat back in my seat again unimpressed.