Friday, December 02, 2005

A Dash of Perspective

Flashback: Friday, 15 December 1990

Dawn would not come for several more hours. At least, not a natural one.

The F-15E Strike Eagle was flying low and fast, heading towards the East German border. But due to the events of the last few days, it had already crossed the FEBA five minutes ago. Their target was the 70th Guards Tank Division's headquarters, thought to be at Fulda, where they gave the 11th Armored Cav the bum's rush last night. They were in for a rude awakening this morning.

Everybody was.

They were approaching their target, fifty feet above the tree-tops, barely under the speed of sound. They carried a single B61 bomb. The plan was to pull up about two miles short into a 60 degree climb, release the bomb, and then punch up the afterburners, trying to put a hilltop between them and Ground Zero.

"Hey Mac," the pilot called, "I think we ought to modify the plan a little. We want to make sure it takes."

"What do you have in mind, Duke?"

"Just lay it down on target. Low pass, use the drag chute."

"Not much of a chance to get away."

Grim laugh. "You thought we were getting away?"

"No. Not really, no."

"OK, then."

Mac armed the bomb. Duke made some final adjustments, bringing the ship right over the Soviet armor formation. Almost involuntarily, Mac's lips peeled back in a Death's-head grin. "Just about everybody I know is already dead," he thought, "but at least I'm gonna take some of these Red bastards with..."

Light. Impossibly bright, ineffably searing, all-destroying light. Then, nothing.

Welcome to my nightmare. Well, not a current nightmare. That one's about fifteen to twenty years old. I haven't had to worry about that one, lately. I just wanted to share the moment with those of you whose memories don't stretch back that far.

We are at war, true. But our enemy does not command ten thousand atomic weapons aimed at our cities. Our enemy does not command five thousand tanks poised to roll across Europe. Our enemy commands a ratty assortment of box-cutters, homemade bombs, and suicidal idiots.

Guys, in the grand scheme of things, this is nothin'.

It's a walk in the park, by comparison with some of the wars we've seen. Why, the British lost 60,000 in the first day alone at the Somme, in WWI. Two thousand is a grim price, to be sure, but we've achieved more for that price than the Brits did in, say, 24 minutes on that first day. Two years in Iraq doesn't even amount to a pre-game show at the Somme.

Sure, we're in a war, and we're being hurt. But for the love of God, man, let's have a sense of perspective! Are we going to run from a scratch, when we've faced down so much worse without a flinch?

And what kind of threat do we face? Maybe, some kind of terror attack. In one or two places. Well, pardon me for not being impressed. The threat I grew up with, you see, was losing ALL -- count 'em, ALL -- of our major cities. And most of the minor ones, too. The city I grew up in would have went up in a patchwork of fireballs, as far as the eye could see. You'll have to excuse me for not quivering in terror at a few random kabooms here and there.

Boys and girls, we've got their number. We're winning. The great thing is not to lose our nerve. If we keep them from getting us to beat ourselves, we're golden. They're still thrashing, but that doesn't mean we don't have our hand on their throat.

Now, it's time to squeeze.

Withdraw? Sure, when we're done. But not a second before.

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