How Many Wars Is the US Fighting Today? : Peace Economics, Peace Science and Public Policy
When I was in college the place I worked hired a local guy who had just left the Marines. He was in his mid twenties, I was about to turn nineteen. A pretty cool guy, he had a twin brother who was big in the local Philly music scene. I was floating around taking classes at a community college, and generally burning great big holes in my brain, trying to decide what I should really be doing. This was right after the first Gulf War and I had a few friends who had joined the Marine reserves to earn college money, so one day when we were both working late in the warehouse (working... ha! Sometimes I miss college, most of the time I don't) I asked if he had ever met my friends. His answer was enlightening and instructive, and came in two parts.
The first part was the instructive part. He said that every time a man asks if you know someone in common, through the Marines, school, or church, the answer should always be "not sure I recall anyone by that name", even if you are best friends, even roommates, with the person. His reasoning was simple. Men recall the full names of people they don't like quicker than the names of people they do like. When a man asks you if you know someone by full name, they are testing you. If you remember the name, chances are you don't like that person and you probably won't like this person if he's friends with that person. If you do like the person named, that can either be good or bad, but it's usually bad. When to referring to a person he likes, a man will typically use a place holder like, "I got a buddy..." or a first name only, "My friend Tom..." until he's pretty sure that the two of you will get along. So when meeting a man for the first time; someone's boyfriend, uncle, or favorite cousin; in a large group, organization, or gathering, always develop memory loss when asked a full name. He told me that he learned this from a drill instructor when he was just out of basic, and in his opinion, it was an absolute truism.
The second part of our conversation that night stuck with me as well. During that part of the conversation he told me that he had been on active duty in Nicaragua, Panama, the Philippines, West Africa, the horn of Africa and some island country in the Pacific by Australia. He said that in each location there had been live firefights with "the enemy" and that he himself had participated in one in Africa where a Marine had been killed. I only knew about Panama, because that had been on the news. He said that the US armed forces will go where they are told to go and do what they are told to do and most of the people not in the armed forces will never have any idea what the armed forces have done or where the armed forces have gone. He said I could get some idea by listening for "NATO forces" or "UN Peacekeepers" on the news. He was pretty matter of fact about it, and although he was pretty sure neither of my Marine friends would ever fire their weapon in anger (neither of them ever did), he was a bit bummed that the US never got credit when credit was due.
After the first Gulf War I started to pay a bit more attention to where US troops were going, Somalia, Yugoslavia, central Africa, the Philippines again, but I never could keep up. Then when the "Global War on Terror" started in 2001, I just figured we were at war with everyone. Now that my oldest has volunteered, I will be paying a hell of a lot closer attention than I have been. But even so, I'm sure there's much unreported activity. It's pretty frightening for a dad.