The term collateral damage is an icon of our time. Used to describe the unintended death and damage that always arises from the use of military force, collateral damage has become a euphemism for cold brutality. In the fanciful world of Hollywood, it is usually uttered by a villainous military man as a reckless excuse for ruthless excess. In the real world of foreign policy and military action, it is the cold finger of reality pointed at America’s every action. We the people, under the auspices of our government and in the realm of foreign policy, have got ourselves in a terrible pinch.
The United States of America has, since the time of Wilson, acted as the proverbial bull in a china store. We have rarely shown moderation in our foreign policy choices and military adventures, and have added to the discord by switching between wildly different strategies with each new presidential administration. Far from an admonishment, this is an acknowledgement of the activities of an eager young power, ready and willing to flex its muscles for good. The problem has always been that we the people have rarely been able to settle on what “good” really means. The current mess in the Middle East, and the choices and challenges it offers to our nation, stands as the prime example.