Friday, April 7, 2017

Thinking Out Loud: Here We Go Again

Thursday night, about an hour or so after filing my latest "On the homefront" submission for this website, my wife turned to me while we were watching The Big Bang Theory and said the United States had launched an air strike against Syria.

As I sit here typing this now, it has been about 15 hours since that news broke. And I've immersed myself in a variety of news sources and a few conversations since that time. (The most important, however, was a quick text conversation with my brother, who is an active duty US Air Force officer currently deployed. He's good. That's good.)

Since waking up Friday morning to take my kids to Andy Parker's Weather Machine pre-visit in downtown Medina, I've been going over how I feel about the air strike, and why I feel that way. In conclusion, I've decided that how I feel means absolutely nothing. How the rest of the world feels, though, means something.

To this point, it would seem that most of the rest of the world stands behind the United States, which has allowed itself to appear weak in the world's eyes for too long of a stretch. Harsh words from any world leader carry zero weight unless backed by decisive action. Otherwise, the leader sounds like the hapless police unit Robin Williams mocked in a hilarious routine in 1987: "Stop! Or...I'll say stop again!"

I spent some of this morning discussing the unilateral action taken in Washington, D.C. with part of Niagara's Watercooler's original "Shenanigans" crew, and we all seemed to agree that "something had to be done" in Syria. None of us were in the war room, nor were any of us privy to the information available to the decision makers. But enough people have seen the carnage in Syria to agree that its "leader" is anything but.

While discussing the action, I found myself flipping between multiple news stations, trying to find the real information hidden among all the opinion that counts as news in today's world. CNN, MSNBC, FoxNews, etc. each received equal attention from me, and ultimately I was able to draw a few conclusions.
  • It was morally proper for the United States to take action in the wake of a chemical attack.
  • It may not have been legal for the United States to take action in the wake of a chemical attack.
  • Russia was evidently warned prior to the attack, but is still upset.
  • Congress wants to have an open debate about the plan moving forward.
  • Debate continues, depending on who is talking, over opening our nation's borders to refugees.

That's a lot to digest.

In coming to those conclusions, I found myself recalling some stories I covered in my journalism career in the past, and I realized that many of the same "gotcha" tactics being used by celebrities, et. al. on Twitter against President Trump are the same types of things I did to prove a point. However, in my defense, the issues I was reporting on paled in comparison to any possible act of world aggression. Yet the tactics were out in full force, with people retweeting Trump's statements from a few years ago advocating against the very same action he greenlit on Thursday.

Well, to those people, and to my former self, I quote Mike Tyson: "Everyone has a plan until they get hit."

Here is the deal: We don't know what it is that we don't know. There are some things that are classified and unreported on for reasons. And if one ever does get to reach a high level at his or her workplace, I'm betting that person's opinions on certain items would be subject to change.

Think about what Congress is asking for when it asks for a debate about a use of military force and a plan moving forward. That debate will be reported on, and the military targets will have time to prepare. Could you imagine if the Normandy Invasion were being planned today, with all of the technology now available? You can't, can you. Because it wouldn't work.

Every reporting instinct in my body believes in the public's "right to know." However, one's right to know what is going on does not necessarily supersede the "need" to know what is going on. If the end result of Thursday's actions lead to Congress authorizing any significant declarations, then yes, we all have a need and a right to know. Those are public servants, elected for a reason. But please, do not expect them to tell you where every ship is going, where every unit is being sent, and where every plane is flying.

Far too many Americans have fallen into the trap of Monday Morning Quarterbacking when it comes to our government. There is second guessing galore, based on what an increasingly untrustworthy media has reported.

I'll repeat: We don't know what it is that we don't know.

But I'm sure we'll know a lot more in the next few days.

For better or worse.

Howie Balaban occasionally tries to slip in a column filled with one long rambling "hot take" when he has the time. He felt like today was one of those times. He doesn't mind if you disagree, but does ask that if you do, you keep your disagreements civil.