This time around, I'm at least happy to report that my time was not ill-spent on the other side of the globe. I've written at least twice about the occasional need to make sure that bad people die, and without saying too much I will say that at least a couple hundred bad people did in fact perish during the months that I was gone.
I also had more time to read On Killing, by Dave Grossman. I didn't finish it in its entirety due to the long working hours over there and my perpetual desire for more sleep, however I did get far enough into it that I feel I should clarify my earlier statement about Lt. Col. Grossman's overall intent in writing the book: I stated that Dave makes the case for violence, when really he's making the case that most men abhor the idea of killing another human being, even in a combat situation where one's life could depend on it. Dave asserts (although I'm still somewhat skeptical) that only ten to fifteen percent of men in frontline combat throughout the history of modern warfare were actually attempting to kill their enemy, while the other eighty-five or so percent were simply posturing or firing over the enemy's head due to their extreme aversion to violence.
I think it's fair and reasonable to say that most people abhor the idea of killing another human being. I for one am very grateful that I've never personally had to make the decision to pull a trigger or push a button to end someone's life. Nevertheless, the work that I did over there gave me some unique insights into the process for ending the lives of bad people who intend to do harm to the US and its allies. On more than one occasion, I did personally pray to God that he would grant us success in taking an evil man's life, and it is with a very somber heart that I still reflect on those prayers, even now knowing the good that was brought about by them.
We live in a fairy tale world here in America, where everyone believes that humans are fundamentally good and that violence is only carried out by a select few sociopaths who failed to properly integrate into our generally peaceful and enlightened society. This assumption could not be further from the truth. Having met humans from all over the world, from diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, I can say with relatively good authority that a person can only be as peaceful and as "good" as their environment allows them to be, unless they are willing to die young. In a society where the economy is strong and law and order is prevalent, it's easy to assume that only bad people would reject honest means of acquiring wealth.
The reason why people in the third world view life as cheap and violence as a sometimes daily necessity is because they literally have no alternative means to acquire the basic necessities of life. In a world where the rule of law is shaky at best and the only means to acquire food is to steal it, most people have no problem picking up a weapon and pointing it at someone else. When Al-Shabaab, ISIS, Al-Qaeda, or any other terrorist organization is offering you two hundred dollars a month to kill infidels, and the average wage for honest work amounts to less than fifty cents a day, it's not difficult to see why people choose violence as a way of life. That doesn't make it excusable, it simply is what it is.
Someone with an incisive intellect might say, "how can you be so blasé about killing others, especially when you've just stated that poverty, and not terror or extremism, is the leading cause of these people's willingness to do evil?" To that person I would respond that poverty might be the initial impetus for people to do extreme things, but I believe that every human being possesses a fundamental understanding of right and wrong, and those who choose to do wrong, regardless of their justifications, must be willing to accept the consequences for the life they've chosen.
Ultimately it doesn't matter why they chose to try to kill my friends and fellow Americans, the simple fact is that I'm going to use all means at my disposal to stop them from doing it. We can argue about American foreign policy until Kingdom come, but all I care about at the moment of conflict is the men and women I serve with, and I will do what it takes to make sure that they come home to see their loved ones.
In the end, we can only thank our merciful God that we were born in a place where we currently don't have to make such decisions on a daily basis. If the time ever came when violence became widespread or visited us personally, I pray first of all that you will be spared from danger. Yet for those of us who bear a certain sense of responsibility for the safety and well-being of others, I pray that you will soberly examine yourself to determine that your motives are pure and peace-loving, and I pray afterwards that God will give you the courage to overcome your enemies by his might and for his glory.