The classic line from one of my favorite video game franchises of all times is, "War, war never changes." It's been their tag line since the 1990s, and it's been in each and every one of their games which clearly and loudly decry war as it takes you into a dystopian nightmare of a post WWIII nuclear apocalypse.
The Fallout series does an amazing job of highlighting the dangers of war, the catastrophes that always follow, and the harsh and bitter reality of attempting to rebuild a civil society on the other side of conflict. If you've never played one of the games, you're missing out, especially if you've also never been to war and seen the cost of the destruction with your own eyes.
This is why one should do whatever they can to avoid a war whenever possible. As I wrote in a poem once, echoing the words and thoughts of countless others: "It is the Soldier who bears the cost of war, not the politician.
Is it the Soldier who comes home to a different family, not the civilian.
It is the Soldier whose mind is forever changed by what they've seen, not the psychiatrist.
It is the Soldier whose body is forever broken, not the doctor.
And it is the Soldier who longs most for peace, because it is the Soldier who pays the price of war."
During my time in Israel, I got to talk to many of the IDF Soldiers. They were kids, like many soldiers are. Most of them were under 20, and they were in their involuntary service period (a 2 year stint that all Israeli Jews are required to do). They weren't much different from those young Soldiers that I stood in formation with when I was the "old man" Soldier in the formation. At a spry 28 years old, I was the "grey beard" among them. They didn't want a war, neither do the IDF Soldiers, yet, they were willing to fight it if needs be. The IDF is the same.
This is what I find so incomprehensible about the recent attack on Israel. In a normal war situation, the Soldier stands in front of the civilian, not behind them. In a normal war situation, a military camp is set up away from populated areas, not on top of apartment buildings. In a normal war, a uniformed military member fights for his country, not against another civilian population. Yet while this was not started as a normal war, it has become one.
And what do we know about war? Well, "War, war never changes."
By launching rockets against Israel, particularly against civilian population centers, Hamas has guaranteed a military conflict. Yet Israel still held back, begged them to stop, told them, essentially, that they'd forgive them if only they would stop. They dropped leaflets over the civilian areas giving them 24 hours notice to vacate because they didn't believe that Hamas would stop, and STILL Hamas continued it's onslaught.
And now? War.
War, which means whatever it takes to win it, and honestly, without blame. It's tragic, it's sad, it's heartbreaking, but it's understandable. A Soldier's duty is always to protect the civilians behind him, and sometimes that means making sure that the enemy is incapable of doing them any harm. That includes smashing infrastructure, destroying weapons, and yes, sometimes simply killing the enemy.
No Soldier wants to do these things, but those are the costs of war.
So whom do I feel sorry for in this conflict? Three distinct groups.
1) I feel sorry for the Palestinian people who just want to live and get along in their lives. They go to work, they come home to their families, and they just want to live. Hamas ensures that this is not possible by standing behind them and forcing them into the conflict. It's the opposite of what a Soldier does, and as such, makes them both cowards and terrorists.
2) I feel sorry for the Israeli civilians. They too just want to live their lives. To go to work, provide for their families, and hug their loved ones at the end of each day.
3) I feel most sorry for the IDF Soldiers who will forever be changed by the horrors of war. They didn't start the fight, in fact, I'm sure they more than anyone else long for peace, yet they, like my US Army brothers and I, are willing to pay that price if it means peace for their people.
Yet, in the end, one cannot escape from war without paying its cost. Shattered buildings, orphaned children, grieving parents, wrecked economies, and untold numbers of forever changed lives.
This is the cost that Israel tried to avoid, yet this is the cost that they will pay to keep their people safe. On the other side, Hamas won't be the ones to pay this cost, their "people" will, and yet Hamas will FORCE them to pay it by attacking Israel and provoking the war, even knowing the cost. How evil do you have to be to force that kind of cost on someone? It just shows that they aren't there to protect anyone, they're out to achieve their political end.
It would be different if they were fighting from military bases. It would be different if they were fighting in non-populated areas and keeping their civilians safe while engaging Israel Heck, even the Taliban did so when it came to military conflict, but they don't, and that tells me everything I need to know about them. They're forcing the cost of war on their own people, and that is despicable on every possible level.
And the damage? The Cost? The toll on the people and their community?
Predictable. Completely Predictable. Because:
"War, war never changes.