"A Warrior King might be just the thing . . ."
Ending January with another political post, here is a piece from today's Toronto Star in which columnist Rosie DiManno considers whether the one who is currently (though probably not for much longer) the third in line to the throne of this constitutional monarchy may have something positive to offer the Commonwealth thanks to his recent military experience in Afghanistan. After decrying "sensitivy-trained war-making," in which soldiers "are taught to tread carefully lest their swagger offend either the host populace or the vigilantly reproachful domestic audience back home," DiManno has this to say:
One hopes and is fairly confident that Prince Harry rejected this lesson in mealy-mouthed quote clips arising from comments made to reporters during a stopover in Cyprus as he headed home following his latest four-month front-line deployment in southern Helmand. A co-pilot gunner on an Apache attack helicopter, Captain Wales, as he’s known in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces — which would be his grandmother — acknowledged killing Taliban insurgents on this mission and was entirely pragmatic about it: "Take a life to save a life, that’s what we revolve around. If there’s bad people who try to do bad stuff to your guys, then we’ll take them out of the game."To read the rest, click here. I am intrigued by DiManno's suggestion that a potential monarch could benefit from the "strong stuff" that serving in combat provides. As one of my Jesuit confreres quipped today as we discussed this article at lunchtime, one wonders whether DiManno could conceivably make a similar argument about a potential Prime Minister - who, of course, has much more to say about the use of force than any modern monarch does.
Innocuous content, really, of potential grievance only to the most sententious big-girl blouses, except there’s never any shortage of those. Hence Harry has been chastised in various quarters — even by an academic in the op-ed pages of the Toronto Star last weekend — for his “casual, emotional detachment’’ in speaking about killing the Taliban. Perhaps the third in line to the British throne should touchy-feely sniffle for the combatants he took off the grid in a country where nearly 440 of his compatriots have been killed since 2001. Further, there is a particular strand of anti-war sentiment that keenly resents Harry as the Happy Warrior Prince, the dimwit face — and a handsome face — of neo-imperial adventure in Central Asia.
I look at Harry and see a 28-year-old man who clearly loves soldiering, who’s made something useful of his royally cosseted life, and who is arguably better suited to rule the realm some day than his older brother, because strong stuff will be required to hold together both monarchy and Commonwealth. A Warrior King might be just the thing to put some lead back in the sovereign pencil.
Turning to the not-unrelated American context, it is worth noting that the military service (or lack of it) of potential commanders-in-chief still becomes a topic of political discussion during every presidential election season, even though it has been twenty years since the United States has had a president who served in combat. Some think that the view that possible presidents should have served in the armed forces is motivated by nothing more than flag-waving patriotism, but in fact there is a deep and genuine moral concern embedded here: a leader who has experienced the harsh reality of war firsthand may reflect on the implications of military action differently than one for whom the effects of drone warfare and the like are mere abstractions. As President Dwight D. Eisenhower once put it, "I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity." In a world as dangerous and divided as ours, could we not benefit from the particular perspective that only a combat veteran can bring? AMDG.