Soleimani got what he needed, which was a sudden exit into the land of 70 virgins, courtesy of the United States. Without question, he was a really bad guy, responsible for the deaths of many Americans, Iranians and Iraqis. But as someone once said, just because you can do something, doesn’t mean that you should do it. Personally, I could fly to Vegas to gamble away all of my earthly treasures in a short time. However, just because I can do it, doesn’t mean that I should do it.
Let’s get in Mr. Peabody’s Way Back machine and visit with our old friend the Greek King Pyrrhus. Pyrrhus was born about 319 B.C.E. His daddy was king of Epirus. Unfortunately for child Pyrrhus, there was a squabble for the throne. His dad lost his job to the King of Macedon. Once Pyrrhus grew up, he got involved in a fight for the remains of Alexander the Great’s empire. By 297, Pyrrhus had taken over his old homeplace and surrounding territories. In 280 B.C.E., Pyrrhus got into a battle with the new kids on the block, the Romans. The Romans were feeling their oats, and Macedon looked like a pretty nice place to hang their helmets.
Pyrrhus wasn’t about to give up his throne without a fight. He took 20 war elephants and about 3,000 troops for a showdown with the Romans. Back then, war elephants were the technological equivalent of drones. A major ruckus ensued between the Greeks and the Romans. Much to the Romans’ surprise, Pyrrhus whipped them at the battle of Asculum.
Although Pyrrhus won the battle, he lost most of his generals, officers and foot soldiers. The Romans lost more men than Pyrrhus, but they had the advantage that replacement soldiers were anxious to join the Roman legions. Unfortunately for Pyrrhus, the well was dry for replacement soldiers for the Greeks. One of Pyrrhus’ surviving officers congratulated Pyrrhus on winning the battle. Pyrrhus, knowing that his army was mostly kaput, famously replied according to legend: “If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined.”
This gave history the colorful term “Pyrrhic victory.” According to the wizards at Wikipedia, a Pyrrhic victory leaves “such a devastating toll on the victor that it is tantamount to defeat. Someone who wins a Pyrrhic victory has taken a heavy toll that negates any true sense of achievement or damages long-term progress.”
What does Pyrrhus have to do with Soleimani’s sudden and gooey death? Maybe nothing, This column is written 10 days before it appears to stain world literature yet again. Maybe the Iranians quietly took it on the chin, which seems unlikely. Or maybe the Iranians have done all sorts of terrible things and we have a brand-new 20-year shooting war now with the Iranians.
We sent Soleimani to his well-deserved reward, but at what cost in American lives? Living in Fayetteville, war is not some abstraction. Our friends and neighbors are sent into harm’s way when the nation calls. We take war very seriously because we understand its real cost. If it can be avoided, it should be.
I get the feeling that our own Dear Leader is the first Zen President. He lives only in the present. The past is of no interest to him. The future doesn’t exist. The only thing that exists is the immediate now. Soleimani is dead. What happens next is not a factor. Pyrrhus would understand and not be pleased with celebrating Soleimani’s death as such a victory. To quote many football coaches, “When you score a touchdown, don’t showboat, act like you have been there before.”
However, not to leave on a sour note, let us consider what is happening to pigeons in Las Vegas. According to The Washington Post, someone is gluing brightly colored miniature cowboy hats on pigeons. The local pigeon rescue group, an excellent bunch called Lofty Hopes, is trying to help unhat the pigeons. Mariah Hillman, the group’s founder, has been passing out business cards telling people to feed the pigeons and give Mariah a call to come catch the pigeons so she can get their tiny hats off. Unsurprisingly, the hat glue is not good for the pigeons. So far, Mariah has caught and rehabbed two pigeons, Chuck Norris who is wearing a red cowboy hat and Coolamity James wearing a pink lady-like cowboy hat. Suspicion for hatting the pigeons has pointed to someone attending the National Finals Rodeo. The Rodeo has denied any involvement in hatting the pigeons. Gluing a hat to a pigeon is something that a human can do. Which takes us back to the original thesis of this column. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean that you should do it.
For the 82ndAirborne Division, as Sgt. Phil Esterhaus used to say on Hill Street Blues: “Let’s be careful out there.” Come home safely. We love you.