War and Skydiving

Like most couples my wife and I often discuss the issues of the day. During a recent discussion of the war in Iraq I used an analogy that she found particularly effective and that I'd like to expand on here.

Basically, war is a lot like skydiving. They're both things you need to make sure you're ready to do, and it's not a good idea to try to stop either one once you've started.

Based on what I know, the war in Iraq happened either a bit early or way late. I'm one of the many who felt we should have kept on rolling in 1991, in large part to avoid much of what went on in the area over the 12 years. Since we did delay finishing the job, I thought we should get our other operations a bit further along before we started the next project - say, about where they are now. Of course, that's just based on the little bit I know - as an ordinary citizen I'm so far outside the loop on this I can't even see it shining off in the distance. In any case, once we'd started the process the only way out is through. And by starting the process I mean the heavy buildup of forces in the area. Concentrating forces is like packing your parachute and getting on a jump plane. It's not something you do just for the fun of it.

Just as with war, in skydiving people tend to focus only on that first, fast part of the operation. The combat phase of a war is like the free-fall part of a dive. Everything's going really fast, it's all exciting and dangerous, and if it goes on too long, bad things will happen.

'Winning' a war (or any of the other terminations) is like pulling the rip cord. Things suddenly lurch into a new configuration. It's a little disorienting at first and sometimes it doesn't go as smoothly as hoped. A lot of people think that everything's over with now. Try not to stand under them.

Once your parachute is open you've still got a lot to do if you're going to get down safely, and a bit more if you have some place in particular you want to end up. Stop paying attention and bad things can happen. Get bored and try to stop early and really bad things will happen.

Any sane person who goes skydiving picks a height to jump from. The higher your starting point, the longer your jump and the further you can go. Try to jump from too low a height and bad things will happen. With a war you also need to know how big a committment you're making up front, at least to the best of your ability. Not everyone in a war intended to be there, just as not everyone hanging under a parachute got on the aircraft with that in mind.

It's important that you make the proper preparations. If you're planning on a long free fall you need to make sure you take the time to get to a high enough altitude. If you start off high and wind up deploying your parachute a lot earlier than you thought well, you're 'safe' much sooner but it's still going to take a long time to complete your mission and you've got more time to wander away from your planned destination - or for something else to go wrong.

Regardless of what you think about the war in Iraq, please remember that there are a lot of people hanging from this parachute - both here and in Iraq. Why don't we wait until we're on the ground before we try getting out of that uncomfortable harness, eh?

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