Wednesday, September 28, 2011


one of my favorite books is Why Nations Go to War by John Stoessinger. if you like history, war, or are interested in the effect individuals can have on society, then you should look it up (also if you live in provo and want to read it, i can borrow it to you). as i read the book, the thing that struck me the most is how each major conflict began, escalated, and concluded with the decisions of either one person, or a very few people. i think it is so interesting to contrast the few decision makers with the thousands or millions of lives that are affected by their decisions. it is so easy to analyze the lives of these great (and in some cases terrible) leaders and see what they should have done.

and imagine-- if not for the mistakes of history, life could be how it "shouldabeen" instead of how it is. who wouldn't go back and prevent WWI--that senseless, horribly bloody war, started by the decisions of a few monarchs and emperors . . . who wouldn't prevent the holocaust? who wouldn't change the continual escalation of the war in Vietnam, if only we could know the outcome at the outset?

(On a side note, Stoessinger's analysis of war seems to draw heavily from the Great Man theory, which basically states that history can be explained by analyzing influential individuals and the decisions they make)

on sept 12th, the Onion published a fascinating article regarding the events that have taken place since sept 11th 2001. knowing the Onion's general insensitivity and horrible political incorrectness, i saw the article title and did not read it. later, with my brother's recommendation, i looked it up. The article is a great commentary on what "shouldabeen." without placing blame on any individual or group, the article covers a broad scope of events and situations that have happened, and using 20/20 hindsight vision, talks about what we all wish would have happened.

in 2001, full of patriotism, all of America stood shoulder-to-shoulder in firm resolve against terrorism. we supported war in Iraq, the search for Osama in Afghanistan, and had no problems with the new security measures at the airports. as time went on, we have been decreasingly patriotic and increasingly dissatisfied with the wars, the long search (finally culminated with Osama's death on may 1, 2011), and the difficulties of establishing democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan.

what i like about the onion article is that it describes what we would have predicted when we went to war ten years ago: a swift capture of Osama bin Laden; the establishment of a stable government in Afghanistan; the completion of the Freedom Tower in NYC; and the maturity of the American people, as evidenced by an increase in mutual respect and understanding between the Muslim and Christian communities.

now it is easy (with hindsight as our guide) to say what could have been done differently to achieve those results. unfortunately, we don't have any idea what would have worked. we only have these ideas of what "shouldabeen." as usual, our society looks for a scapegoat. we throw blame around in some frantic attempt to absolve ourselves of responsibility. but blame doesn't make me feel any better about our failures, and it certainly doesn't change the past!

bringing this a little closer to each of us, i suggest that we consider our own goals and dreams. as an individual, a youth during much of the last ten years, i had little understanding of the implications of an event like september 11th. most of us had little influence on the international events of the last ten years. but while we may be unable to alter world history, we should all make an effort in our own lives to avoid personal "shoudabeens."

we have control of our own lives. sometimes we feel like the external forces around us keep us from being in control, and i admit that some things are beyond us. however, in most situations we are in control of our lives. we can choose what we do, and when we do it. we don't get to decide where we start out in life, but with hard work and consistent effort, we can control where we are at and set the course for where we want to go. since we can control our lives, we ought to be able to prevent "shouldabeens." we can set goals and work towards them. we can conquer our fears, establish peace in our lives, complete the goals that we set, and learn to respect and understand others. with these guidelines, we will look back ten years from now without "shouldabeens" on our lips. we will be able to say, like george w. in our fictional onion world, "These last 10 years could have been divisive, turbulent, sad, hopeless, and grotesque. But instead, they were the exact opposite of those things. And for that we must all feel both blessed and truly proud."

The architects of the past 10 years of peace and prosperity drink to their success
from the observation deck of New York's Freedom Tower. (Source:

1 comment:

  1. I wish my blogs were as sophisticated as yours!!! I love them.