Peace on Earth
by Lt. Gen. Clarence E. McKnight, Jr.
It's that time of year again when we Christians - and more than a few people of no religious persuasion - sing longingly of "peace on earth." But to paraphrase Patrick Henry, the people cry peace, peace, but there is no peace. The agents of terror and death are running riot across major swaths of our Earth wreaking unspeakable violence on the innocents who want nothing more than to live in peace, but find it unattainable. At times when I hear those old familiar carols in the stores or on the radio it almost seems as if they are mocking us, daring us to dream once again of a world of peace and justice. After all these years, after all the sacrifices of our ancestors, how can we still be so far away from that elusive goal?
This may seem a curious lament from a man who has spent his life as a warrior. These three stars on my hat offer silent testimony to my ability and dedication in my chosen profession. But it should never suggest to anyone that I actually sought combat or savored the destruction that inevitably attends conflict. As General Dwight D. Eisenhower said long ago in the wake of World War II, military leaders appreciate better than anyone the horrors of war. Our goal has always been, and must always be, to make the world safe for peace.
But that goal seems no closer to realization than it did thousands of years ago. The human race seems predisposed to violence - to extreme visions of religion and politics that will admit no other resolution than armed conflict. When I see news reports of the latest atrocities I am at a loss for words that would express my dismay, outrage, indignation or any other normal reaction that wells up inside a sane person confronted with such evil. What kind of people are these who strap bombs to their chests and detonate them amid crowds of women and children, who drive massive trucks into crowds of holiday shoppers? You cannot blame this phenomenon on God - either the Christian God or Allah. There is nothing in the Bible or the Koran that sanctions such atrocities.
We cannot permit the hounds of hell to corrupt our sensibilities or undermine our faith in the future. At such times as these, we must return to the history books to remind ourselves that the horrors that dominate the news today are not nearly as terrible in degree as those that our ancestors had to deal with only a generation ago. The terror brigades are not slaying millions like the champions of the "isms" did in the 20th century. Those disturbing images of Syria notwithstanding, today's demons are not wreaking havoc and destruction on a scale that would approach the catastrophe of World War II.
Our task is to recognize the threat for what it is - a relative handful of mentally disturbed men bent on destruction for no sensible reason that normal people can possibly understand. They do not have the power to lay waste our cities, corrupt our culture or abort our future. They can disrupt our peace of mind only briefly and only if we permit them to. We dare not let them get away with it. Let us continue to sing peace on earth, and one day in God's good time we or our children will make it a reality.
Lt. Gen. Clarence E. "Mac" McKnight, Jr., (USA-Ret) is the author of "From Pigeons to Tweets: A General Who Led Dramatic Change in Military Communications," published by The History Publishing Company.