Man in the Middle

Man in the Middle by Brian Haig Read Free Book Online Page B

Book: Man in the Middle by Brian Haig Read Free Book Online
Authors: Brian Haig
their deplorable lack of it; our “light on the shining hill” mentality, and their fingers pointed at dark places; our uniquely American sense of can-do compassion, and their desire, no matter how selfless, to exploit it.
    Indeed, America has a grand record of knocking over other nations, even if our history of installing lasting new regimes is a bit checkered. Plus, I suppose it’s hard these days to find a great power willing to kick a little butt for a righteous cause. The Europeans have been there, done that; they have lost their appetite, if not their flair, for foreign empires, intrigues, and escapades that often turn out badly. As for the Russians and Chinese, they lack charitable impulses. They liberate like the mob lends money; the vig sucks. But Americans are a generous if slightly naive people, with a distinct messianic bent and the animating conviction that what works for us must work equally well for others. We are the New World, they are the Old; new is always better. Right?
    But as I said, Washington attracts a lot of these zealots yearning to borrow Uncle Sam’s checkbook and a few legions to rearrange the decor at home. Some are the real deal and their tales of oppression and woe, and their sad optimism, are deeply affecting, even heartbreaking; others are charlatans, schemers, phonies, and scoundrels. Unfortunately they are hard to tell apart, and when you guess wrong, you have a long supply of corpses with a short list of excuses. A happy few, like Shah Pahlavi or Aristide, get their wish; but possibly these are not the best examples.
    It’s interesting. Having Irish heritage, I find all this a little ironic. Rather than enlist others to fight their battles, my ancestors had the literally unsettling habit of migrating in vast, freckled flocks to fight other people’s causes.
    There is, in fact, an almost embarrassingly long tradition of this in the Drummond strain. In 1862, Great-great-grandpa Alfonso fled Ireland, he claimed to escape the potato famine; and a pregnant lady and an aggravated father with a shotgun might have added a little impetus. While still scratching his ass on the dock in New York harbor, he promptly accepted one hundred greenbacks from a prosperous New Yorker to take his place in the Civil War draft. He spent three years as an infantryman in a war he understood nothing about, killing people he felt no animus toward, at the behest of somebody who
deserved
to be there, and decided America truly was the Promised Land.
    Great-grandpa Seamon served nearly a year in the trenches as an infantryman in the War to End All Wars—subsequently renamed the First World War, after that turned confusing. He insisted to his grave that he shipped out without the slightest idea the Germans, whom he had no particular feelings toward, were killing the English, whom he truly detested, and the French, whom he regarded as uppity bastards who would benefit from a Hun boot on their throat. At least Seamon read the newspaper, cover to cover, every morning the rest of his life.
    Grandpa Erasmus waded ashore at Normandy, got lost in the Huertgen Forest, and spent the final months of his war cooling his heels in Stalag Eighteen. Afterward, he swore those were the most relaxing and luxurious years of his life. But maybe you had to know Grandma Mary.
    My own father became a lifer, and made a full-blown career of fighting wars in hilly and jungled places with obscure and unpronounceable names. He battled the commies in Korea and completed nearly two full tours in Vietnam—the former referred to as the Forgotten War, and the latter as the War Everybody Wishes They Could Forget.
    But as I look back on this extended family chronicle, it strikes me that the Drummonds make good infantrymen—at least we survive—though, as they warn about mutual funds, past successes never guarantee future returns.
    Also the wars that five generations of Drummonds have fought have become increasingly less popular, less fashionable,

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