The TASC List: Threatening provocations

In the final week of December an incident took place in the Persian Gulf that suggests how close this country may be to an all-out war. The aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman was navigating the Strait of Hormuz when an Iranian training mission unleashed rockets that passed within 1,500 yards of the Truman and other coalition vessels.

The situation was not the first, as several skirmishes have occurred in that location, with some involving high-speed Iranian gunboats buzzing like hungry flies around tired cattle. It also reminded us in frightening detail how the Argentines during the Falkland War were able to demolish the warship HMS Sheffield, part of a British task force, with a single Exocet missile streaking eight feet off the water.

The unsettling news strikes close to home since this holiday season all of us have received the expressed hopes and prayers for a peaceful 2016, an end to global hostilities, and the restoration of a less tension-filled world. Along with the blessings of good health and happiness, our families and friends want little more than those peaceful signs.

The rocket incident was a particularly vivid reminder of a topic that I have discussed with some of my fellow classmates from a military college whose sons were also serving in the Gulf during prior conflicts. We often recalled the kind of recurring nightmares we shared from earlier school days. Such things as hearing the final bugle call to assembly and being unable to find a missing dress parade uniform part. Or getting into the final examination room, opening the test booklet, and discovering that there was no question at all that we could begin to answer. Or returning late to barracks and finding no way to avoid the sentry on duty or the Tactical Officer in charge. These were popular, frightening and recurring images from the early years.

But they were all now eclipsed by the vision of an Iranian version of the Exocet skimming across the Strait to impact a U.S. frigate or carrier making its slow speed way through that choke point. As vulnerable to destruction as a hunted wild creature caught in a snare. On board were our sons, and today that would include daughters, confined to vessel spaces that would soon become fiery chambers of death. The fireballs exploded to illuminate the sky. We awoke in the safety of a free country.

A poem was written to capture the moments, and perhaps exorcise them from the storehouse of recurring dreams. It likened the young sailors aboard to the innocent and sensitive children they once were, who loved chocolate, but could never bite the head off of a holiday rabbit or turkey. Now they must face the terror of enemies set to destroy them. To incinerate them. To literally melt them down into an unrecognizable mass.

We titled this Chocolate Warriors. And with this now exorcised nightmare, we hoped to be able to sleep well again, until they returned safely home. The Truman’s passage through harm’s way once more raises the fears of a generation of fathers and a multitude of family members. So as we all hope for peace ahead, let us also remember those around the globe who serve to protect, prevail, and maintain our precious liberties, and pray for their security, their safety, and their continued strength and courage.

Provocation does not need to turn into incineration. We are at the cusp of a New Year, and the awakening of new pathways to peace. As we seek to become a stronger community, and a more powerful nation, we can face the threats and hope that the rockets’ red glare will find us in a brighter place, with restored innocence and secure childhoods, chocolate animals, unsnared wildlife, and quieter nights.

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