THERE is truth in the saying that old soldiers never die, but simply fade away. However, metaphors aside, the fading away part can be difficult these days in the age of smartphones and breaking news. Stuff continue to happen, and news of events as they unfold will spread very quickly. Many of these can be disconcerting and cause alarm.
In the past, soldiers would have restless sleep, worrying if a military convoy had not already been ambushed in Bukit Kayu Hitam, or if there had been contact or firefight with the Communist terrorists in the Korbu jungle.
Nowadays, they may be up all night wondering if war had broken out on the Korean Peninsula — a war that will be disastrous for the whole world.
However, it will be most unlikely that it will occur, at least, not for now. Nobody wants a war, not the United States, not even North Korea. The US cannot afford to add one more to its list, especially with nuclear-armed North Korea.
Kim Jong-un, meanwhile, in focusing on his regime’s survival, would not want to see it end by a war with the US and its allies.
He is adept at brinkmanship, but at the same time, is also “one smart cookie”, to quote US President Donald Trump.
It is terrorism, or more significantly, terrorist attacks in the West that has become very worrying. These are cruel acts against fellow human beings.
Unfortunately, these attacks will continue and almost always, will be blamed on Muslims and Islam. Worse is when some hapless hostage gets killed and the horrible video of it goes viral.
Consequently, everyone will become angry and despondent. Islamophobia will then persist and made even more difficult to eradicate. The misery then worsens with the realisation that nothing much else can be done to alleviate matters, not until the whole global community does more to effectively deal with the problem.
There will always be wars and conflicts. It is the inherent existential story of mankind on planet earth.
But, what makes the blood boil is when these are deliberately started by states or groups for their own selfish ends. Such wars or conflicts are nothing more than about empire, politics, control and the gathering of wealth. It can be brought to descend any time upon any country or nation.
Such a prospect reminds me of the veteran soldiers, of their pledge and commitment to defend King and country. They have all continued to honour these, albeit some in their own peculiar and confounding ways.
Many are loud when voicing their concerns on matters pertaining to the country’s security, the military, and the rakyat’s wellbeing. Some study deeply the issues and problems at hand, and offer constructive views and recommendations.
One issue that is currently troubling them is the use by others of military uniforms, ranks, designations, insignias and ceremonial swords.
They are befuddled and dismayed over the many non-military organisations and agencies being allowed to use all of these. They believe that this has hurt the professional military’s own unique identity, sense of honour and pride, and their morale.
What irks them is that nobody seems to care. Consequently, many have drawn back to fume in silence or to become more offensive. Which is alright, except that some have chosen to attack with a bitter vengeance, sparing nobody, including the leadership, government and caring less of the consequences. This is, of course, not wise.
Theirs is just too extreme, not unlike what came out of many of their former fellow US coursemates, who gave a quick “nuke ‘em” as an answer to eliminate a stubborn enemy.
Nowadays, the answer will certainly also feature the use of the “mother of all bombs”, the GBU-43/B MOAB (Massive Ordnance Air Blast).
Such a solution, of course, can work except that the overkill will also usher in another “mother” in terms of effort and cost of recovering and rebuilding from utter chaos and desolation, not unlike what is seen in Iraq and Afghanistan.
There is trouble for some to ride away happily into the sunset. This has led to some of my fellow old soldiers to resort to unnecessary measures and fire away at whatsoever they think deserving.
Hopefully, they will not forget to temper their actions with good sense and deep responsibility, so that peace and order are preserved on life’s path.
A path that will be treaded by many others trailing very closely behind them.
Lt Jen (Rtd) Datuk Seri Zaini Mohd Said, a former army field commander and recipient of the Seri Pahlawan Gagah Perkasa, M’sia’s highest gallantry award, is well known for his role during the Al-Maunah siege in Sauk, Perak, in July 2000.