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Sunday
Feb262012

Commentary

Gearing Up for Battle

 

 In a recent New York Times article, Scott Shane discussed the length and cost of the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, concluding that, “The outcomes seem disappointing and uncertain.” Then he raised the question, “So why is there already a new whiff of gunpowder in the air?” A Pew Research Center poll in February found that 58% of Americans favored the use of military force to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

 

Shane’s article goes on to examine the inconclusive pronouncements of the IAEA regarding whether Iran’s nuclear ambitions are military, the similarly tentative stance taken by the American Director of National Intelligence, the cautionary words of both Barack Obama and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the provocative words and behavior of Israel and the competition among the Republican Presidential candidates to be the toughest opponent of Iran and the friendliest toward Israel. His analysis conveys the current situation accurately, but it fails to explain the readiness of so many Americans to re-enter the world of international military conflict so soon after such dissatisfying battlegrounds as Iraq and Afghanistan.

 

As an observer of the American scene, the answer to Shane’s question is obvious to me: America all too easily and too often celebrates war and its warriors. President Obama welcomed the last troops home from Iraq with the words, “your service belongs to the ages; it was an extraordinary achievement." Come on. We outgunned a third-rate army and fought insurgents to a standoff. No sporting event in America begins without homage to and often a prayer for the soldiers fighting the wars overseas. Curiously, we routinely invoke the name of a man who advised us to love our enemies and turn the other cheek, when we pray at these events. Many Americans regard our President’s, if not our nation’s, finest hour as the one in which a Navy Seal assault team shot and killed an unarmed man. Huh?

 

We are faced with the dilemma that, while most Americans now agree that neither the Iraq nor the Afghanistan war was vital to national security, the men who fought in those wars voluntarily risked or gave their lives out of a sincere belief that they were protecting all of us here at home. We want to honor and thank these people, these soldiers, for their service.  But in the process we make several mistakes, which, if left uncorrected, will lead us into yet another unnecessary and fruitless conflict.

 

We do not “owe our freedom” to these soldiers. Our freedom was never in jeopardy, at least not from Saddam Hussein or the Taliban. Each soldier’s personal decision to risk his or her own life in order to protect ours was both brave and noble; his or her engagement in warfare to carry out that decision was not.

 

It is not always patriotic to fight a war. It may be, but it may not be if the war is costly and unnecessary. Military actions by our own armed forces do not always (perhaps not even usually) promote freedom. As often as not they protect American interests - either economic, strategic or political - often at the expense of the freedom of those people who live in the countries in which we fight (e.g. Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan).

 

The American Armed forces are not invincible, despite claims that they are “the most powerful fighting force in the history of the world.” We lost in Vietnam, won in Grenada, sort of won in Iraq and fought to a draw in Afghanistan. All of our opponents have been second-rate or less powers. No American politician or media personality is going to admit this. They all will continue to compete at who can beat the drum for military glory the loudest, uniformly equating their support of our troops with love of country. And the common man will not question them.

 

We cannot promote irrationality when it comes to celebrating war and expect to make rational decisions about going to war. This is why we will go to war, unnecessarily, again.

The Editor

 

 

 

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