Coming full circle in the Middle East, go effective or not at all…

November 17, 2015

Should I say I have come full circle or should I say I am going around in circles? I am referring to my position or feelings on what the USA should do in the Middle East or more specifically in the war on terror.

While in general I would prefer we do not meddle in the affairs of other nations, at least not any more than we have to, when they can’t keep their own affairs straight and it impacts us, well then…

I mean because of the instability in the Middle East the terrorist groups formed. The terrorist groups were not only against the existing governments but outside forces they felt caused or at least they could blame for the problems in their respective nations. So they struck out against those other nations, to include the U.S., with the most notable attack on 9/11.

And now to make matters worse, things are so bad in this war-torn part of the world, the Middle East, Syria in particular at this time, that millions of refugees have flooded Europe and and want to enter the US. too. But along with the flood of the desperate, it appears some terrorists entered, using the wave of humanity for cover. Certainly that had to be expected. And the wave of millions of refugees is taxing the resources of the people whose nations they wind up in.

Well, as to the argument that the West, the U.S. in particular, has been the major factor in causing the instability, it does have some truth to it, but that argument can only go so far. I mean international trade is what makes the world go around. From the beginning this nation (the U.S.) has depended upon trade. Our founding fathers I believe wanted us to mind our own business but we soon found out that we had to get involved somewhat overseas just to protect our trade. We sent the Marines after the Barbary Coast pirates of North Africa in the early part of the 19th Century.

And I’m not going to go further and try to cite a bunch of U.S. history, but the facts of life are that in this modern world (and even in the old) we are interdependent upon each other. But when you have nations that are wracked by instability, often or always due to an unfair distribution of resources, the whole world economic system and world security itself is threatened.

And now it appears that the terrorist group ISIS has demonstrated a capability and willingness to commit savage mass murders against Western targets, going after France primarily at the moment, but even threatening to strike Washington D.C. (and I suppose other parts of America too). The group is suspected to have brought down a Russian jet liner, as well.

So, what to do.

Well I certainly don’t know, but I doubt pin prick attacks the U.S. has carried out so far are effective enough. At the same time, it is a sad fact that a horrendous attack like that in Paris last week where more than a 100 people were slaughtered and as many or more injured could conceivably happen no matter how hard we attacked the terrorists because when you have people crazy enough to commit suicide and you have freedom of movement in a free society it can and apparently will happen. France was actually on stepped-up security due to attacks earlier in the year.

However, I am not one to simply be content with the throwing up of hands and saying “well there is nothing we can do”.

It seems apparent that we must do something. And while I would never ever, ever, want to see Donald Trump as president or in any position of public authority, even he gets things right or close to it sometimes:

He was saying something about going after the oil fields that the terrorists use to help fund their activities. He also questioned why the French (and I suppose the U.S. too) waits until after the latest terrorist strike to go after ISIS training camps.

Well I do not know who has done what and when, but if we have any military activity at all against ISIS one has to wonder why we might be holding back. One person suggested to me it may be because we are concerned about civilian casualties, so-called collateral damage.

While that always has to be a top concern in civilized society, war by definition is not civilized. Remember? We fire-bombed Tokyo and Dresden and dropped a couple of nukes on Japan, and of course engaged in collateral damage all over the place as well.

And that general way back when said: “war is hell”. But having to live under the threat of terrorism is not all that nice either. And the real nightmare is that ISIS or anyone else might get a hold of some of the stray nuclear bomb material that is said to have been floating around since the fall of the Soviet empire. Not only would the detonation of so-called dirty nukes inflict immediate but possibly limited physical damage, it would likely set off a panic that would be nearly impossible to control.

Maybe we can’t just send in the troops like it was D-Day. And remember, we didn’t get to D-Day for four years.

And sending in the troops like we did in Vietnam and Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, did not get us the result we intended.

Even so, we may need to send in the troops in some form and namby-pamby only gets troops killed. It would be wiser to skip the whole thing than to fight with one hand tied behind our backs.

I would think we have to identify where the terrorists hang out and take the fight to them. In some instances it might take no more than drones or fighter jets, in some instances much more. And again, we can’t be afraid to do much more.

We also need to go after their sources of supply – and whoops, we will likely find that is it our own arms suppliers (money is money) – and their source of finance (whoops again to some extent probably). But one source I have read is Middle East oil fields, either through direct control or theft.

So we can’t secure the oil fields or secure shipments? What’s up with that?

Now if we go over there big time we are going to hurt some peoples’ feelings. Sorry, but we don’t need to apologize for fighting to protect ourselves.

Sadly, I am not sure the American electorate as a whole is willing to sacrifice – not yet anyway – but our survival may well depend upon it.

(Implicit in all of this is the help of our allies, and maybe even some new allies, but we can’t depend upon them and we must take a leadership role, or what kind of superpower are we?)

In summary, I am not saying go to all-out war, WW-II style. I mean I don’t have the information or the expertise. But it seems the powers that be think we have to use military action. But I think it needs to be done on a larger scale to be effective and both the government and the people need to be prepared to fight to win.

The French president has already proclaimed war.

Oh, and why is it we went to war in the Middle East in the first place because oil was so important and then we failed to secure the oil? And please don’t give me that poppycock that oil had nothing, or little to do with it – I do know better than that.


And I always forget something. News to me, but today I heard that our own Silicon Valley markets encryption devices that terrorists are using, but the devices are so good that once sold even the producers can’t decode them. First Amendment and other rights notwithstanding, especially in a national security/war situation, we are going to have to get some cooperation from the high-tech people. Their own way of life depends upon it just as much as ours does.

We have no choice but to fight the war on terror, tactics the question

February 14, 2015

In a recent blog post I speculated on whether George W. Bush might have had the right idea after all when he declared a war on terror, although I questioned his tactics.

But now with the attacks on free speech in the West by ISIS on Western soil, first France, and now Denmark, I would say it does not matter. Whether we like it or not we are in a global war on terror unless we want to submit to the demands of ISIS and/or other such terror groups.

The only question is tactics.

I don’t have an answer — and really who does?

I have no doubt that ISIS has already attained some form of victory. I even heard a European journalist admit he thinks twice before making comments about Islam or I presume ISIS itself.

There is a question as to whether ISIS and other such groups really represent any form of the religion of Islam or whether they just use the religion as a shield, or bludgeon as the case may be. But whatever, you can’t talk about one without the other.

Moslems in the West it seems to me ought to make it more plain where they stand. It is an inconvenience for them but what about the rest of us who want to protect our way of life? Or our life period.

The next president of the United States should not be full of bluster, but he or she must make it plain nonetheless that we in the West will do what is necessary to protect our free and democratic society.

Drawing lines in the sand and then stepping back won’t do. Don’t threaten, just do.





France takes on the terrorists…

January 18, 2013

So, way to go France!

French soldiers are going after Islamic extremists in the west African nation of Mali, which was once part of the French colonial holdings on the African continent.

And meanwhile there is an ongoing hostage situation, or it may be over, and several hostages dead, in Algeria, another former French colony. Islamic extremists threaten gas fields there heretofore thought to be out of the way of terrorist threats. The Algerian military was handling that situation (and it seems to have gone badly as of this writing).

You don’t usually think of France as a leading military power, especially when you consider that nation’s pathetic early fall in World War II. Of course in the day it was a reigning power in Europe.

And the notion of the French Foreign Legion has always intrigued me. It’s the stuff of romance and adventure — I never wanted to join, though. The Foreign Legion is open to recruits from all over the world but is run by French officers. Men looking for adventure or for an escape from life situations are part of the legend of the legion. The legion has units going into Mali.

France, you will recall, took the lead in helping the insurgency against Ghadafi in Libya .

But go get ‘em France! I just read the Mali invasion has wide support among the French populace and in Mali.

France is having a kind of identity crisis within what with the Islamification of many aspects of its culture due to heavy immigration.

I’m part French and feel some identity with its people.

While I think George W. Bush and the neocons took the wrong approach in the war on terror, it seems clear that there is an ongoing effort by Islamic militants to grab control wherever they can. I also think that many or most of these militants are no more than thugs using religion and cultural identity as a cover and a tool.

The trick is going to be supporting people’s who want to be free in their struggle against these thugs without being so heavy handed that we (the west) fall into the trap of looking to be the bad guys and end up creating more recruits for the extremists.

And we cannot go into these places with the notion that we have no choice but to wreck countries in order to save them (you will recall Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan).

Should the U.S. get involved in the flare-ups in Africa? We may have to. But it will require a very careful, clear-headed approach and commitment. That is what we so often seem to lack — commitment.

It’s an endless war on ‘terrr’ after all — Bush was right, apparently…

December 31, 2009
So maybe the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the strikes in Pakistan and Yemen and the efforts to thwart terrorists here at home cannot be separated. Maybe this all is just a continuation of George W. Bush’s War on Terror, as war that would know no boundaries and could go on indefinitely, as his administration proclaimed in its time.
The Congress signed on with the acquiescence of the electorate. A new president was elected from the other party and although he condemned the decision to go to war in Iraq — said he was against it from the start, except we should have gone all the way in Afghanistan (not Iraq) with more force and not let up.
I don’t keep close track of polls, but the ones I hear about in the news reports indicate that the public has grown weary with the war in Iraq and I think Afghanistan too. We do not seem to be making much progress in Afghanistan and Iraq is left as a questionable stalemate of sorts — we seem to have stabilized things there to a degree.

But of course the whole premise for going to war in the first place was that we were going after terrorists who struck us in the 9/11 attacks, although I think Bush W. cleverly morphed all that into a war on “TERRRR”, as he pronounced it. Indeed he had been predisposed to go into Iraq before 9/11, for various reasons, to include the fact (I guess it’s fact) that Sadam Hussein had plotted to kill his daddy (the same daddy who at one time supported Hussein), Hussein’s continued violations of the no-fly zone, and maybe most important of all the fact he would not cooperate with weapons inspections — I think that last point has been lost — not that I would be making a case retroactively for going into Iraq. And those inspections were under the auspices of the UN, an organization that does the U.S. little good most of the time, but which is a convenient flag to hide behind when we want to do something. Strangely, the UN did not decide to go into Iraq, but Bush took it upon himself to unilaterally make that decision.

And I should have mentioned the neo conservative doctrine of gaining hegemony in the Middle East by doing such things as going into Iraq, as outlined in their progress for a new century paper, or whatever it was called. Bush W. apparently followed that , especially the part that flat out said we needed another Pearl Harbor to wake up the public. Bush got just that with 9/11.

I hate to rehash the history as a kind of backgrounder for this post, but I guess I have to remind the casual reader that virtually all of the 9/11 terrorists were Saudi Arabians (Saudi Arabia is supposed to be our ally), and they staged their attack from Afghanistan with the protection of the Taliban who ran that nation at the time (and still do run most of it).

As far as I have read so far, Iraq had no direct and maybe no indirect role in 9/11, but I will bet you that 99 percent of the blind supporters of Bush’s War on TERRR wholeheartedly believe that the attack came from Iraq.

Bush of course did send troops into Afghanistan first and for a awhile it seemed as if the U.S. was making progress, but inexplicablyy just as reports indicate we were closing in on Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind of 9/11, we pulled back and eventually put a much stronger effort into the routing out of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and an occupation of the country and a strong dose of nation building — all with questionable results.

And now we are mired deep in the morass of Afghanistan, a place where outside invaders over the centuries, to include the British, and more recently the Soviets, met their doom.

I heard an Afghanistan expert on the radio the other day. What I got out of it is that the whole thing is hopeless and that if policy makers would just read their history a little better they might make wiser decisions.

Lyndon Johnson inherited Vietnam. His own taped phone conversations prove that he knew it was hopeless from the git go, but he did not want to be blamed for losing Vietnam — even though he hated to stay. So he poured more troops in and the casualties mounted until the American public had had enough with a lost cause, one that was questionable from the beginning.

Afghanistan is not Vietnam. While Vietnam (or the old North Vietnam) never attacked us on our soil, and may not have even fired on those patrol boats in the Gulf of Tonkin ( and why would you sacrifice thousands of American lives for shooting at patrol boats in the first place? ), we were attacked on 9/11 by terrorists who had staged in Afghanistan, and that nation refused to hand over Osama Bin Laden and cohorts.

Nonetheless, President Barack Obama inherited Afghanistan and has indicated he thinks we could have already had victory (not sure what that is) if Bush had not pulled back and took his eye off the ball.

Obama may truly believe that Afghanistan is a necessary fight, but he also knows what would happen if he were to withdraw — the political implications of what would be seen as surrender would doom his presidency.

And I myself realize too that if we are fighting Al Qaeda or whatever you want to call the terrorist enemies (who by the way may not all be allied), the fight can know no boundaries.

We already have accepted that we have to strike in Pakistan, to where Osama Bin Laden et al have thought to withdrawn. And now there is a clamor from the lets you and him fight crowd to go into Yemen and rout out terrorists (we are already reportedly unofficially striking there).

On top of all this we have a guy get on an airliner at Detroit even though he was on some terrorist list homeland security has (fat lot of good that does) and darn near blows it up.

And Al Qaeda (or whoever) brainwashed or at least successfully recruited an American Army major who shot up army personnel at Ft. Hood in Texas.

I begrudgingly agree to some extent that we are in a worldwide war against terror as Bush W. outlined, but I fear we will spread ourselves too thin and expend too much treasure in the process.

You would almost think the terrorists have us where they want us.

If we suffered Vietnam-style casualty rates the war would be over, won or not, and war and oil usually do mix…

June 2, 2009

War has become so blase that the fact that four more U.S. troops were killed in Afghanistan did not make any headlines.

ADD 1: If you really wanted to gauge public opinion of the war on terror, just imagine what it might be if we had casualties on the scale of the Vietnam War. During a two-week period in April  in Vietnam in 1968 the U.S. suffered 752 combat deaths. In Iraq in 2007 the U.S. had 334 deaths over a four-month period, and that was considered alarming. In Vietnam that high of a casualty rate with no end in sight turned public opinion steadfastly against the war. I hate to be cynical, but the public seems to be able to put up with lower casualty numbers, regardless of the justification or practicability of a war. I realized that the Democratic party victories in the congressional elections of 2006 and the presidential election of 2008 were seen as a kind of referendum that was negative on our war policy, but I notice that the war on terror continues, seemingly much as it would have under Bush/Cheney if they could have continued or even John McCain (of course the referendum was more related to the economy during the presidential election and Obama did admit in his campaign that he would push harder in Afghanistan). If the public mood was as anti-war as it became in the early 70s, we would be done with the whole thing, right or wrong.

And back to where I began with this blog:

I first read the fact that there had been four more combat deaths in Afghanistan while reading my morning newspaper on Tuesday in the ninth paragraph (on the jump page) down in a somewhat oblique reference in a story. Admittedly, the paper long ago gave up trying to be the latest in news on the national and world front. But you would think the death of four U.S. service personnel would rate a little higher priority. But maybe that was kind of the point of the story. It was something about the military using the latest communication tool for those with short attention spans, Twitter.

News that U.S. and Afghan forces had killed four “militants”  (I guess that’s what we call the enemy) was put out via Twitter by the military, according to the story, as a way to reach an audience that gets its news outside the traditional sources.

Let’s cut through the bull here – the military is using news selectively for propaganda to reach young people to ra ra ra the war (and I realize morale is important, but so is honest and complete info). Conveniently, as the story indicates, the fact the four service people were killed was not tweeted. Supposedly, according to the story, that was because, well, I did not get this part, something about that all has to go through NATO command.

But using that story and then searching the internet, I finally gathered that there had been four more U.S. combat deaths.

Now in traditional wars, four deaths in one day is not really big news unless you might turn it around and say that ONLY four were killed. Back in the old-time wars thousands were killed in a day or even less than a day. Then we went to hundreds, and today in our wars we go to things like one, none, seven, four, that kind of thing. But it all adds up and it seems to go on forever.

(The latest figures I got off of Wikipedia show there have been at least 4,296 U.S. combat deaths in the Iraq war since 2003, and 677 in Afghanistan since 2001 (I don’t think this includes the latest deaths, and of course there are deaths from other nations’ forces and the of Iraqis themselves and thousands wounded.)

And maybe too close attention to the negative gets in the way of the mission. Maybe that is why we lost the Vietnam War. We concentrated on our losses and not our wins – that often seems to be the new history (revisionist?) of the whole thing I see these days. I just watched an Vietnam War documentary and that’s partly why I’m blogging this today. But I am not a convert yet. I still think Vietnam was a deadly mistake for us and also a shame because we sacrificed so many without having a clear cut purpose or resolve. I hope we are not replaying history in another part of the world now.

No we probably should not have screaming headlines that say FOUR KILLED IN AFGHANISTAN. But at the same time we should not get so numb or jaded about the war effort that we just put it all out of our mind.

The fact that the Military would see fit to brag that we killed four enemy, but leave out that we lost four of our own reminds me why we need independent reporting so we can get the full picture.

And I go back and forth here because I realize that just as the government and military can be biased and misleading in its reporting, so can so-called independent sources.

I have to admit that the tone of the reporting on television and the newspapers and news magazines for the most part during most of the Vietnam War seemed negative against the war. We were told that we seemed to be meddling in the affairs of a nation that had a corrupt government and had a civil war going on (what would have we thought if England, who leaned toward the confederacy in its feelings, had interfered in our own Civil War?). But the civil war in Vietnam was being aided and abetted by the Soviet Union and to a lesser extent communist China. But the idea of North and South Vietnam was basically an artificial one – after all they were all Vietnamese and it was a Cold War construct that created a North and South, just like the two Koreas. We were told that there were no front lines and that despite our overwhelming fire power (most of the time), the enemy seemed to be inexhaustible, anywhere and everwhere, and could take heavy losses and come back forever. We were also told our own government would not let our forces go all the way (and I guess that was because the public had been convinced that wars could be controlled, as if run by a rheostat device or a light dimmer – escalate, de-escalate, which begs the question, why not just turn them off then?).

Probably our biggest mistake in Vietnam was not to do everything we could to disrupt the supply lines and go to the source of supply in North Vietnam. We finally did do some of that late in the war, but by that time support at home for the war was depleted. I actually have to credit Richard Nixon for some of his actions – but it was too late and not carried far enough, because as I mentioned, public support was gone. I think he must have thought that somehow we could stave off the enemy a little longer and that South Vietnamese forces would fight on their own and in the meantime we could get out and haver “peace with honor” (Nixon’s own words)). But without our continued involvement and with the fact that their government was corrupt, there was no hope.

Okay, so much history. Maybe only useful to history buffs. But could we apply this to today? Do we really know what we are trying to do in Iraq and Afghanistan? Personally, as much as I follow current events, I keep asking that question.

(In the beginning – the first Gulf War, it was all about oil, and if we are honest, even though we have 9/11 to consider, doesn’t oil still become the bottom line here? And if does, does that make it wrong? Why do we not want to admit it?  And see Add 2 at the end of this blog.)

George W’s (and dark Dick Cheney’s) concept seemed to be of an all-encompassing never-ending war against not a particular force or group or nation, but a concept (U.S. vs. Concept) called “terror,” or as W pronounced in “Terrr”.

President Obama seems to be trying to extricate us from Iraq (ever so carefully), but has vowed to fight on in Afghanistan. He would have never have got the support of the electorate if he had simply just run as an updated version of George McGovern and Vietnam. Americans were nearly always divided on Vietnam and seem to be on this one, but all out surrender is not to our liking (even if we did essentially quit Vietnam).

But even if we were able to subdue those who seem to support terror against us in Afghanistan, who is to say the forces of terror will not pop up somewhere else?

Bottom line here:

The reason we fought in Vietnam was that we had a well entrenched Cold War policy of containment of communism and along with that we followed the “domino theory” that said if one country falls, they all will. China fell, South Korea would have if not for our defense of it, and no one wanted to be blamed for losing South Vietnam (even though in the end we did lose it).

With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight we find all these years later that communism, although a terrible form of government as practiced, with its totalitarianism and its police state mentality, crumbled seemingly by itself from its inefficiencies and failure to catch the imagination of the people it subdued. Seems given a chance most of them want capitalism and the goodies and freedom that come with it – although there is some indication that some former communist citizens miss the social safety net – in Russia, the former East Germany, as examples. But the last major power to still have communism, China, seems to be evolving into a capitalist society, with only the old-line government officials holding out.

Had we known all this (and we couldn’t have), we could have avoided conflict and just waited it out, perhaps. Of course the fact that the Soviet Union decided to spend so much of its resources fighting us in places such as Vietnam, which was really a proxy war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, helped lead it to its demise. It essentially went bankrupt (oops, I shouldn’t mention that, a country going bankrupt).

And isn’t it ironic that after another proxy war where we fueled the insurgents in Afghanistan against their Soviet neighbors who also expressed concerns about disruptive forces there, we find ourselves fighting many of those same insurgents we once aided, to include Osama bin Laden, if he is still alive.

A lot of disjointed thoughts here maybe. But I got this idea originally because I was reading a book about Pearl Harbor and the fact that we conducted a policy that led to it (not that we were in the wrong – that can be debated). And I thought about how in World War II we fought a costly war with Japan only to become good buddies later and then for a time we were even threatened by their own prosperity that we helped create (that role has now gone to China, whom we saved from Japan).

It’s all about making sure we really know what we are trying to do and what the consequences might be and deciding whether we should continually try to fight the whole world or whether we should try to live in peace, but keep our defenses strong. The general public can remain in ignorant bliss in all of this and leave it to the politicians, but there are risks.

Add 2:

I made a reference to fighting for oil earlier in this blog. Related to that I recall I blogged some months ago, possibly in August, that here we have been fighting in Iraq and we know it has something (a lot) to do with the fact that most of the world’s oil is in that region and meanwhile China has signed a deal for oil with the government we helped install there after executing Saddam Hussein. I just ran across an article on the web (dated April Fools Day, but it’s apparently too true) that says our main rival for world oil, China, has indeed finalized an agreement to develop an oil field in Iraq that is expected to produce 25,000 barrels per day for the first three years and 115,000 barrels per day for the following six years . China had initiated the deal in the 1990s when Hussein was in power.

So, yes, it is about oil, but whose oil? Seems like if we fight for oil, we should get it all. (I don’t recall China helping us out in Iraq).

But kind of related to the idea of fighting for oil, I ran across this in a history of the Vietnam War on Wikipedia: “Because of the vast Dutch oil discoveries in nearby Indonesia, first the French, then the Americans, wanted to explore the broad Vietnamese contenental shelf.” Today Vietnam is not listed as a top oil exporter, but it is an exporter. It installed its first oil refinery in February.

P.s. It occurs to me in all of this that the thinking of policy makers seems to have been that the U.S. can fight wars if casualty numbers can be kept down low enough that there will be no significant public backlash. We all would like to minimize casualties, but in so doing we run the risk of both prolonging wars (thus raising casualty rates) and being unsuccessful in the long run.

Sixty seven for Pearl Harbor, seven for 9/11

December 7, 2008

(Copyright 2008)


By Tony Walther

Sixty seven years ago today it was also Sunday. It was Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941.

The Japanese made a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, inflicting severe damage on the U.S. Naval fleet and heavy casualties on sailors and other miliary personnel and civilians and damaging other targets as well. The American casualties that day were 2,402 dead and 1,282 wounded.

Now this was several years before my birth, but apparently this instantly united the nation, much of which was in the isolationist mood and did not care to get involved in another major war, with the senseless tragedy of World War I still present in the public mind. The Pearl Harbor attack changed the minds instantly among most of the steadfast isolationists. The U.S. entered World War II.

The U.S. put itself into all-out war with both Japan and its Axis ally, Nazi Germany. Four years later, with the help of our allies, total victory over the Axis powers had been achieved.

Our modern day equivalent happened seven years ago on Sept. 11, 2001, with the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington. The death toll was put at 2,974.

I think our nation was united initially on that one. Part of the problem, though, was that the enemy was not as easily identifiable. It was not another nation (at least not directly), but apparently a terrorist group with no actual state identity. Nonetheless Osama bin Laden, identified as the leader of a group called Al Qaeda, took credit and it became known that Afghanistan was harboring him and its leaders would not turn him over. So, we initially invaded that nation in hopes of rooting out the terrorist organization responsible and catching the head guy.

The public seemed to accept that as reasonable.

But as time advanced, it seemed that our military was forced to take it slow and hold back and probably not enough troops were committed. No one seemed to know why. And as has been the case since the end of World War II and especially since the Vietnam fiasco, there seemed to be confusion as to whether it was wise to use overwhelming force and thereby “escalate” a war. To me, and I’ll bet many others, a war is neither escalated nor de-escalated. There is either a win or a loss (even by default if one side chooses to quit) or perhaps in Korea style, a draw.

Some, many of whom would be classified as conspiracy theory buffs, have wondered if FDR didn’t know Pearl Harbor was coming and let it happen because he favored our entry into WWII which was already being fought by Briton. Likewise some have suggested the George W. Bush administration, acting on a neo-conservative doctrine that called for U.S. hegemony in the Mideast, knew of the impending 9/11 attack or at least of its possibility and let it happen. A neo-conservative think tank report had stated that the nation needed a modern-day Pearl Harbor to get the public behind the move to dominate the Middle East.

The lack of concentration in the Afghanistan effort, I think, confused the public, and in that confusion, the Bush administration morphed an ongoing dispute with Iraq into part of the whole “war on terror” 9/11 response effort, and in the public’s mind in all became a muddle.

And even though the Bush administration proclaimed that its war on terror was meant to fight against something that affected the security of all free nations, neither the US population nor that of other nations was mobilized World War II style.

So, seven years later, while there are now some promising signs of success in Iraq, in general we are no better off in the Middle East, and in fact, probably worse off (considering Afghanistan), than we were seven years ago. And we never have caught up with bin Laden.

And, one has to remember, we went into Iraq under false pretenses and would not have to worry about success there if we had not gone there in the first place – it was a war of choice (if it was wrong in the first place, success would not make it right now, although it might make us feel better).

As the result of Pearl Harbor 67 years ago we faced up to the threat of the times, the subjugation of the free world by the dictatorial powers of Japan and Germany, and set a goal of total defeat of those powers and met it.

Today, even though we have elected a new president, it is still unclear to me what our aim is and even more unclear to me as to what the public would accept as a reasonable sacrifice, if any.

(Being as the new president has not taken office yet and we can only have one president at a time, it is an awkward situation.)

More than 400,000 U.S. military personnel were killed in World War II.

The current wars in the Middle East have claimed nearly 5,000 U.S. dead and nearly 50,000 wounded (and all that in response to not quite 3,000 killed on 9/11 – but of course there is the potential for far more should terrorists get their way).

Pearl Harbor, 9/11 – history does not quite repeat itself.

P.s. But let us give tribute to those who met the challenge of Pearl Harbor, as well as those who met and are meeting the challenge of 9/11 as interpreted and put upon them by their government in the name of the people. We can only hope that the government and the people are correct and stay interested in the efforts they put upon their fellow citizens in uniform.

It’s that 70s show all over again…

July 30, 2008



By Tony Walther

Maybe history really does repeat itself.

We borrowed heavily to fight an unpopular war, the cost of social programs and the growth of big government went unchecked, and then we faced a major energy crisis. The end result was a strange heretofore unheard of condition in which there was inflation in the economy (prices went up) and stagnation (less demand for goods and services) at the same time, seemingly violating the sacred capitalist rule of supply and demand. It was tagged “stagflation.”

All these things happened in the late 1960s and the 1970s (the latter being the era of stagflation).

And all of these things are happening today in the later 2000s.

I recall that back during the buildup of the Vietnam War there was a debate as to whether the Johnson administration could offer both “guns and butter.” Those old enough will recall that Lyndon Johnson pushed through the most ambitious program of social legislation since FDRs New Deal. Johnson called his “The Great Society.” Medicare and Medicaid were enacted, along with a whole host of social welfare programs. And remember folks, back then the impetus was not only to help poor folks of color (Blacks and Hispanics), but poor white folks too. There were news reports and documentaries done about the abysmal living conditions and the high unemployment and lack of education among white folks living in Appalachia (strangely enough, some of the same problems and similar reports come out of that region today).

At the same time, Johnson was pushing our nation into a major military land offensive in Vietnam, hence the afore mentioned paradox, producing both “guns and butter.”

Johnson and his successors chose to do it in what has become the “American way” these past many decades, they borrowed it. Rather than to call for sacrifice for the war effort and to levy sufficient taxes, they chose to put off paying for it. But the piper must be paid.

George W. Bush faced a crisis not long after coming into office, 9/11. The evidence seems to suggest that Bush was predisposed to go to war with Iraq, well before 9/11. (Johnson was predisposed to fight in Vietnam because of the domino theory on the spread of communism and the fear of being blamed for losing more ground to the commies.)

After 9/11, the prevailing mood in the country was that we had been attacked and we needed to strike back. Bush struck first at Afghanistan where Osama bin Laden, the apparent culprit behind 9/11, was holed up, and that seemed prudent, but then Bush conveniently morphed it into a war in Iraq. And I apologize for boring anyone with this all over again, you know the rest.

But the point is, there was uncertainty and debate in the government as to whether Bush’s war policy was correct. But as in Vietnam, the war was not the result of a declaration of war by congress, as the U.S. Constitution provides for, but resolutions passed by congress, essentially giving Bush carte blanche to fight a “war on terror.”

In the same way, President Johnson and his successor, Richard Nixon, used the “Gulf of Tonkin” resolution to fight an undeclared war in Vietnam.

(Something tells me, though, that Bush’s war on terror resolutions more closely represent declarations of war than the Tonkin resolution, but the end result in both cases was unconditional permission to wage war given to the president. Can congress legally abdicate its responsibility to declare war? The whole issue of when and how we should go to war, properly following the Constitution, has never been officially resolved since Korea and Vietnam.)

In any event, we have come full circle into a situation in which we are paying on credit for a costly war, government spending in general is way out of control, and we once again face an energy crisis. And now stagflation has reared its ugly head. We seem headed deeper and deeper into an economic downturn, with higher unemployment, and, meanwhile, inflation, the cost of most everything we buy is going up. Inflation, plus stagnant economy = stagflation.

We would have been better off to avoid a costly war (defense is necessary, offense, maybe not so much). We should try to pay as we go (unfortunately that means taxes, but at least we can choose to not do as much, hence, lower taxes). We need to become energy independent (something we knew way back in the 70s).

If history really does repeat itself, it may be because we never learn.