(72 years after Pearl Harbor) Should we go to war unless we are attacked? And then shouldn’t we have a plan for victory and know what victory is?

December 7, 2013

We should all stop for at least a moment today — Dec. 7 — Pearl Harbor Day — to pay at least silent tribute to those who lost their lives and to those who were wounded or otherwise directly affected by the surprise attack on the United States at Pearl Harbor now seventy two years ago.

But just at importantly we ought to think about this:

Should we ever go to war unless we are directly attacked? And if we do, shouldn’t we have a clear idea as to what our ultimate goal is?

This has not been the case since World War II.

We were not directly attacked in Korea. But a decision was made to go to war to stop the spread of communism that ultimately would threaten democracy world wide. There could certainly be an argument that we should not have gone to war in Korea, but we did, and I suppose the goal was to repel the North Korean invaders. We were able to push them back across their own border and have been at an uneasy truce ever since. Gen. Douglas McArthur wanted a World War II-style win — total victory, but that would have been costly and might have pushed us into World War III with a counter attack by the Soviets, as well as the communist Chinese who were already in the war against us.

And then following our Cold War policy of containing communism we got mired in Vietnam — but we were not attacked, save for some incident in the Gulf of Tonkin, which was both minor and/or bogus — it may not have even happened.

And then came 9/11, the attack by terrorists on the United States at New York and Washington, D.C., and in the sky over Pennsylvania. But this time the attack was not by a nation state but a world-wide terror group. But since the attack was staged from Afghanistan or since the leader of the group was holing up there, we invaded that nation, after the Taliban, who was running the country at the time, refused to hand over the leader of Al Qaeda, the group claiming responsibility for the attack.

But then the U.S. pivoted and went to war with Iraq, a nation whose thug of a leader we had at one time supported (just before the first Gulf War — yes, very confusing). We got mired there and then left after a decade with an ambiguous outcome and are still stuck in Afghanistan, even after Osama Bin Laden, the master mind of the 9/11 attack, was captured and killed (in Pakistan, a nominal ally, confusing again). We seem to not know whether to stay or leave Afghanistan.

Clarity in war ended with World War II.


War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothin’…

March 19, 2013

UPDATE:

Taking a line out of a 1960s song, we might ask ourselves: “War, what is it food for?” and answer our own question, “absolutely nothin’ “.

When I first drafted this post I was not even thinking specifically that the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq was March 19 (and the tenth anniversary day is almost over now as I write this update).

And on the tenth anniversary, so as to make a point, several bombings in Iraq killed at least 65 people. The violence there, tribe against tribe, religious sect against religious sect, continues, and these days the strife-torn nation is closer to our (the U.S.) arch-enemy Iran.

It is pretty well accepted that the stated reason for going into Iraq in 2003, that is that Saddam Hussein had so-called “weapons of mass destruction” or WMDs, was bogus. Even the supporters admit that he did not have a stockpile after all. Sorry, after the loss of thousands of lives and billions of dollars spent, just a little intelligence goof (or just a lie). And the term WMD itself was misleading and not precise. It was just meant to imply that he was stockpiling everything from nerve gas to atom bombs.

Had this been the case, and we knew where they were, then why didn’t we go after them specifically? And if we did not know where they were, how did we know they had them or why did we think they had them?

Now we are getting reports that chemical weapons have been used in Syria in the insurrection there. This may well be true, but I hope it is not something that gives an excuse to war hawks to send troops in. I say let the Syrians fight it out amongst themselves. Or send in the French.

I don’t take the possibility that outlaw regimes or madmen might have or get so-called WMDs or nuclear weapons lightly. Right now Iran and North Korea appear to be threats. We need to have a plan to make sure that we abolish the threats, not the nations necessarily. That is purely for our own defense.

But have we learned anything since Vietnam?

The public soon forgets. The public is apathetic. The politicians are also or they use things like the threat of WMDs from Iraq as a pretext for supporting certain foreign policies that help defense contractors and secure oil. They have not done a good job of securing oil. We gained no special hold on Iraqi oil, despite the promise we would by the war hawks who wanted us to have dominance in the region.

The decision makers in our Vietnam fiasco were operating under the premise that it would be like World War II (except much smaller and much quicker), that we would apply overwhelming force and win.

But Vietnam was a different kind of war. It was North Vietnam invading South Vietnam and a civil insurrection within South Vietnam at the same time and we got ourselves into the middle of it and found it not to be so easy after all and we were afraid to fight to win and afraid to leave and be called losers. We did not fight to win (and there may have been no way to win) and we did eventually leave as losers. (It was not the fault of our military but the politicians if anyone).

Iraq turned out to be more of a mess with total civil war breaking out when we got rid of the dictator and we were caught in the middle of it. We eventually left after being told we were not welcome anymore by the new government.

I like to blame all of this on our leaders, on the politicians. But does not the general public who is so apathetic on all of this have some responsibility?

The original post follows:

The United States needed Middle East oil so bad that eventually we gave the president unlimited power to wage a true world war, that is war all over the world, no matter what nation, against terrorists with some at least loose connection with a far-flung and hard-to-track organization usually referred to as Al Qaeda.

Besides the two more or less conventional ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the president was and is authorized to order drone strikes, strikes by small stealthy unmanned aircraft, against anyone virtually anywhere in the world. Of course the drone attacks don’t just kill the target person but people around the target person, to include totally innocent people, to include women and children. But all’s fair in war (not necessarily moral though).

The virtually unlimited powers were handed over to then president George W. Bush but are retained today by president Barack Obama.

Congress handed the president the powers as a result of the 9/11 attacks more than a decade ago now. The U.S. had just been attacked, not by a nation, but by this somewhat amorphous entity called Al Qaeda. Because its leader and many of its followers were being harbored by the Taliban who controlled Afghanistan at the time, we invaded that nation.

That seemed to make sense.

But Bush was being advised by the neo-conservatives who had a think tank study that called for the U.S. gaining hegemony over the Middle East because of its strategic importance what with all of its oil. The paper in fact suggested we needed another Pearl Harbor to jolt the public out of its apathy and malaise. Conveniently (in one sense of it) 9/11, a modern-day Pearl Harbor, came along and killed about the same number of people as Pearl Harbor. In round numbers, about 3,000 deaths in both incidents.

So rather quickly we were not only at war with Afghanistan and its Taliban government who gave comfort to Al Qaeda but we invaded Iraq which had no to little direct connection with Al Qaeda but was in the Middle East and did have oil and a leader who was sympathetic to anti-American causes and who did support terrorists who struck Israel, sending the parents of suicide bombers money as a reward.

Bush was able to get a congressional authorization to fight terror in the form of a resolution called the “Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists”. It would be a war not against another nation or nations but a method or concept.

But make no mistake about it, all of this was about oil.

Now after a decade we have spent a trillion dollars or more and heavily indebted ourselves, so much so that we are having to or think we must cut needed programs and services for the public. And thousands of lives have been lost and thousands more negatively affected by injuries received in the Middle East wars.

And we have compromised our civil liberties and values. We have inflicted torture on American soil, kidnapped people and sent them to places in other countries for torture and have even killed American citizens (no trial or anything) for being said to be connected somehow to terrorists or being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

There’s even a question as to whether a drone strike could be authorized on American soil. The U.S. Attorney General has reportedly left the door open on that question.

Troublesome is the fact that local law enforcement departments have expressed interests in drones. It seems as if George Orwell’s 1984 becomes a reality.

Meanwhile, some are saying now that we are or nearly are “energy independent”, what with new oil and gas exploration and fracking (never mind environmental concerns).

We are in fact an energy exporter I read.

If we are to be an energy leader after being so dependent on Mid East oil it is probably because of price. When the price of energy got high enough it became economically viable to resume energy exploration in our own nation.

We did not need to go to war in the Middle East. And we don’t need to fight the whole world.

We of course must defend ourselves.

In the 9/11 scenario our intelligence agencies let us down for failing to heed their own information and to cooperate among themselves.

But it could have happened anyway even if everyone was doing everything right. We should have gone after the actual culprits and left it at that instead of opening the door to the dreams of neoconservative empire builders, who never shed their own blood.

(Interesting how so many of them had Vietnam deferments or otherwise skipped combat when they had their chance. Dick Cheney comes to mind.)

And we need to protect our civil liberties.

There was a saying during the Cold War among some: “Better Red than dead”. But I never bought into that. I don’t want to give up my civil liberties in the name of national security or personal security.

As for the competition for energy and the search for practical sources and means of energy and energy production: the marketplace, often augmented by government research, pretty well decides that.

—————

“War” (1969 song written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong)


Brother of slain soldier is right, we do need to remember we are a nation at war (but we need to question policy too)

April 6, 2012

One can certainly understand the anguish of a man whose brother has just been killed in a war. One such man was quoted in a story over the past day as saying that Americans need to remember that we are a nation at war. I agree, but I also think that as we remember that or take note of it, we also need to decide what we are accomplishing in the decade-long effort in the Middle East, and Afghanistan in particular.

And maybe the reason people don’t act like they realize we are at war is that no outward sacrifice is being called for on the part of the general public. And although one would think our goal would be to have some kind of victory, we have already telegraphed that we eventually plan to quit. If we can quit later with no clear sign of victory, why not quit now? This is not as much a war in the conventional sense as it is a geopolitical police action. With our all-volunteer force when one signs up these days, he or she is essentially signing onto a world police force. Police are on duty forever. The American public is given little choice in the matter. If either Barack Obama wins re-election to the presidency or Mitt Romney is elected (and that seems now to be the choice) there is no clear end in sight to the war. Obama does like to talk about time tables (they are movable), Romney does not like the idea of telegraphing when you plan to quit, and that much I agree with him on. But, Romney also wants to press on, something I am not necessarily in agreement with. Somehow it seems immoral to me to ask people to put their lives on the line for something you go at half-heartedly, always ready to quit. That does not mean I think we should not quit. I think it takes as much guts to fight all-out as to admit the war cannot be won outright or is not worth it. I would not suggest admitting defeat or anything like that, rather, I would think we should re-assess.

There may be other more practical ways to keep our enemies at bay or at least off our shores. We are already in the Vietnam syndrome in that we seem to have miscalculated and would like to get out but we can’t because we must save face and not dishonor those who have died. We also have used the discredited strategy of limited war. War continues to be war and the only practical thing is to fight to win or not to fight at all. It could be that an even more drawn out war of attrition could work in our favor (although doubtful), but it does not seem to be the way we should conduct things, lest we put ourselves in a true state of endless armed conflict, a state of being and an image I don’t think is right for the United States of America.

But yes, we should remember we are a nation at war and demand our president and congress do something to resolve the issue.

(The story I referred to is at: http://news.yahoo.com/brother-ohio-soldier-nation-war-104658229.html )

—————-

What follows is my previous post on pretty much the same subject:

I’m not sure what women not shaving under their arm pits, people drawing welfare, Occupy Wall Street, soldiers denied proper medical care once they get home (who’s to blame there?) while welfare recipients are tended to, and making it a point to thank the people in uniform all have in common but that seemed to be the elements of the conversation on my local radio station which was playing the Glenn Beck Show, being hosted by a guest host possibly. I only listened to a few words before I had to turn it off.

The message seemed to be that women who did not shave their arm pits were just part of the crowd who lives off of welfare, protests, and who shows it is against America by objecting to war and failing to thank the troops.

While listening to the ignorance and hate one should realize that those who run the local radio stations simply play the blather because it is cheap fare and it apparently brings in the revenue — never mind being part of a more civil and intelligent public discourse. But people want their own point of view to be validated or they want someone to do their thinking for them, so the talk show trash on radio is just what it is. Critical thinking and discussion does not do well in the marketplace.

And I am not saying they should be playing Amy Goodwin and Democracy Now; I’ve caught a little of that at times and it may be somewhat more civil but it is propaganda too, just from the far left of the political spectrum.

But before I turned my radio off I heard the tired old diatribe about how people don’t support our soldiers and the wars they fight. It is irritating that the idea of supporting troops (and that can mean different things in different contexts; a government –to include Republicans — who fails to treat returning reservists or National Guardsmen is not supporting the troops) has to be forever linked in the minds of those of the far-right, one-track mindset to national policy. As far as I know most people who may object to wars or military adventures/actions are not specifically or not at all criticizing individual soldiers, but the policy that puts them in harm’s way. Now in instances where there is abuse perpetrated by soldiers (such as the murder of innocents) then, yes, there might be indeed criticism. And there was a school of thought during the Vietnam War that since it turned out to be so obviously wrong and immoral, not to mention impractical, that any one who agreed to fight it (even if conscripted) was committing an immoral act (I do not necessarily agree with that). And some might argue that today (again I do not necessarily agree with that, even though it is all volunteer).

But people who dress differently than what has become the norm among what is considered the general public, or women who do not shave their arm pits, which has been the custom in Europe and even here decades and decades ago (into the past century), and people who get government assistance, and people who would dare question public policy (unless it is the far right questioning legitimate policy promoted by the middle and left) are all linked together in the minds of those incapable of critical thinking or those simply stirring up the masses for political and financial gain.

(I hate to bring Tom Sullivan into all of this. But he is a case study of someone who began as a conservative talk show host who was capable of and willing to engage in somewhat critical thinking in that he would give both sides of an issue, even though always coming down on the right. But he apparently found such was not acceptable in the world of right-wing talk, so he cut it out for the most part. I wrote that previously and he actually emailed me about my comments on that and other things to do with him and did not deny it — and he still occasionally lets his guard down, I think. He’s usually clever enough that it goes over the heads of many of his listeners, but sometimes they object. The rule on the right is to never but never present the other side of the case. That may be true on the far left too.)

I have to make sure to remember to switch the radio off or to music or something when the commercially driven-right wing propaganda is on, which is all the time.

And it is troubling that Mitt Romney, a highly intelligent man (hell he speaks fluent French) has felt he needs to pander to the ignorant masses to get his party’s nod to be GOP candidate for president.

P.s.

This endless war thing: Both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party are equally guilty and spend more time blaming each other for it than trying to figure out how to reform our policies so we are not constantly mired in conflicts that are so costly in human lives and to our economy.

A third party is needed and we need to indeed vote all the current slate on both sides out. Extreme yes. But we are facing extreme circumstances. But beyond that people have to pay more attention to public affairs and critical thinking is in order here.

P.s. P.s.

And part of the story or back story in all of this is that those with nothing else to do often get involved in protest movements and supposedly the poor, but working people just do what they are told and don’t question. And those who stand to gain from various policies, such as defense contractors, oil interests, and so on, would like to keep it that way.  Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party are at opposite ends of the spectrum and yet in many respects have the same interests, but the Tea Partiers may consider themselves more legitimate in that they consider themselves to be part of the mainstream of working people (whether they are or not and notwithstanding that there is evidence that the original concept of the Tea Party may have been the brain child of monied and vested interests). And the Tea Party no doubt thinks the Occupy movement is nothing but anarchists and maybe socialists/communists. It’s too bad there cannot be an effective movement from the middle, or maybe that is what general elections are all about.


Questions of war need to be carefully thought out…

July 11, 2009

Something that has never been clearly resolved in the United States is how the authority to declare and conduct war is delineated. Since Vietnam it seems that the president has the most power concerning war. If the president decides to use the authority as commander in chief to take military action anywhere, from then on he (or she) is in control and can charge treason (in the political sense, not legally) against anyone who objects.

It’s always a wise move to get congress on the record with some kind of resolution, such as the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, upon which the whole long, drawn out and disastrous Vietnam War was based. And even the “decider” George W. Bush got resolutions out of congress to fight his War on Terror.

I wished this was a coherent and well researched essay, but it’s just a blog off the top of my head. It occurs to me that there may not be much difference between a declaration of war which the Constitution gives the congress power to decide upon and a resolution. I really need to research this.

But I will observe here that when congress makes a declaration of war then it would seem to have shown a clear resolve.

Resolutions by their very nature appear to be something temporary, but they are not, i.e., the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution which resulted in a costly decade-long war, carried out year to year almost as if it were temporary – no wonder we didn’t win. If congress had gone on record as declaring war, it might have had the resolve to actually win. Instead much time was spent debating how much and exactly what authority was given to the president.

The War on Terror resolutions seem to have created a war with no end in the Persian Gulf (yes we are supposedly easing out of Iraq, but it is pretty questionable what will eventually happen there — the violence is up again).

And it is hard to even envision how a victory would be achieved in Afghanistan, although I hasten to add it might not be impossible, if it can be figured out what a victory would be – a stable western-friendly government with no Taliban and Al Qaeda? And how long would that last? And wouldn’t we have to occuppy the whole region forever to make sure insurgents don’t rise up again? (These are the kind of questions that need to be asked and debated but are not.)

There is a question as to just what the president’s (any president) power as commander in chief means. Is the president simply in charge of the armed forces and not answerable to congress? Many people seem to think so.

Congress can effectively end a war by holding back on the funding (which it has unquestionable constitutional power to do), and did so eventually in the case of Vietnam. But that was only done after so many long years and casualties and the acceptance by the public that the cause was indeed in vain, giving congress the will and cover to act.

During the last Bush administration congress was intimidated by charges that to withhold funding while troops were in the field would be treasonous – and I agree that for the government to order troops to fight on the one hand and cut off their funding on the other seems at least is wrong morally and impractical. But eventually the only tool the congress, as the representative of its constituents, would have to effect a withdrawal if the executive resisted would be to not continue funding the war.

What made me think of all of this is that, as I blogged earlier, I am reading the late Robert S. McNamara’s book “In Retrospect, the Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam”.

I plan to review it via a future blog. But for now, I can say that it points out that narrow thinking predisposed the nation to go to war in Vietnam. President Johnson, who had mixed emotions about the affair from the start, concealed vital information from congress and the public and essentially had the Tonkin resolution written up before the Tonkin incident happened, that is a resolution calling for increased authority to deal militarily with the communist threat to South Vietnam. The Tonkin incident provided a pretext to introduce that resolution before congress. It was implied that it was simply for something temporary. I remember in the early days of Vietnam it was called a “police action” (as Korea was) and then when it heated up it was called the Vietnam “conflict” and finally, even though “war” was never officially declared, it was called the Vietnam War.

I think I was a sophomore in high school when the Tonkin resolution was passed. And I know when it was decided to send in the troops and air power and take an active instead of advisory role, it was thought the U.S. would surly overwhelm the enemy. I thought certainly it would be all over by the time I graduated from high school.

The Vietnam War caused me to make a kind of illogical decision to join the Army, based in part that I would be drafted anyway, and maybe joining would give me some advantage, and I needed something to do. I ended up going to Germany. One of my brothers was drafted and served in Vietnam. So lucky for the both of us – and the luck was especially for him since he faced the danger – we both managed not to be names on the Vietnam Wall.

And today I have two grandsons, one born a few weeks ago and one almost ten years old. What happens today in world affairs will impact their lives. And really I should mention I have a granddaughter too just entering high school, and the same goes for her.

That is why I think it is important that we have a system in which such momentous decisions as war are carefully thought out. While the president needs the authority to deploy forces or take military actions in immediate emergencies, one person should never be given a blank check to wage continuing war and then pass it off to his or her successor.

It should be kept in mind that at least 58,151 Americans died in Vietnam, 4,322 in Iraq so far (46,132 wounded), and 677 in Afghanistan.

Remember, the numbers started out small in Vietnam.

And shouldn’t we be seriously considering whether the notion of pepetual war makes sense? And since terrorists can pop up most anywhere, are we obligated to occupy every inch of the world to maintain U.S. security?

ADD 1:

I should mention the War Powers Act of 1973, but at this time I cannot find much to note of it. I think I am correct in saying that it essentially has been ignored or circumvented since its passage. And I would think since it deals with war powers and war powers are enumerated in the Constitution, then maybe the act is unconstitutional. The Constitution cannot be amended by simply passing a law. The whole point of this blog is that the power to get into and out of war is an unsettled matter and it should be settled. At lot of people thought that, I think, at the conclusion of the Vietnam fiasco, but all that was come up with was that War Powers Act — so really no progress.

There is one sure way to get out of  a war. When the public mood turns decidedly against a war, eventually the nation withdraws, but at major cost in the meantime.


As we get deeper into Afghanistan I sense public indifference…

May 20, 2009

I know polls are done all the time and I know that one reason, besides the financial crisis, that is given for Barack Obama winning the election is that the public is displeased with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But in my own highly unscientific view of things (support the troops bumper stickers notwithstanding) I sense great public indifference to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen was quoted within the last 48 hours as saying it might take the U.S. as much as two more years just to turn the tide in Afghanistan (and I think most of us see just an indefinite or open-ended commitment). And Mullen also said we have a difficult time avoiding civilian casualties and that those casualties play into the hands of our enemies, the Taliban, or is it Al Qaeda ? (whatever we’re calling them today)

Yes, in going after the enemy if civilians are in the way they are no doubt going to suffer. I really don’t know how our forces are expected to do their job trying to figure out who is friendly, who is indifferent, and who is the enemy, and who may be all three, keeping in mind the fact that none of these people are wearing uniforms.

And what with civilian casualties, yes it does seem a strange way to win the “hearts and minds” of the Afghan people, something that we are being told we must do to win the war.

Maybe, just maybe, if the people of Afghanistan realized that we are committed to going after the enemy and that to be near the enemy is dangerous that might have some effect on how they deal with this enemy. Or we could send tons of aid to try to win those hearts and minds. And meanwhile, what about the hearts and minds of so many of our own people? Pardon me if I sound sarcastic or frustrated or both.

Didn’t we face this same problem in Vietnam? Didn’t we fail there too? And didn’t I blog this previously? Yes to all.

I actually thought at one time we were in Afghanistan to go after the forces that hit us on 9/11. Now was that Al Qaeda or the Taliban? Originally we were told that it was Al Qaeda, which was given aid and comfort by the Taliban who at the time of the invasion were officially in charge of the country. Nowadays they still seem to be in charge of most of that country.

Somehow Al Qaeda and the Taliban have become one.

And for some comparison/contrast: at the height of Vietnam the U.S. had a half million troops committed. I think the U.S. invaded Iraq with some 300,000 troops and today we only have about 140,000 in Iraq, and we are trying to ease our way out. In Afghanistan the U.S. has committed nearly 60,000 troops, which include 17,000 ordered to Afghanistan by President Obama. An additional 30,000 have been committed by other NATO members.

We are nowhere near the casualty numbers in the current wars as we suffered in Vietnam and that may be a key reason we have been there so long and remain. That and the fact we have no military draft. If the draft had been imposed I doubt we would still be in Iraq or Afghanistan (win or lose).

In Vietnam, after more than a decade of war, the U.S. casualty total was nearly 60,000 military personnel dead with hundreds of thousands wounded. More than 4,000 have been killed and some 50,000 wounded in the current wars (primarily in Iraq, with the Afghanistan casualties rising). We’ve been in Afghanistan since 2001 and in Iraq since 2003.

So, anyway, Admiral Mullen sees a tough road of as much as two years ahead. We were told for more than a decade in Vietnam that there was light at the end of the tunnel and that we were winning. In Afghanistan we are told it is indeed hard to see that light and, as a matter of fact, right now we are not winning. We’ve been there for going on nine years now with no measurable progress. Iraq is not won yet, but we may be smart enough to declare victory and get out — or not.

Supposedly we now have a counter insurgency, black ops expert of a general by the name of Stanley A. McChrystal who has been selected to take over in Afghanistan. Maybe he can figure it out.

But it seems like we need to be reminded of what our exact reason for being there is and if the American people are really as indifferent as I sense, I have to question why we are there at all.

P.s.

The idea that we can conduct business as usual at home and successful wars abroad seems questionable at best. Maybe some of us can block the human tragedy out of our minds because we are not directly involved. But the financial cost of it all has already come home to roost. If you haven’t noticed the U.S.  either is or is going bankrupt. How long will China, a political and ideological adversary, bankroll our wars?


Fight to win or get out and cut our losses…

March 27, 2009

I think we make war too complicated and in so doing we lose.

Yes, the tactics of war have changed throughout the ages, but eventually the most powerful and/or best supplied force prevails, I think, except maybe in some instances where there is some type of struggle where that is not necessarily the case because there are cultural and geographic and political issues.

(Okay, if we must quibble, you might have two essentially equal forces and one has better leadership.)

So sometimes conflicts are not traditional wars.

But we always talk about our armed conflicts as war in the popular parlance, even though the Obama administration has used some ridiculous euphemism that I can’t even recall to rename “the War on Terror” or the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan.

I just looked it up in a Washington Post story. The Obama administration has sent out an in-house memo that the war or war on terror should be referred to as the “overseas contingency operation”.  Now that is Orwellian Newspeak aimed at mind control over the people if I ever heard it.

(It’s disappointing, to say the least, that the Obama administration is playing that deceptive mind game with the public by not calling a war a war. You know they are lying to us. For those of you too young, look up “The Pentagon Papers” in Wikipedia.)

Some say we have actually won or are winning in Iraq. I doubt it, but if that is the case it was likely the result of stepped up military operations, i.e., the surge, and being able to buy off some of the belligerents.

And actually that is what we are doing in Afghanistan, that is putting in more forces and trying desperately to buy off some of the opposing forces.

I think we have forgotten what the heck we are there for, even though President Obama did state Friday that we were going after Al Qaeda, the group that is credited with and blamed for the 9/11 attacks and threatens us still. But there is all this talk of training the Afghans and making deals with certain factions of the Taliban.

We won World War II in four years. We’ve been stuck in Afghanistan, letting our troops get picked off, for some eight years.

We have been supporting our pretend ally Pakistan, who in turn helps Al Qaeda, and we have had disagreements with them over that. And I know it all involves various factions within the various countries who play one against the other (and we are among those being played) and so on.

So, shades of Vietnam. We are back to trying to “win the hearts and minds of the people”. Who cares for that? I don’t. Do you? And the people there do not think with one mind. They all have their various tribes and religious sects and allegiances and they are one heck of an independent people (and good for them).

Did we try to win the hearts and minds of the Germans or the Japanese in World War II? No we struck back at the Axis powers who attacked us (Japan, part of the Axis) at Pearl Harbor, and with our allies put together an overwhelming force with the goal of total defeat of the enemy and unconditional surrender and nothing less. And, in case you didn’t see the movie, we won. And my apologies to the remaining vets for my sarcasm.

And we should do that in the Middle East or we should just quit and cut our losses and maybe come home and defend our nation from the invasion of the drug cartels and their violence from Mexico.  Mexico is fast approaching the condition of a failed state, if it has not already met that criteria.

Not trying to be an alarmist, but we are for the first time in my life (since 1949) in danger of going bankrupt as a nation because of our own collective unwise use of our money and the tremendous financial burden our military adventures present.

Some economists warn that we as a nation could really become insolvent. We have ignored economic warnings before and have suffered the consequences.

I’ve written previously and I will write again that Mr. Obama may well find that he is stuck to what President Lyndon Johnson called the tar baby (then Vietnam), the trap Brer Fox and Brer Bear set for Brer Rabbit in the old Uncle Remus story. (Mr. Obama is too young. He probably didn’t read the stories by Joel Chandler Harris about Brer Rabbit or watch the related movie by Walt Disney, Song of the South, when he was a kid.)

At least Brer Rabbit was smart enough after he got stuck to escape by feigning fear of being thrown into the briar patch, knowing that as a rabbit he had special abilities to maneuver in there.

And Al Qaeda has played the parts of Brer Fox and Brer Bear and set the trap for the U.S. as Brer Rabbit, and we took the bait. Now will we be nimble and clever as Brer Rabbit was to extricate ourselves?

Maybe we could. Maybe Mr. Obama could do like one Senator said we should have done in Vietnam, declare victory and come home.

His move to turn the war in Afghanistan and as well as in Iraq over to local and supposedly friendly forces may be the thing to do and soon is not soon enough.

And to the moronic question of whether we should fight them over there or fight them here, I would answer, fight them here. We will prevail on our own terrain or we don’t deserve to win.

I’m not a defeatist or a militarist, but even a top general knows the limitations of situations and his own forces.

And while I would be the first to decry any requirement that the President of the United States have military experience, in this case it may be too bad Mr. Obama does not.

I’m not naive enough to think that politics plays no part in war, but I wish we would leave it out as much as possible and look at it as simply something we do to maintain our own security, not to remake societies in our own image.

If Afghanistan, for instance, is that vital, call up the military draft, and let’s go all out. And whoever hides or gives comfort to our enemies is our enemy.

But we have to be selective. No way we can take on the whole world!

P.s.

Some decades ago we helped Afghanistan defeat the Soviet invaders. Of course we did so for our own perceived self interests, but nonetheless, the reward for our efforts is that it harbored the terrorists who apparently perpetrated 9/11.  

(Copyright 2009)


We really need to stop our futile and expensive wars

March 8, 2009

Since World War II we have not fought a conventional war. And we have not really won a war since then.

I did not realize this until I was watching a documentary recently, but it was not until I think the allies started turning the tide against the Germans in North Africa that it was decided that we would fight to an unconditional surrender.

In the other theater of war where we were fighting the Japanese, we eventually showed our resolve for total victory by dropping two A bombs on their island nation.

That is the type of war in which a clear winner and a clear loser can be defined.

We followed up by occupation and submission of the axis powers. We did not cut deals with them.

Since then we have fought wars with no clear cut objectives.

And to go back to World War II, it can be argued as an academic exercise as to whether the United States needed to be involved, remembering that we goaded Japan into its attacks on us, although I don’t suggest that any of our actions actually justified the surprise devastating attack on Pearl Harbor. But that is history. The U.S. took the lead role for free nations against the forces of tyranny represented by the militarists of Japan and Germany. And in the end, we emerged as the world’s leading power.

Since then, we have meddled where perhaps we needn’t have meddled.

Our founding fathers did not set up this nation to be a warring state. They lived in a far different time, but they envisioned a nation that would live under a representative democracy and would allow its citizens to lead peaceful and productive lives away from the war like ways of the kings who fought wars as games of chess, conscripting their citizenry as pawns – but unlike the board game, is was real life and death and misery.

Perhaps becoming a world power spoiled us and made us think we must rule the world.

We are in the confusing position now of benefitting from the security that comes with being the biggest kid on the block and suffering from the vulnerability it creates at the same time (9/11).

I’ve already written too much of a lead in to all of this, because what I really wanted to say is that for my part, I believe we should pull our military back completely to our own shores. We have essentially a failed state or a nation facing armed insurrection to our south, Mexico. We may well need our military here if the war, and there is a real war going on there, spills over onto the north side of the border.

Life is too short for me now to have to mince words and provide all the obligatory remarks that I support the troops, just not the policy (and there I just did).

I was born after World War II. If that was the good war, I can only say there has not been one since.

As a matter of practicality if nothing else, we have to be willing to defend ourselves. But that is as far as I would go to support a military policy.

The idea we have to fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them here (and we can’t define who them is) is one of the most senseless pieces of jingoism I have ever heard. We are actually making ourselves weaker by the amount that has been and is being and will be spent in both borrowed money and human capital.

I think the 9/11 attacks were a fluke that may have been far more successful than its perpetrators originally envisioned not only in the one-day destruction, but in us taking the bait of bin Laden and his ilk and once again miring ourselves in wars where we have no clearly defined objectives and no clear cut reason for fighting. And no way of knowing when and if we have won.

Using the logic of hard core war supporters we would be in perpetual war. Even George W. Bush and Dick Cheney glibly envisioned a war without end – we always have to fight the forces of evil. (It is instructive to note that Bush avoided fighting in Vietnam by getting a safe spot in the Air National Guard and then not even attending all the required training and Cheney wimped out with some type of deferment. I don’t blame either one of them for that. I do blame them for then making others fight unnecessary wars, making themselves leading “chicken hawks”).

This is my anti-war stance. The eccentric, but ever pragmatic Ron Paul inspired me. He notes with the money wasted on wars we could make our own lives better. His method would be by returning the money to the people in the way of reduced taxes. I have a hard time seeing the hole in that argument.

I do believe that Barack Obama has become stuck to the Iraq and Afghanistan tar baby.

(And can you imagine if John McCain had been elected? I think he may have suffered irreversable mental degradation from too much time in a dark hole and physical torture.)

(Copyright 2009)