Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The War Without End

There are many things that frustrate me about the society I live in.  Fake "reality" shows, celebrities that I would prefer to see exiled to another planet, and yes the opiate of our sports and popular culture, designed to keep the average American disinterested and uninvolved in policy matters, except those bankrolled by unregulated corporate money (the teabaggers and Cato Institute come to mind).  Probably the one annoyance I revisit the most in the post-9/11 world is the notion that we are somehow in a struggle for civilization which necessitates trillions of dollars of our money to alleviate in, say, Afghanistan or Iraq.  Because if there is one thing the peoples in those countries yearn and desire the most, other than not building anything Islamic within three block radius of ground zero, it is their boundless need to have Americans invade and democratize them.  Well, that and a government that lies through its teeth about ending one of the occupations in question.  Such is the nonsense that we were subjected to this evening.

Notice the nice play on words, how "combat in Iraq" is over.  This is the same man who, back in 2003, denounced going into Iraq at all.  Now, ending the war means keeping 50,000 troops in a war zone.  That is the new peace in this era of hope and change.  That is the new caving in to the forces of Communism, socialism, and Islamism to the editorial staff of The Wall Street Journal.  The President's speech is indicative of just how convoluted our language has become in this country.

And even when President Obama concedes the obvious, like how fighting in Iraq has stripped this country of resources that could have been better spent in the US, he followed it with this whopper:
But we must never lose sight of what’s at stake.  As we speak, al Qaeda continues to plot against us, and its leadership remains anchored in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan.  We will disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda, while preventing Afghanistan from again serving as a base for terrorists.  And because of our drawdown in Iraq, we are now able to apply the resources necessary to go on offense.  In fact, over the last 19 months, nearly a dozen al Qaeda leaders -- and hundreds of al Qaeda’s extremist allies -- have been killed or captured around the world.
Yes, Mr. President, that is bringing the troops and monies home and using some of those resources to fight joblessness in America.  If this is what a so-called liberal (centrist) Democratic President thinks to be "learning the lesson of Iraq," then we are seriously doomed as a republic.  You know at least with the right, they will continue to live the Sisyphean illusion that the next non-white/non-Christian horizon awaits their liberation through drones and cluster bombs.  They could bankrupt and starve the whole of humanity and not care, unless you were wealthy or pre-born, of course.  But when the people who should know better believe that the best way to learn from the failures of a war is to extrapolate and perpetuate those failures on another country, we might as well start preparing ourselves for our own 476 AD because it is coming.

And just what is the future of great powers who do not realize that they have reached a period of overstretch with an unviable economic system?  No one talks about the Roman Empire in the present tense anymore.  For us, that means not only are we failing to learn the lessons that we should have comprehended and followed by now, but that future generations of policymakers (assuming any of them are literature and intelligent enough to follow history [an assumption one cannot make when one of the two major parties retains the likes of George Bush and Sarah Palin]) will be repeating those errors over and over again.  Except next time, when we choose to "free the oppressed" Muslim masses (who we personally hold in contempt when they are in our country) in such hotspots like Iran, we will not only be ending whatever respect and prestige we previously earned in the international system but will be putting ourselves in a position to be on the receiving end of the ultimate blowback, the kind our believers in the carpenter in the sky would like to see expedited for their quickened entrance into eternal paradise and happiness.  

All of that because our rational and normal leaders, the ones who do not believe in the aforementioned, simply cannot tell the difference between success and failure.  Let us finally recognize and really learn the lessons of both Afghanistan and Iraq.  You cannot invade and occupy countries that contain in many instances vastly different political cultures, belief systems, and values, with a long, violent tradition of resistance to any outside military presence in their countries, and expect anything other than a negative response and (save for a campaign of genocide) defeat.  Furthermore, great powers are not infrequently brought down (or presaged with their future descent) by their own greed and belief in their superiority against seemingly lesser enemies (the Romans in the Teutoburg Forest, the British in Gandamak and the Khyber Pass in the 19th century, or the Soviets in the same areas in the late 20th).  Small places can have tremendous impacts on otherwise dominant states who underestimate their enemies and overestimate their power projection capabilities.   If we understood this, there would be no mentioning of keeping 50,000 troops in Iraq or sending more to Afghanistan.  

Our policymakers in DC, including General Patraeus, must know by this point that Afghanistan is not going to turn out well for us, that it is not Iraq (if one were to call fighting for seven years a success for that country), and we are destined for failure.  If that is understood, and I believe it is at some level, then why the Robert McNamaraesque insistence that all is well and on track?  Politics?  Fear of an opposition that will accuse you of being a Satanic weakling if you do not favor roasting the intestines of your enemies over an open pit?  These are all open questions.  I would love nothing more than to have an answer.  Unfortunately, I do not think that we are going to be getting one, at least anytime soon.

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