Sunday, August 26, 2007

Supporting the War

What does it even mean? -- to support, or not to support, the war? What does it mean to support the troops? Who, no matter what their politics, would admit to not supporting the troops? Even those who in a previous decade stood in line to spit on returning uniformed soldiers, now mouth the pious and almost religious words, "Of course I support the troops." They no longer wear their little flag-pins, but that might just mean they're not slaves to fashion. I wonder if they still wear the ever-so-sensitive red ribbons. We must be aware of the AIDS, you know. Keep our priorities straight. As for the war, so many of us feel liberated enough to proclaim that we do not support it. What does that mean?

Some wars don't deserve support. World War One. It's long ago enough now for us to be cold in our analysis. Really, really stupid. The falling dominoes sent tumbling by secret treaties. The patriotic passions of idealistic and naive young men. And then the years spend filling trenches with blood, and the hundreds of thousands slaughtered in single battles, murdered, frankly, by incompetent strategies devised by incompetent generals. Well, something like that might have been necessary. Maybe.

What then was the great justifying aim of that war? -- the noble purpose that would excuse the slaughter? Can anyone say? I can't. The Kaiser wasn't a monster, and whichever numbered Republic the French were currently on cannot have commended itself to the very highest aspirations of liberal democracy. Neither were worth fighting for, or dying for. No, for all the fervor of the propaganda, it is a war that virtue need not have supported. All sides could have walked away from it, and the world would have been a better place. No principle of virtue was at stake.

None of us support mindless killing. Some of us just understand that killing is sometimes necessary. Even the killing of the innocent. It's hard to admit, especially to anyone who has lost loved ones to injustice. But in our wars, the innocent die only by accident. If that is sufficient cause to condemn the war, then it must be sufficient cause to ban automobiles. Do the math: something over forty thousand American deaths annually in car accidents; something under two and a half percent of that number killed annually in this latest war. As for any collateral deaths of Iraqi civilians, the left commits the cynical fallacy of including in their statistics those victims of islamism who are targeted and murdered simply for being where they are: their deaths are not accidental. Upshot is, since there are no mass protests against cars, then the objection isn't to the accidental deaths of innocents, but to the idea of violence as a means of national policy -- war itself, under any circumstances.

Still, it's not an easily defended statement, that the killing of the innocent is sometimes necessary, or justified. It really only can work as a sort of mathematical expression. The human cost negates such rationalizing. But rationalize we must, because the alternative is to think we live in a perfectly just world, and we don't. We must always participate in some form of injustice. That, or be conquered, oppressed, tormented and murdered; or allow all that to happen to our loved ones. Here's how we justify killing the innocent: the tyrants we oppose have killed more in the past, and would kill even more again if they retained power. We are the lesser of evils. In a world such as this, that's a good thing to be. Indeed, it's the only thing that a good and great nation can be. Because a good and great people must sometimes stand up and impose order. The Swiss are not great. Complacency is irrelevant: they have too much of passivity even to be good.

Here's why everyone should support the war in Iraq: First, you should have supported removing Saddam. He was actively working to kill Americans. He corrupted and colluded with UN and foreign national leaders to circumvent the sanctions. He daily violated the no-fly zone, firing on US aircraft with deadly intent. He funded terrorism, if in no other way, then by paying the families of suicide bombers. He gave safe haven to terrorist leaders. He presented the credible if not the actual threat of WMD -- even he thought he had them. He committed genocide against a subjugated people. There are many monstrous leaders in the world. We can ignore them until they actively work against our national interest. Saddam did so.

Second, you should support the war even as it has been waged. Yes, it seems it has been waged incompetently. Not enough troops, apparently, and a poor strategy against the terrorists slash "insurgents". Yes, over three thousand young Americans have been killed, mostly by roadside bombs but also by lucky shots from the enemy. If the policy had been different, perhaps fewer would have been killed. Perhaps the timespan would have been shortened, and the situation would have been contained by now.

Perhaps. Just as the Civil War might have been shortened had Lincoln found Grant sooner, or if Robert E. Lee had been loyal to the Federal rather than to his State government. Perhaps the Hitler War would have ended sooner if FDR and his generals hadn't made the mistakes of which historians of war will be competent to inform us. You see, mistakes, egregious, profligate and horrific mistakes are made even in good wars. For this fact, should they not have been waged? Should we have allowed slavery to stand and the Confederate States of America to expand? Should we have allowed Hitler to digest Europe hoping that he would be sated by his easy victories?

We do not judge the success of a war by the progress of its battles. Are we children, to do such a thing? We must not be swept up in the anxieties of the moment. In this current war, the policy has at last changed. We have found our Grant. Is the war right, now, because of this? And was it wrong until now? Should we support it now that it seems to be working? -- and would we have been right to not support it until a few weeks and months ago? Are we children?

What is honor, that flits from side to side depending on the vicissitudes of a moment? What is honor, that bears a burden only for as long as mood sustains it? What vital task can we undertake and leave undone, and we remain men? What commitment can we make, only to forsake those who have trusted us with their lives, and we abandon them because it is no longer convenient to do otherwise? Let that be some other people. Let Americans be true to their pledge of fidelity, and let us be the promise of liberty that is the only difference between us and some mere race. We must be worthy of our blessings, and the cost of that is that we must stand true to our cause -- we must be faithful, even in a faithless world.

We save the Iraqis not because they are a good people. They are just a people. We save them because we have undertaken to save them. And we have undertaken to save them because had we not, they would have been used as a great enemy against us. We are wise because we recognize a threat and act to contain it. We are good because we remain faithful even when the weight of such faithfulness seems too much to bear. We are great because we will prevail, even in the face of unrelenting discouragement and even when we have been forsaken by those whom we had counted friends.

What does it mean to support the war? It means being angry at incompetence, and disheartened at delay and impatient for victory, and it means being grief-stricken at the bereavement that some of us could not survive. And through all of this, it means to understand that it is not newspapers that provide context and perspective, but history books.

We, men of honor, support a right cause up to the point where by supporting it we could no longer remain right and honorable. The stakes in Iraq are not so high that we must destroy what we fight to preserve. Iraq is not that important. But Iraq is the battlefield against islamism, and there is no tyranny more dreadful than that of islamism. I do not say Islam, but islamism. It will have its Inquisitions and its torture chambers. It will have its ovens. It will have its killing fields. It will have such things, and worse, if we allow it to prevail. If we allow ourselves to lose. And yes, we could lose. We could allow ourselves to lose. We've done it before.

But I choose not to see it that way. I choose to believe that we have learned how poisonous are cowardice and betrayal. I choose to believe that we will not lose. We will support the troops, and the war in which they fight. And we will win. We will not lose. Never. Never again. How could we. We're America.



brent said...

More than a pat on the back and a "good job Jack," you must present this somewhere else but here. I speak with a stern, kick-in-the-butt tone when I say this. Don't allow any of your jaded rationalization to prevent saying (in public) what we need to hear. But will they listen? Some will, some won't. That isn't the determining criteria to speak.

Jack H said...

(Nobody likes me.) Why, thanks for the kind words. (I'm no good.) Laboring here in the solitude of my genius, it's always nice to hear from the outside world. (I'm just wasting my time.) I'm not sure how I'd go about broadcasting this little effort. (I don't have anything worthwhile to say.) I barely know how these "bulletin boards" work. (I'm so stupid.) But feel free to email the link about -- perhaps it will become a meme. (I'm a fraud.) We do, after all, have to follow our bliss. (Nobody will ever love me.)



GUYK said...

Good stuff Jack and thought provoking. Although I did support taking out Saddam Hussein I can no longer support the war as it is being fought right now. Yes, I know, I hear that the 'surge' is succeeding but how and where? In Baghdad maybe.

I contend that the objectives of this war have been accomplished. We went in to insure there were no WMDs and to take down Saddam Hussein. Both of these objectives have been met. Not only that we insured that the Iraqi people had a democratic election and selected a government by popular vote. Now it is up to them to run their country as they see fit and protect their people.

We are in a situation now that we cannot win no matter which side of the civil war we support. The best possible option is to declare victory and pull out..mission accomplished. I figure that the blood bath that is sure to follow will mean that many fewer Muslims that we will have to fight in the future and it is better for us for them to kill each other than for us to kill them.

The objectives of this war as stated at the beginning were honorable objectives. And as I stated they have been completed. If in fact the objective was a stable government in Iraq than that should have been planned for in the beginning and total war waged on Iraq and the Iraqi war means whipping them into complete submission and then it is possible to establish a new and stable government.

The irony is that Mohammed understood this principle..when he conquered he demanded total submission and those who refused to submit were killed. If we are not willing to do the same we are wasting our human and fiscal resources...and the American public does not have the stomach for this kind of a war. So, that leaves the best option of "declare victory and come home."

Jack H said...

I believe we've taken (back) Anwar Province, to the west, which was the haven of the "insurgents". It seems that the sheiks -- or is it the trojans -- have switched to our side, first because we seem to be winning, and second because they've gotten tired of having their mothers blown up in marketplaces. So that's a good thing.

I think, like it or not, that there is a new object to the war. Abandoning Vietnam, whether or not we should have been there in the first place -- was so damaging to our national prestige that the Russians took heart and invaded Afghanistan (which didn't have to be a bad thing for them -- we just lucked out); and there are a few other related problems that the political rout created. The point is, it's not enough to be strong. We must be seen to be strong. Part of strength is resoluteness. Yes, it's idealist -- but my rhetoric has a purpose. Who gets respect? -- John Wayne or Woody Allen. Perceptions matter. Osama claims to have beaten the Russians, and he claims that we will behave now as we did with Vietnam. Who cares what Osama says, right? Except people are watching. Like the sheiks. It matters.

From one point of view, we could just let them kill each other off. But you know how it goes. We get blamed. So what? Resentment makes enemies. Strength may not make friends, but it makes allies. As strong as we are, wouldn't it be nice if we didn't have to worry about shoe bombs and dirty nukes? The more enemies we have, the more likely one of them will succeed. We've been carrying a big stick, but we haven't been talking softly. That means we have to live up to our words. People are watching.

We really will be out of there in not so very long. It's just important that it be seen as a success. A secure, if not an ideal, Iraq would be the proof. Once the Iraqis take up the positions and tactics of the "surge", we'll be set. Give it a year.

You're right about Mohmadman. We did the same thing with Japan and Germany. The modern paradigm seems to be endless occupation -- Korea. Well, maybe it's good for the economy.


brent said...

Well finally, some honesty.

Happy Birthday! May each day of the coming year be filled with a deeper awareness of His love and presence.



Anonymous said...

As I sit quietly drinking my coffee and reading over here in the corner, I have to tell you on your B-day that I love and appreciate your writing. You can make me think, you have made my eyes water. Can I reflect it back? No. But you've enriched my life with your writing, and I thank you.
Happy Birthday, JACK!

Jack H said...

B-- what's all this noise all the time about "honesty"? What a crock. Honesty? Here's what "honesty" is: a knife in the back, and a shallow unmarked grave. Deal with it.

Birthday? Why, yes, I do believe it *is* my birthday. How odd that I hadn't noticed. Let's see ... it slips my mind, how old I am, but looking in the mirror as I almost always am, I'd say I'm in my mid-twenties. Ah. So beautiful. So beautiful.

A-- Psst! A! Check it out! That hot waitress over there! She's eyeballing me! D'ya think I should ask her out? I can just tell she's so hot for me. Cuz I'm so hot and stuff. Naw, she's not good enough for me. I'll just wait til something better comes along. Yeah. HEY BABE! GIMME ANOTHER LATTE, AND MAKE IT SNAPPY!


Anonymous said...

Jack, I'm a first time reader, and I agree with the 1st poster, this needs to be seen by a Lot of people. You wrote exactly the same way i feel but just can't express it the same way.

Excellent article. keep up the good work.

Jack H said...

Well thank you. Appreciate the moral support. Toiling as I do in thorny fields of the world, all kindness comes as a rain of sweet waters. :-)