Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Supporting the War

This, bumped up from Aug of last year. Wonder if any of it is still relevant.


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.



Jack H said...

You can still win even if you're discouraged. You just have to be far enough ahead. That's why we spend so much on weapons, and give so little thought to character. Not a great plan, but it's a plan.

My name is Dylan. said...

Another home run! I'll keep reading. Nice work!

Jack H said...

Thanks for the "home run." That's the game I had in mind when I referenced winning. If you're far enough ahead, and just go through the motions, you can win. To say ONLY just isn't consonant with reality. Will isn't enough. Sometimes it's not even necessary for success. I'm so tired of these 19th century theories. You'd think scientific method hadn't been developed yet.