Snapshot of my 2003-04 views on the War on Terror, part 4
Yeah, that's pretty much my assessment of GEN Clarks' progress. Really, he's an Independent, not a Democrat, no matter how hard he tries to sell himself as one, but he's smart enough to know that an Independent isn't going to win a presidential election. I thought from the beginning that if the Democratic party would nominate him, then GEN Clark would beat Bush Jr. Unfortunately, I don't think he'll make it through the internal party political process. GEN Clark isn't enough of an institutionalized Democratic 'party man'. So far, the Dems have been short-sighted in their strategy of penny-drama vilification of Bush Jr. It's going to wear really thin by next Nov. As an Independent, it doesn't play well to me at all - just more cheap party tricks insulting my intelligence as a citizen. The candidates need to come up with better positions, because right now, they sound like soccer hooligans, not presidential material, and if the domestic and international situation improves at all, they're going to lose the election. On economic and social issues, as a group, they seem conflicted and confused, except when bashing Bush Jr - which, again, seems to be a cheap fallback position. From what I've seen, Kerry and Lieberman, as institutionalized mainstream party men, will hold the line as president and maintain Bush Jr's missions with a Dem spin (much as Bush Jr has continued Clinton's free trade work), but they're not dynamically action-oriented. I have no impression of Gephardt, and Edwards clearly isn't ready to enter the Executive branch. Dean turned me off by being one of the first Dems to resort to cheap populist attacks on Bush Jr to make his name, which says something about his actual readiness. Like Edwards, I think he'd be overwhelmed as president. Barring a disaster in the war on terror or the economy over the next year, if GEN Clark fails to become the Dem candidate, I think the Dems will lose the election.
My second choice? I'll vote for GEN Clark, anyway - just because. I could live with a Kerry or Lieberman. I'm not planning on voting for Bush Jr, but he might impress me.
I only hope the Dems keep in mind that while this is an election year in which bad PR for America favors them, Iraq and the war on terror are sensitive American missions, not just GOP missions. A lot can happen in a year, and if they want to impede progress just to vilify the GOP, I hope they realize there might not be a mission left to heroically save by Jan, 05. Like Daschle saying that Bush Jr is lying about progress in Iraq - score one for Osama's propaganda machine.
As far as Iraq, the United States isn't omnipotent. We are disproportionally powerful, but don't mistake influence and bargaining power for control. There's this myth that American diplomacy and force projection is this monolithic machine that can grind up and reshape anything in its path. It's not. It's ordinary people, from diplomats to the troops, working really hard in a tough, complex world, not always successfully or well, to do the country's work and serve the American people. We may have more tools than most nations, but they are only tools. They have their limitations, and we have our limits.
We've massed forces in Afghanistan and Iraq to kill terrorists, but those are the only two places we can really do that; however, those are not the only places terrorists can operate. To win this fight against an unconventional enemy, we have to resort to means that fall outside of the old paradigms.
In terms of its globalisation potential, Iraq isn't just another country in the region. Obviously, all the gold in FT Knox can't turn the people of the ME into something they're not. There are differing beliefs at work here. Some folks who criticize the US mission think Muslims and Arabs are too primitive to rise above autocracy, tyranny, and ethnic and religious conflict. Some even think they are predisposed to Wahabism. Bush Jr believes otherwise. As far as the political aspect, he believes them when Muslims tell him about the sophisticated, progressive achievements of Islamic heritage. He further believes there is already a political current in the region for globalisation and democratic reform. The idea is that progress IS possible in the ME, it's just been retarded by circumstances. It's about changing the regional dynamics so that the potential for progress that Bush Jr believes exists in the region will take root and blossom. It isn't a quick-fix, which you've pointed out, but the war on terror isn't a 2-hour action flick, either. A reformed Iraq is part of an ambitious long-term solution to bring the ME in line with the globalising world. The analogy I like to use is, what happens to street-gangs when civil and social reform and opportunity comes to the ghetto? We're not going to eliminate religious extremism, we don't even do that in the US, but eventually, we should be able to marginalize it.
I have my opinion . . . do you think it's a coincidence that Judge Shirin Ebadi, an IRANIAN pro-democracy, progressive reformer received the most recent Noble Peace Prize? Bush Jr's hopes and plans may not be as isolated as you think.
We've never stopped using our multilateral tools in the war on terror. A reformed Iraq is a foundational component, but it is not by itself the entire solution. As I said before, it's about changing the geopolitical landscape so we can use our tools and strengths more effectively. We have to separate the state perspective from the popular perspective. Yes, popular opinion is inflamed around the world and Osama probably is staying up late at nights deciding from all the resumes being sent to him. If you look at state actions, the US has been anything but unilateral in the war on terror. Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, the Phillipines, and Syria, in particular, seem to be receiving a lot of diplomatic attention. It seems that Saudi Arabia and Iran are feeling the most pressure, the Phillipines are receiving the best help, Syria is just trying to stay out of the way, while Pakistan is profiting the most. nK isn't the only place we're using the political tools of globalisation right now.
Even if public perception was better, I'm not sure what more we could reasonably expect from these governments, except glowing public statements of support for our mission. Remember, they're states fighting the same insurgent or guerilla elements, too. Nations around the world are working with us against terrorism within their own borders. We're not the only ones who've been hit by al Qaeda and friends, and other nations have a shared interest in al Qaeda's defeat. But if we have a hard time fighting al Qaeda, it's not going to be easier for them, even if they're less domestically squeemish about using hard tactics.
So, we have established bilateral relationships in the war on terror. In multilateral areas, we have international support with the so-called "Coalition of the Willing" which isn't devoid of non-American troops and investments, we finally received unanimous UN sanction of our mission, we got the Donor's Conference which yielded decent money for Iraq, and the IGC has been recognized by the UN and Arab multinational bodies. Degree and efficacy are questionable, but diplomacy has worked insofar the necessary components of multilateralism have been put in place.
PR. Unfortunately, Bush Jr can barely express himself, public relations has been a disaster and we are losing the propaganda fight badly. Politically and in terms of leverage, the PR loss is hurting us in many areas. Worse, it's allowing nations like France, Russia and Germany to wiggle out of contributing.
What is the Euro intransigence about? It's about business. We're not getting more help in Iraq because the cost/benefit analysis of our nominal allies tells them the benefit to themselves is too little. In the Gulf War, it was different because many nations were personally and immediately threatened by Saddam's destabilization in the ME. (We were probably the least personally affected, but still the most involved.) Even in the Gulf War, though - THE model of multilateralism - the US still carried the overwhelming majority of the functional load. Think of Somalia, which was in all respects a UN mission in jeopardy. Other than the US, how many nations cared to invest to save that mission? The best example is perhaps Kosovo, GEN Clark's proving ground, because it involved nations we're most trying to convince to invest in Iraq. The comparison is really a cheat since Euro immediate self-interest in Kosovo is obvious. While the mission was multi-national, we carried by far the greatest load, and our mission there is on-going today. When Dems accuse Bush Jr of failing to gain more international support, it's not a lie, but to me, it seems that the Dems are playing the American people for suckers. If a former soldier knows the real nature of our nominal allies, they do, too.
It's about business - it's quite a coincidence that the nations that most obstructed the initial UN authorization of war also happen to be the same nations that lost the most profit when Saddam was taken out of power. The track record of these nations say that as long as international missions don't immediately concern their interests, they don't invest. The war on terror? For them, it ends at their own borders. The rest of the global load, including Iraq? Easy answer - the US will take care of the problem, they always have. My brother, who is very anti- the Iraq mission, doesn't ask why the US is the world's 'police force'. He questions why the US has to be the world's 'welfare state', and says Bush Jr is an idealistic liberal run amok.
So, aside from the important public perception benefits of multinational approval (which really, we technically have with the recent UN sanction), I wonder how much investment in resources and troops these nations are actually ready to donate . . . I think "donate" is the key word which turns them off. The issue isn't about the morality or legality of our mission. The former issue will be debated for years, the latter has been settled by official agreement. The real issues are control, investments, contracts and profits - in short, it's about business.
So, how do we gain more troops and money, and more feel-good international statements of support? Well, the legal components of a multilateral mission are already in place. Now, it's about negotiation. The Euros have already laid out their bargaining position in the UN. In effect, they want bigger pieces of the pie and they want control.The Euros will put troops and resources into Iraq to protect their own business investments, not to reform Iraq, help the Iraqi people or fight the war on terror.
As the present guardian of Iraq, the US needs to be very careful about making concessions. I think Euros are still imperialists at heart, which means they'll judge their investment in Iraq - just as they judge their investment in every international mission - in terms of profit and benefit for themselves. While we have individuals who profiteer, our national interest in Iraq is for the nation to become powerful and successful in its own right. We have a responsibility and we need to be very careful about giving Euros too much control over the future of Iraq. Why trust the US? Remember, we're the nation that's earned a history of revitalizing brethren nations. And the Euros? Well, as an American-born child of immigrants, I have a bicultural appreciation of European history in foreign lands.
We need a salesman. The problem with our current president is Bush Jr is an action-oriented idealist who tries to do the right thing and he's worked hard, which is good, but he's not a slick and savvy politician, which is bad. He was the right man to push forward the war on the terror and the unpopular, but necessary Iraq mission. But now, to gain more international investment, especially in the politically-sensitive form of troops, we need a hard-ball negotiator and salesman who can preserve the mission, promote public perception, apply leverage skillfully, and pull in human and material investments. He has a year to prove otherwise, but so far, it's pretty clear Bush Jr ain't that guy.
You can tell I don't trust the Euros. Right now, Bush Jr is trying to protect Iraq's economic future, but the more damage we absorb - in money, resources, perception, and lives - the less we'll able to hold on. The leverage we lose is directly gained as negotiating leverage for the Euros, which for them, means bigger pieces of the Iraqi pie and more control over Iraq's future. My fear with the Dem candidates is that because internationalization of the Iraq mission is such a major campaign issue for them, the Dem president will sell out the economic future of the Iraqi people by making bad concessions to the Euros from the Dem desire to produce immediate, tangible results for political cache at home. My second fear is that unless Americans are willing to invest in Iraq long-term, we may not have a choice but to capitulate to the Euros - then all hail the EU.
As far as the population growth of terrorists we have seemingly inspired - do we want to strip all the old paint and repaint the entire apartment or do we forever only fix the succession of obvious loose flakes, and ignore the cracking, chipped rest? This might be a fight we pass onto our children, but I don't intend to pass it onto our grandchildren.
The choice in the ME has moved increasingly towards one of oppression or extremism. We've tried to work diplomatically and economically with the sensitive balance of the ME for decades, but past measures proved inadequate to influence the regional trends. We failed. Post-9/11, it's clear the 'choice' in the ME needs to dramatically change, and to win the war on terror, the region must be brought on-line with globalisation. The question is, how?
The larger answer doesn't lie with our unreliable, selfish allies (the British excepted), although they are an important tool. As Clinton showed, the answer also doesn't lie with a low-key, politically correct approach. The goal here is to get at the root of the problem and fix the conditions that terrorism needs to flourish. Leaving Saddam in power and enforcing a harmful UN policy in Iraq wasn't going to do that. A delicate, cautious response to every al Qaeda attack isn't going to do that. In fact, both of those policies were instrumental in the growth of the terrorist threat. Invading Iraq to remove Saddam, by itself, isn't going to do that. Leaving Iraq before the job is finished isn't going to do that. Only the success of our Iraq mission, as a foundational component of larger reform, can do that . . . and possibly not even then. Sometimes, cancer is too far advanced and even radical therapy fails.
In the 18th century, we won our freedom and began our great democracy experiment. In the 19th century, we kept our freedom, brothers fought to keep our nation whole, and we took our first giant step towards true pluralism. In the 20th century, we marginalised Fascism and Communism. Both were exhausting fights in which we made harsh, unpopular decisions, but we got the job done. In the 21st century, our American generation is battling a hard, hungry, intelligent enemy who WILL sacrifice and knows how to defeat us. In contrast, many Americans can't stomach this fight and want somebody else to pay the price and do our fighting for us. I agree with GEN Clark on his national service proposal - the American people need to be reinvigorated to face the 21st century. Maybe it's already too late. After two-plus centuries, maybe it's just America's time to end and Terrorism is simply the historical evolutionary force that replaces a weakened, hollowed-out anachronism.
george's post is standard propaganda. It takes differing opinions and fractions of truth, then expands them to fit a rigid perspective. It's an anti-Bush platform - no more, no less. Some of its points are ridiculous. As a former Army MI guy in Korea, I can tell you the Korean portion of the post is very far off-base. I don't agree with the entire post, and certainly not its premise, but many of the mentioned issues do point to reasons why I didn't and most likely won't vote for Bush Jr.
I view Bush Jr with two categories of consideration.
FIRST CATEGORY - MR. PRESIDENT
This is the Bush Jr who came into office on Jan 01, obviously pre-9/11, with many ideas I didn't agree with, some of which he's followed through on vigorously, and others which he's dropped or changed policy-course - typical of any president.
Bush Jr was handicapped early in his presidency insofar the base success of any president is owed in large part to economic stability and security, as in any nation. Clinton was credited with both, although national security was actually harmed greatly during his presidency. Bush Jr expected to be a conservative president favoring big business and the rich, which would have worked okay if the economic and national security status quo had not changed; liberal, conservative, moderate, there are always thousands of complicated, controversial issues for any admin to address with their particular ideologies and philosophies. After all, regularly changing our leaders, with their differing ideas of society, is instrumental in how we evolve as a nation. Bush Jr expected to implement his policy changes on the foundational inheritance of Clinton's economic bubble-boom. If the status quo had maintained, Bush Jr would likely have passed into relative presidential Ford-esque obscurity - at worst, as an amusing anecdote.
Unfortunately for Bush Jr and for all Americans, the status quo DID change early in his presidency.
In terms of national security, 9/11 forced a radical reevaluation and shift in the national security and foreign policy paradigms. He was guilty of being unlucky enough to be the president on watch when the growing pressure of the al Qaeda phenomenon, which had been building for a decade-plus, burst wide open. The Florida election scandal has turned out to be a pyrrhic victory for the GOP; I'm sure by now the GOP wishes Gore had won, so THEY could blame the dubiously elected president AND the Clinton-Gore 'cabal' for the state of the nation. (Ain't partisan politics fun.)
In terms of the economy, I agree with Al Sharpton on this issue (if little else). Blaming Bush Jr for the economic downturn is standard Dem rhetoric, but it's actually a false conceit. The 90s economic upturn occurred under finite conditions (accounting-frauds boom, technology boom, globalisation-investment boom, etc) - granted, aided by Clinton's aggressive pro-globalisation policies - which ended due more to cyclical and events-dependent factors than GOP-specific factors.
Why does Al Sharpton indirectly (unwittingly?) excuse Bush Jr from economic blame? Because he's a populist economic protectionist who opposes globalisation, the economic hallmark of the Clinton administration. In contrast, the other Dem candidates deify Clinton's economic record to set up an easy dichotomy with the vilification of Bush Jr. In their promises to return a Clinton-esque economic upturn, Sharpton believes his fellow Dems are misleading the American working class. Whether or not the Dems actually believe they can imitate Clinton's economic record during their presidency, the contention that Bush Jr singehandedly sabotaged the 'good times' - a foundation issue in george's post - is really no more than a cheap populist trick. I think it insults the voter's intelligence on a complex issue. Do I agree with Bush Jr's tax cut and his general economic position? As a non-economist, I roughly understand the theory he's using . . . but no, I tend strongly towards populist economic protectionism myself as a pro-union, social liberal. My grounds for supporting globalisation is as a powerful political tool (AKA capitalist world peace), whereas Sharpton virtually ignores a viable foreign policy platform.
Do I blame Bush Jr for his management of the economic downturn? Well, put it this way - Bush Jr ain't no FDR as far as making an effort to relieve the strain on the people. Keep in mind, though, Hoover was unfairly blamed for the Great Depression, too, and FDR's domestic economic reforms didn't fare much better.
SECOND CATEGORY - COMMANDER IN CHIEF
Now, the second category is his record as the first 9/11 president of our 9/11 American generation. Bush Jr is tackling an enemy who Clinton, in practical terms, refused to confront and, really, Bush Jr didn't plan to fight either - until 9/11.
Osama represents an aggressive, expansionist worldview in which we, as the leaders of Western, pluralistic, democratic globalisation, are directly blocking his path to domination. For years, as typically war-averse and economy-focused presidents, both Clinton and Bush Jr refused confrontation, but Osama needs to fight us, just like Hitler needed Liebenstraum (sp?) and to exterminate so-called sub-races. A movement like al Qaeda feeds from hate, death and destruction, and demands a high cost to stop. After years of the US politically side-stepping him, Osama finally forced us to confront him on Sep 11, 2001.
george's contention that Bush Jr is to blame for the unpleasantries, even failure, in the war on terror exhibits an incredible lack of respect for this enemy, this phenomenon and the scope of our fight. george seems to be a typical ethnocentrist, perhaps even a racist, who dismisses the worth and effect of the foreign-other. george may own the luxury to blame his president for all matters unpleasant, but our president cannot afford to devalue our nation's enemies in such a crass, disrespectful manner. I learned well as a soldier: the US is NOT omnipotent and the happenings of the world are NOT merely reactions to what we do. We do more good work than any other nation in a tough, complicated world, but it's hard work.
The policy decisions Bush Jr has made and the actions he has taken related to the war on terror, including the Patriot Act, have been controversial, costly, and highly unpleasant, but they accurately reflect the near-impossible nature of this fight, as well as our own limitations in fighting this kind of enemy.
Again, respect this enemy. He seized the initiative on 9/11 and has forced us to confront him on his terms, in a fight for which he was ready and we were not. We are now trying to regain the initiative in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we're not quite there yet. He operates apart from the palateable realm of globalisation politics. In fact, his willingness for aggressive violence is an advantage against a war-averse globalisation society. He is a 21st century, non-state, global, ideologically-driven hate movement. He is an unconventional, skilled, adaptive, resourceful, flexible, mobile enemy, who operates free of the official and political restraints limiting our forces. His asymmetrical strengths - in the context of a fight on his terms - equals or surpasses our strengths. He has studied American defeats, such as the Vietnam War and Somalia, and exploits the weaknesses of the American people. He knows how to defeat us - especially in the propaganda area - and he is determined to win. He will sacrifice to propagate his worldview, and he believes we are unwilling to sacrifice to protect our worldview. He believes, in the end, he is the historical evolutionary (or godly) force that will replace in this world the American-led abomination of secular pluralism, democracy and capitalist globalisation. In short, he believes his will is stronger than ours. Whereas our forefathers stopped Hitler in a similar quest, this enemy believes a fat, self-indulgent, morally corrupt America is incapable of stopping his form of extremist ascendancy, and he might be right.
Realize that in this type of war in particular, unsatisfactory disclosure, secrets and misdirection are unavoidable - and over-simplification has always been at the center of populist politics. That DOES NOT mean, however, that we do not challenge and question our leaders. Incompetence or corruption in our leaders will be a poor excuse for failure. At the same time, they must have the people's support to do their jobs . . . this is OUR fight, and we cannot tolerate losing to this enemy.
It's up to us, as Americans, to develop a viable context by studying the history, the theories, the situations, the options and the goals. Learn about the enemy and respect him. Think pragmatically of how we can win against this enemy AND how to win a better world. Learn from populist propaganda like george's, but don't settle for it. Against this enemy, we don't have our common American luxuries of near-sightedness and blissful ignorance.
Bush Jr is a sub-par diplomat, public speaker and salesperson, and his inability to effectively represent the war on terror has given fertile grounds for anti-American propaganda. However, to date, the negative perception overreaches the actual negatives of the campaign. While there has been much to criticize in the tactical specifics of the conduct of the war on terror, Bush Jr's strategic decisions have been sound. Remember, this campaign is only concluding its opening stage, and we are still in the process of catching up to a capable enemy, and re-taking the initiative. A period of failures, disappointments and adjustments is inevitable and to be expected. Don't expect shortcuts, like our nominal allies bailing us out. We have only so many tools to work with, many of which don't work well against this kind of enemy.
We should continue to question and challenge the Patriot Act; doing so is in itself an essential patriotic act to preserve the founding concepts of our republic. Hopefully, we will find the elusive balance between the constriction of necessary homeland security and the freedom of our civil-liberties ideals.
Understand that the war on terror is broader than just a Chuck Norris seek-and-destroy mission. We have never stopped using our multilateral diplomatic and economic tools, and Bush Jr has more multilateral achievements than he's credited, though still fewer than we need for this fight.
Afghanistan was and continues to be about reducing and fracturing the enemy's immediate tactical capability, although political limitations disallowed us from a complete physical destruction of even his Afghanistan-based concentration - we operate in a box, the enemy doesn't. We all want Osama's head on a platter (as a former captain of my HS bowling team, I know exactly what to do with it). However, it would be simplistic to assume a mobile enemy would restrict his operations to Afghanistan.
The Iraq mission is a foundational component of the war on terror, in immediate, physical terms, but more so in the long-term for undermining the conditions in which the hate-movement of terror flourishes. We likely will never completely destroy al Qaeda, but we CAN marginalize the terror movement.
The Iraq mission is about an ambitious end-state strategy in this fight, on our terms, instead of settling for an indefinite drag-out fight we can't win. The enemy has expertly used his strengths and minimized ours; Iraq is about giving us back our strengths - the tools of globalisation. A powerful, influential, pluralistic, democratic, economically prosperous and secure, reformed Iraq has the potential to be a foundational component for changing the geopolitical landscape in the Middle East. Iraq can be a powerful globalisation driver in the literal heart of Persia, Arabia and the Muslim world. A reformed Iraq can be a positive fund to counter the negative fund of terrorism. That's right - the Iraq mission is based on social liberal ideology. You think democratic reform in the Middle East is a pipe-dream? Tell that to the latest Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Judge Shirin Ebadi, an IRANIAN pro-democracry, progressive reformer. Bush Jr has faith in the Muslim world - you should, too.
You don't have to like or vote for Bush Jr. If you're an American, that's your right. And last I checked, there's still an election next Nov and a two-term limit for presidents. You don't have to feel comfortable about the war on terror. You shouldn't - not against this enemy, not in an inherently unpleasant and costly fight. You shouldn't fall in love with the idea of war in general; anyway, Bush Jr's goal IS to reestablish the global conditions necessary for war-averse globalisation to flourish - so really, he agrees with you.
As the 9/11 American generation, we are galvanized by tragedy and we are in for a fight, but we also have a golden opportunity to reinvigorate our essence as American patriots. Learn about who you are and who we are, and our country in this world. Learn the issues defining the challenges we face as global leaders, and what we need to do to evolve as a nation in the 21st century. Reinforce the principles that make us great and honor the sacrifices of our forefathers. Invest yourself, through service, sacrifice and community, into the future of our country and the American people, and your role in the future of this world.
I say again. You don't have to praise, defend, like, support or vote for Bush Jr. He is the president, not the country. Critique his decisions, engage in dialogue, and expand your understanding of what we are facing. Maybe you can think of a way Bush Jr and his crew have not to effectively fight the war on terror. Just respect his responsibilities and don't allow near-sighted partisan bias to obstruct our shared national interests. In America, the people make the difference. The only way we're going to win this fight is together.
I'm surprised you accept the premise for OIF yet still disagree with the necessity of the mission. How does that make any sense in the real world of real consequences? OIF is not premature; it's years late - just hopefully not too late. If an action is urgently required, the priority is to implement the action in a timely manner. With this stuff, we don't get to reschedule or ask for do-overs.
The UN Iraq mission was NOT conceived as an indefinite mission of 'containment'. It was a mission of 'resolution'. That changed only after the UN backed down from Saddam. It's not the first time we revisited a war due to a failed international body. The members of the League of Nations found excuses not to act against Hitler. Pre-9/11, we, to include Bush Jr, found excuses not to act against Saddam. Post-9/11, Bush Jr is doing his best to divest the UN of the decision-making flaws that doomed the LoN.
People don't learn. The real-world urgency and premise for OIF were not contrived, so what was contrived? The SENSE of urgency. Why was that contrivance necessary? Because people don't learn. The US is the only nation that does NOT have the luxury to use the UN as an excuse for failure of international responsibilities; therefore, once the UN's enforcement failed, what could we do? Think FBI, Al Capone and tax fraud.
Alternative means to deal with Saddam were exhausted by 1998, leaving us with three choices: abandon the mission, maintain the failed policy and call it 'containment', or regime change. What diplomatic alternative did you expect? Bush Jr talking us out of Iraq like Clinton tap-danced out of Somalia?
I've repeatedly explained the reality of multilateralism, but you still insist on a fantasy of multilateralism. The level of investment you're asking for, we've never gained from nations not directly threatened, so you're actually asking for something we're already doing - protecting the Iraqi economic base (ie, oil) and building the Iraqi security forces. We're influential but we don't have the kind of control you imagine we have over our allies. You're thinking more of a WWI-era England that could PULL resources from its 'empire'. We can only ask nations to voluntarily PUSH aid; many nations have done so. Besides Bush Jr's lack of sales ability, why hasn't there been more aid? LoN again. Consider why the US became a global leader in the first place. The same nations that stood passive while Hitler invaded Poland are the same nations that had us deal with the Balkans crisis. Yet now, you expect these same nations to heavily invest in the Iraq mission? 9/11 changed our paradigm - it didn't change theirs. Negotiation with our allies is only partially about justification; it's more about their self-interest.
Answers. One, you're looking for easy answers, and there aren't any. Unless it's a crash course in colonialism, I CAN tell you easy answers won't be found with France, Germany and Russia. Two, you can help address the mission's PR issues. You're an empowered American citizen with a voice: go to the world, explain the paradigm shift and defend the mission. Three, the mission is legally established at the UN, the IGC is officially recognized, and it's already multinational to a comparable level with past US-led missions. Four, we eventually should gain more material investment. Since we've established the UN legal basis, the rest is largely business-oriented negotiation. (The next time you listen to French AMB Villepin speak about Iraq, count how many times he says the word "reconstruction".)
Recognize that - however comforting it may be - increased international investment and good PR won't provide easy answers, relieve the strain on American forces nor diminish the enemy's fight to control Iraq. With no easy answers, there are also no guarantees of victory. Why should there be - since when were we ever guaranteed victory in any of our wars? In a historical context, the Iraq mission is not going as badly as you think, and it's much too early to judge it unwinnable. Difficulties, resistance and adjustments were inevitable. We've actually accomplished quite a bit for only 7 months on the ground. Our greatest vulnerability right now is not the mission on the ground nor even the enemy. It is the question of American will. If you truly believe that our government must baby along childish notions in order to maintain domestic support, then you think our will is already too weak to win this fight.
I guess this is the best answer to your question: we ARE Americans of great traditions and a proud history. The last time I checked, our nation was not founded by draft-dodgers and radical protestors nor on the principle of defeatism. Have more faith in our people on the ground. The best of America is in Iraq right now - if they can't get the job done, then no one can.
Now we're getting to the heart of the disagreement.
There's the globalised society, which we've built with much American blood, investment and leadership. Indeed, in other problems, such as Liberia and Korea, Bush Jr is using globalised methods.
Then there are problems beyond the limitations of a barely pubescent globalised society. What stopped Clinton from solving the Iraq and terrorism problem? The same thing that stopped Bush Jr before 9/11 - the limits of globalised society. A post-9/11 American president can't afford constricted, PR-designed non-solutions.
Perspective. Globalisation is an illusion whose reality depends on stability and security. Society is a village built inside a wall. A globalised society seeks to enclose the entire world within that wall. Most Americans don't know the wall, let alone the other side of it. The wall protects our privileges and luxuries, including ignorance. Cops, GIs and others who serve know the wall well.
A lesson of military experience: the only real law and order is that which we impose. Past the limits of society, leadership in the form of decisive action is the ONLY difference-maker. In the world today, only the US is capable of that leadership. Have you ever been part of a project where one person practically WAS the project? That's us. Understand, the US isn't yet a true partner in the globalising world; we're leaders aspiring to partnership. We hoped partnership would accompany the end of the Cold War. We were wrong; 9/11 was both our punishment and wake-up call. The globalising world is not yet mature enough. We're at a critical point with a job to do, the same job we've held since 07Dec41.
A globalised society grows painfully and imperfectly, like anything else. Could the US have evolved IF we had co-existed with native-American nations, or how about the Confederacy? The fascists? The communists? Could globalisation grow without the US at its core and lead?
A mature, robust, inclusive globalised society is the ultimate goal, but in its immature state, its limitations are part of the problem. Clinton's solutions reached the limit of existing globalised capability, and they were inadequate. Since 9/11, we've begun a new and necessary stage of the growth process, in which our globalised society protects itself from fundamental threats. We want more help, but as before, we need our allies to catch up to the new standard we set. The war on terror, including the Iraq mission, is the new frontier of the globalisation evolution.
In this regard, Bush Jr will be remembered as a champion of globalisation - if we win. So, where can you find the real-world urgency of OIF? Perspective.
Look, Bush Jr doesn't go on global jaunts to oppose globalisation. You and he both want the same thing. I may not vote for him, but I understand what he's trying to do. He sees the threat attacking the wall, and those of us who've stood on it appreciate the view. We've discussed this in depth already - how do we defeat the terrorist phenomenon? THIS is how - given our task, conditions (with limitations) and standard.
How else do we break the grid-lock over the UN's Iraq mission? How do we stop France and others from undermining the UN and turning it into the LoN? How do we stop them from supplying Saddam or stop his remilitarization? How could we double, or even triple, the size of our military? How do we reverse (not just slow) the physical and ideological proliferation of religious extremism? How do we break the growing totalitarian/extremist polarization of the ME, and infuse globalisation?
Ready or not, 9/11 gave our nation the mandate to cure, not just anaesthetize, the cancer. Unfortunately, many well-meaning folks are stuck in pre-9/11 paradigms OR cry for idealized conditions impossible to create under the circumstances. Should we have been better prepared? Sure, why not, but understand, we were unprepared for the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, WWI, WWII, the Cold War and the Korean War, too. Should we be doing better now? Always. Past American generations adapted and overcame, and so must we.
The terrorism problem IS shared; we've discussed bilateral relations. To expect our allies to volunteer more would set a new precedent. In negotiation, one must give to get, so what else do you propose we give up? At this point, we need our allies to break their grid-lock and meet our standard. If the US truly was as empire-ish as some think, our job would be easier.
If your answer remains, we should delay comprehensive treatment of the cancer until globalised society is mature enough so that the US can act as a partner, rather than a leader - well, what can I say? YOU tell the enemy 9/11 wasn't fair warning and that he needs to delay his campaign until we're ready with the idealized conditions we want. Who knows? It might work; I'm sure it's one diplomatic alternative Bush Jr hasn't tried yet.
Yeah, I am idealistic. I'm also a realist. The synthesis of the two is recognizing where we are AND identifying what we need to do to get to where we want to be. I was a cynical, urban NY liberal before I joined the Army. The Army turned me into a Kennedy 'Cold War and Peace Corps' liberal. By the way, so is GEN Clark.
GEN Clark offers Kosovo as the model to deal with Iraq. It's one thing that's disappointed me about him. As a former enlisted intel analyst, I know the general knows the two situations are dissimilar. To tout Kosovo as a model for Iraq is as foolish as thinking we could repeat the Korean War in Vietnam - in fact, more so.
You're right about economic benefits. The US has carried most of the cost of globalisation since WWII, in blood, resources and money, while we've sold the world on the benefits of globalisation - cooperation, democracy and/or economic prosperity, AKA capitalist world peace. Now, we're asking them to share a larger part of the cost - you know, leadership to partnership. Our president is a poor salesman, and many of our allies (excepting the 'willing' England, Italy, Poland, Australia, Korea, Japan, et al) who've bought the benefits are rejecting the cost.
Until the moment the UN again backed down from Saddam upon Rez 1441, Bush Jr WAS multilateral - in hindsight, more than he should have been. Clinton the lawyer set an entirely unilateral precedent with Op Desert Fox for a reason. But, Bush Jr the idealist wants to save the UN (and his daddy's good work) where Clinton gave up on it. (One guess for whose administration withheld UN funding.)
Rez 1441 and the strict conditions and standard of its enforcement were agreed upon by the UNSC. They knew the mission as well as we did; unfortunately, their priority wasn't to enforce, but to maintain a profitable status quo. The counter-proposals by France and friends were impossible to sustain. Think about it. How long could the US maintain a 300,000-strong military force around Iraq to do NO MORE than repeat the same indefinite inspection process with the same non-compliant Saddam? What would have happened to international enforcement credibility once Rez 1441 enforcement collapsed? When asked, Villepin flat-out rejected contributing troops (the ones they routinely send into Africa without notifying the UN) to maintain even France's own counter-proposal. He knew the deal. Bush Jr already tried very hard to get what you want. Again, what else do you propose we give up in negotiation?
Bush Jr, even stumbling, isn't a threat to globalised society. Globalisation is grounded in economics. When it comes right down to it, most things related to human civilization are. PR is an important factor, but ultimately, the real differences are only made through power (in its different forms), possession, action and investment - THAT's economics. Perception inevitably follows suit. If/when France invests into the Iraq mission, their tune will change. Example: do you think Palestine is the only disputed territory in the world? The PLO and Hamas know what they're doing, better than most Americans.
Don't allow the populist rhetoric to obscure the problem: the actual threat and the sub-par ability of globalised society to respond to threat. As long as we win, the PR wounds will heal - they're superficial. Cancer patients who undergo chemo grow their hair and gain the weight back, but it's a moot point if they die. The other things Bush Jr is doing that you dismiss? Yes, he's preserving the foundation of globalisation in a difficult time, even if you don't see it. If you believe Bush Jr is incapable of this job, then vote for someone who'll do it better, but be clear on what the job is.
You're making the common mistake of thinking military folks, the ones who live and work where 'the rubber meets the road', know less than you do. I happen to be a veteran who's a liberal Ivy League student, if that means anything to you. Try going on the wall sometime and get a good look at the other side. It might change your mind IF you'll open your eyes. It worked for me. Americans take too much for granted, often to the point of irresponsibility. Stained glass windows are pretty, an affectation and a privilege, but they also obscure the view.
The perspective IS valid if you're talking about a closed community and you're asking the same kid to develop a different relationship with the same bullies, then you fault the kid when he's hurt by the bullies again. I would hope the kid is smart and brave enough to adjust his actions to the reality of his community when the need to act outweighs the pretense of a false harmony.
Give me a different France than the one that has set a clear track record since WWII, show me a different UN than the one that frustrated Clinton, then maybe we can compare competing realities, instead of fantasy versus reality. You can believe what you want about multilateral missions, but in the real world, they don't measure up to your imagination. The reality is, even within our highest profile multilateral missions, the US is the only difference-maker on a global scale. The rest is PR. The reality of the Iraq mission differs significantly from other multilateral missions only in perception. Look into the definitively NATO Afghanistan mission. As a NATO mission, we have multilateral help in Afghanistan; however, while the perception is multilateral, the international material help isn't significantly different than in the Iraq mission.
If you want a solution, OIF is a solution. If you want leadership based on multilateral PR, go to Rwanda, Somalia and Sierre Leone. Visit the mass graves in the Balkans and Iraq we allowed Milosevic and Saddam to fill for PR purposes.
There is only one world. The same limits Clinton and Bush Jr were unwilling to test with pre-9/11 paradigms are the same obstacles a post-9/11 president must overcome. If Clark praises France, that's diplomacy. I know the general knows France has been THE biggest NATO head-ache, to include the period when they were protected by NATO without joining. If/when Clark is president, he'll praise France to comfort you, but the closed-door reality of his job will be the same negotiation with France conducted by the Bush Jr admin. Clark will separate himself from Bush Jr only in what he is willing to concede, ie, what the US will give to France to get what you want. We haven't counted on France for help since WWII for a reason.
As Wilson and Nixon showed, presidential candidates promise easy answers to the electorate regarding unpopular wars and blame the incumbent, but when they take office, there are no easy answers. 'Fourteen Points' Wilson simply did a 180-degree policy shift to take an isolationist America into world war. Nixon promised a quick withdrawal from LBJ's war. His promise actualized as a drawn-out 'exit strategy' that, while politically expedient and realistic under the circumstances, was exceedingly painful with long-term harm to American foreign policy. A funny thing happens when a candidate graduates from his presidential campaign to the White House - he enters the same real world occupied by his predecessor.
This is true leadership - we're in this to create a new status quo. Seeking easy answers from the proven failure of the pre-9/11 status quo won't help. We need to change, to set a new standard, and break down the old status quo in order to nurture a necessary growth process. This is how it's done. Do we need a better salesman as president? Yes. The steps should change as the mission evolves, but the path is right.
If you can accept Bush Jr's goals, don't worry overly much about diplomacy. Our diplomacy is alive and well, despite the election year populist rhetoric. It's a complex time with disagreements and difficult decisions. Meanwhile, the foundation of globalisation is being preserved and we're protecting the UN. If you dismiss the 'coalition', NATO, the UN sanction of the Iraq mission, Liberia and Korea, then check out the newly negotiated US-UK-France-Germany joint resolution on Iran's nuclear situation. (FYI, Russia is trying to regain, from the US, hegemonic influence in the region.) Again, Bush Jr isn't a threat to globalised society. If you have to believe he is a threat to maintain your position, at least be clear what the president's job is.
If you serve, your perspective will change. No matter how smart you are or what you think you know, there's no way you can understand what it's about from where you are. As a HS senior, I humiliated an Army recruiter in front of my classmates because the concept of military service offended me. I was raised with Vietnam War protest values. You learn a few things and perspectives change. While we're PMing, our soldiers are making the history our children will study; they're creating a better world. If/when you join up, I recommend you embrace the spirituality of soldiering and aspire to the warrior ethos. If you reject service because of the president, you're missing the point. Soldiering is about love - you'll find out what I mean. The USMC isn't a bad outfit, either.
Right before I left the Army in Apr 01, I took one of my privates up a mountain in Korea to talk to him about what it means to be a soldier. He was applying to SF; he asked me if we were going to war any time soon. I told him we were going to war within 4 years and listed the worst trouble spots. Foremost was the terrorist phenomenon. As it turned out, '4 years' was overly optimistic.
Intel types like me kept track while global problems deteriorated under the old status quo. You think serving under Bush Jr would be bad? Try it under Clinton. You would think, by now, even non-military types would find the common sense to understand it's way past time we solved these problems.
You need to understand populist opinion is fickle. My favorite, the Korean War, was hugely unpopular in its time, yet it has since become one of our best 20th century achievements. Most of our important campaigns were, in their time, unpopular and/or controversial. Even WWII had its anti-war faction. Why is that? Because people don't learn and our most important wars share a common goal: break down the existing status quo and build a better status quo. Breaking down an entrenched status quo, whether it be isolationism, states' sovereignty and slavery, colonial status, post-WWII peace, or PR at all costs, is always difficult and inevitably pisses off a lot of people who prefer the way things were.
Historical context. Lincoln was actually more unpopular and raised much more alarm than Bush Jr does now. Many northerners thought Lincoln was a disaster. The Union's stance was even illegal; the Confederacy owned the right and justification to secede. The Confederacy had quite a bit of international political support. For a long time, it looked like the Union would lose militarily, and many northerners demanded Lincoln negotiate with the Confederacy to stop the war. Lincoln held the line, won a brutal war, and he paid with his life, but he accomplished the one important thing: the mission succeeded. We benefit today from Lincoln's leadership. Granted, Lincoln is STILL hated in parts of the country, but how does current populist opinion view Lincoln?
Now, Bush Jr won't be immortalized sitting on a big chair any time soon, but the two presidents share something important. Both are helming unpopular, controversial campaigns with uncertain outcomes in the short-term. Both of their end-state goals (unify American nation, end slavery; reform international body, marginalize terrorist phenomenon, globalisation in the ME, rebuild Iraq) are justified and necessary for the long-term. What if Lincoln had lost the Civil War OR caved to populist pressure and compromised in a politically expedient manner with the Confederacy? Someday, students will deliberate a similar hypothetical about Bush Jr - IF we succeed.
We're already preserving the foundation and mechanisms of globalisation. Populist opinion will adapt when the long-term consequences manifest themselves. The long-term priority is not to sabotage the mission for short-term PR; the priority is to win.
You have a choice: follow the tradition of Lincoln's contemporaries who opposed his dangerous, bloody ambitions to illegally preserve the union at all costs while recklessly abolishing slavery, which constituted an extreme economic threat to the agricultural South - OR - you can recognize where we are, where we want to go, and what we need to do to get there. When you tell the story of this era to your grand-kids, your role can either be help or hindrance.
Once again, if you reject service because you don't like the president, you're missing the point. I don't expect you to get it now. It took me 3 years in the Army before I really understood why what I did was so important.
Intel is my old job. It's a bit of a bum deal in peace-time but it's central in war-time. Medic is a good choice - involved and important with civilian application. The best work IN the military is combat arms, preferably Infantry. Intel does good work, but when it comes down to it, combat arms is the heart. If I had to do it over, I'd go Infantry or Medic. I'd avoid Personnel MOSs. Supply's a thankless job. Mechanics have it tough, too.
Right now, you simply lack critical perspective in some areas. That's not a reflection on your intelligence. You can't know what you've never learned, and unfortunately, you're not alone. Your military experience will be worthwhile, and it'll make you a better person. Joining the Army or the Marines is the critical decision point, more than the job you do. You don't need to do 20, but I'd recommend you stay in at least long enough to lead soldiers. Believe me, it's a special privilege unmatched in the civilian world.
The war on terror HAS made strange bedfellows. Many people, and I'm one, who sharply split with Bush Jr on other issues, support the Iraq mission. The Kennedy liberal and the neo-conservative share an azimuth, if not the same path, on national security issues and America's global position. A neo-con and Kennedy liberal likely will differ on many issues, but they're similar on foreign policy. The Saddam capture brought the two even closer.
Kennedy would have disagreed on points with the Project for the New American Century (the vilified neo-con think-tank) but he would have sat through a meeting and shook their hands. Remember, Kennedy approved the Bay of Pigs invasion, fully committed the US to aggressive containment of the USSR via Europe and the Pacific ring, preached counter-insurgency (a bedrock of intervention), adopted an aggressive posture in the Cuban Missile Crisis that almost started WW3, and invested the US into Vietnam like he did in Germany. Kennedy pursued American-led global interests as a humanitarian, a nation-builder, a unilateralist, and a military interventionist.
Bush Jr is a social liberal's disaster and reeks of corporate special interests. But, as the 1st post-9/11 American president, his foreign policy has resurrected Kennedy's American-led global 'Cold War and Peace Corps' leadership. GEN Clark and Prez Clinton weren't the only baby boomers who grew up on Camelot.
Dem candidates actually advocate a broader, MORE aggressive war on terror than the current one - indeed, it may be a necessary evolution. They preach multilateralism to comfort the electorate, which is misleading, since the US necessarily would dominate any internationalized force. A 'multilateral' military action, such as GEN Clark's proposed US-Saudi trans-border task force, would still be popularly viewed as a US action and require closer ties with already problematic governments.
You have an interesting distaste for US-led nation-building. I guess you would restore the Baathists, the Taliban, Serbian regional domination, the Confederacy, Nazis and Imperial Japan since we were/are wrong to impose our (to include the UN) preferred form of government on those peoples.
In a way, Bush Jr's approach to Iraq is a more functional position by stream-lining the occupation authority, mimicking the influential power and independent, ex-regional role of a viable UN, and shielding Iraq from neighboring governments and Euro self-interest. The US-led occupation force in Iraq draws upon Bosnia's lessons, where an all-Euro peace-keeping force proved too biased to be effective. Example - although the CPA welcomed Turkey's offer of troops, they acceded when the IGC (with good reason) turned down the offer.
The objective in Iraq is obvious: globalisation by pluralistic representative democracy, stability and security, via political, military, economic and infrastructure transition. The after-maths of WW1 vs WW2, and of our departure from Afganistan upon the Soviets' defeat, teach us winning the war on terror demands more than military victory. It requires winning the peace through fundamental change in the regional geopolitical landscape. Friday's Libya-US-UK agreement on Libyan WMD is just the latest sign of a changing ME.
A goal in Iraq is a representative government that unifies the 3 main ethnic groups, not the 'exit strategy' of immediate Shia dominance; as I said, the UN agrees with the CPA's response to Sistani's complaint. As of now, all parties are still at the IGC table, negotiating. Do Iraqis want a (pluralistic) representative democratic government? Yes, certainly more than the Japanese did. Do Iraqis need help creating it? Yes, by international consensus, precedent and their own admission.
Time - who knows. How long will it take in Afghanistan? How long has it taken in Bosnia? How long did it take in Korea, Germany, Japan, et al.? I guess it'll take as long as it takes to win the war on terror in its military, economic, infrastructure and political phases.
Respect the enemy and the depth of the challenge. Can we eradicate terrorism? No, but we can marginalize the trend. Have some faith. America's best are working the problem. Capturing Saddam was just one fruitful step in an evolving mission that will see more twists, turns, set-backs, successes and adjustments. A Kennedy-type leadership challenge, like the Cold War or the war on terror, takes investment, strong will, blood, sweat and tears - and time.
Besides, unless he resorts to a Nixon-esque pull-out, the Iraq mission will hardly change with a Dem prez. In terms of the election, I like that the Dems' foreign policy positions now have closed with Bush Jr's; the campaign can now be decided more by domestic, environmental, social, etc, issues - where Bush Jr is weaker. That won't do much for your stance on the Iraq mission, though.
P.S. Watch out for Army girls.
As an American and NYer, my heart goes out to the Spanish people. I attended a HS that was/is one block north of the World Trade Center. I still remember vividly the dark, billowing cloud - the ashes of the dead - that hung over my city on 9/11 and for days afterward. I remember walking the streets of New York that night with a young intern (emergency room specialty) who expected to help no one, because she believed no survivors would or could be found in the rubble.
Originally posted by Genjuro!
Back to the Spanish issue again. 90% of Spanish people were against the war, so you should expect from us to react against the government because of this (if the islamists are finally guilty). Do we want to stop Al-Qaeda? Of course, but we can't stop blaming Aznar. It was a war we didn't want to have anything to do with, and even no WMD were found.
We've had this discussion before . . .
Genjuro, you are presenting yourself as the kind of person who frowns at a tumor but would rather die from cancer than undergo a necessary yet harsh treatment like chemotherapy or surgery. Or, perhaps, you would rather live but you refuse to recognize your fatal mistake in judgment until it is too late to fight.
You do realize that the very (half-)measures, and their indefinite harmful nature, that held down Saddam's WMD capability were the very SAME measures that inspired in large part the rise of the modern Jihadist movement, right? Before the war, in Iraq was an awful status quo of our own making. There was no good future for the UN, US, Western relationship with the Middle East and its growing constriction of Religious Extremism and Totalitarianism. Yet, we refused to take the necessary (and inevitably unpopular) actions, both to stop the growth of the extremist movements and address the socio-political morass of the Middle East. We chose ignorant ease over hard responsibility and the Iraqi people paid the price.
The war in Iraq has opened for all of us an opportunity - no more, no less - to forge a new path, if yet a hard, beset path, for a future in the Middle East in line with modern globalisation and democracy. If we can stay strong in the face of terror, we have a chance to make the world better. It is a gift to our generation.
The US is in the unenviable position to make the hard choices other nations can criticize in impotent comfort. Help, such as that given by PM Aznar and Spain, is much appreciated. Our only choices for Iraq were to remove Saddam from power, continue the old, harmful policy indefinitely, or leave Iraq with Saddam IN power - and trust he had learned his lesson. In fact, lost in the WMD controversy, it HAS been proven that Saddam's military was restocked with many proscribed 'conventional' weapons. I'm no Bush lover, but I realize leaders in his position after 9/11 must make hard, but necessary decisions - even if it costs them my vote and their presidency.
Spain isn't a target only because of Iraq. Your country and your people are a target for actively helping in the global fight against terrorism, in Iraq, in Afghanistan and around the world, and, most of all, for opposing the terrorist elements festering in your own country. It may not be much comfort for you, but the Spanish victims of terrorism have joined a distinguished list of terrorists' victims that includes innocents around the world, Iraqi government officials, hundreds of Iraqi religious celebrants, Sergio Viello De Meja and the UN, the Red Cross, Iraqi police, international humanitarian aid workers - all of those who struggle to bring prosperity, stability, democracy and HOPE to a nation and a region that desperately needs it. Respect the enemy, Genjuro. Recognize that changing the world for the better is a hard, costly task when opposed by the evil both of our nations face today.
Just this week, Americans (Peace Corps alum) Fern Holland and (former Marine) Robert Zangas, and their Iraqi interpreter, Selwa Ourmashe, were killed. Their 'crime' was their on-going - and successful - efforts to help the Iraqi people establish democracy, women's rights and a free press. They are the kind of people you oppose when you speak out against the UN/American/Spanish mission in Iraq. It greatly disgusts me that while our best people - yes, Americans and Spanish, in and out of uniform - are dying in order to change our world for the better, people like you would rather die of the cancer than cure it.
Very sad days here in Spain. Anyway, thanks for the support.
You have it. We know your pain.
Don't surrender to the death-hunger and killing ferocity of the terrorists. Our peoples and our nations must continue to stand together and fight for a better world.
April 12, 2004
Originally posted by robert60446!
Yeah, “our” countryman did well in Vietnam…War on terror in not a war against regular army with tanks, planes and ships. Enemy is everywhere and enemy is everyone! The way in which we are handling Iraq is wrong and the end will be very sad (remember Afghanistan for Russians?).
Remember Afganistan for the Americans? (To be fair, that's still an ongoing op, and we still may lose there.)
I realize our education system is lacking these days, but you do realize there are more chapters in American history than the Vietnam War, right? Perhaps not. Once you do, then you'll also realize that most of our major wars were much harder fought, to include heavy guerilla components, than the VW.
The NVA and VC used plenty of vicious tactics, not only on our guys, but civilians, and the current terror movement has evolved in great part from the VW experience. The Vietnam War actually offers hope today, in that the war wasn't lost by our forces on the ground. Rather, we surrendered because the will of the American people was defeated by the enemy's propaganda campaign. It's a mistake our American generation need not repeat. IF the people can hold our resolve NOT to sabotage ourselves, we can give our projected forces (to include, but not limited to our military) a fair opportunity to get the job done. There are still no guarantees against a dedicated, capable enemy, but if we have to lose, we should at least go down fighting and not stabbed in the back.
I realize - easier said than done. Though the original VW anti-American propagandists are no longer our enemies, their work regenerates. Young Americans are still being trained in the ideology of self-defeat, often-times by aged VW protestors, much like puppies trained by mama dog to do the tricks she was taught by her master.
Unfortunately, the Vietnam War is not only history, it has become a festering wound on our national psyche. It's an exploitable weakness - Somalia just proved its modern applicability. I used to work Intel in the Army, which means my job was to know the enemy, why and how he fought, and how he thought. Mostly north Korea, since Korea is where I did the bulk of my Army time. It was eye-opening. My job disillusioned me as someone who, like you, grew up on VW protest ideology: I learned the recurring lesson of our defeat in the VW that has been propagated and incorporated into enemy war-fighting strategy around the world.
The lesson? The strategy commonly believed to be the best route to defeat the US in any war is the manipulation of the American people into causing our own self-defeat. In other words, if you want to beat the Americans, the way to do it is play them like suckers.
We're talking cornerstone strategy. Our enemies have invested a lot of capital, development and planning into propaganda tactics. US propaganda actually is weak fluff in comparison. Truly, deeply effective propaganda entails more than dropping chocolates and pamphlets from a UH-60. With the VW war as their primer, the terrorists have a pretty good handle on how to work it effectively.
Terrorism, as a methodology, is very much propaganda/psychological based. Fear is a proven tool, easy to manipulate. Much of what we've faced so far in the war on terror, while working on other levels (eg, the 9/11 attacks also worked to physically damage economic and globalization infrastructure), has been designed to do the most damage on a prop/psy level. Our forces on the ground are tested but intact. While the enemy's ideal is a global religious war of millions to cleanse the Earth of infidels, realistically, he appreciates our tactical capabilities and the appeal of our message. So, to win, he's counting on what worked in VW, sabotage and American self-defeat, to work for him. Of course, the more that terrorism works to induce these spasms of self-defeat (like in Spain) the more they'll expand upon those tactics.
To sum: Our weakness, our fears and doubts are the main fuel of terrorism. Their strategy is for us to GIVE them the power of control, while turning us against ourselves. Our enemy today, his nature and strategy, is a evolution of the VW and the American generation that sabotaged their own country. It's basic - if it works, invest in it, teach it and use it. Our parents made that choice to weaken our country, and they passed to us their legacy. When do we say, 'enough is enough'? When do we decide that OUR generation will cure the self-inflicted wounds on our nation. Our nation's enemies are committed and capable - they will continue to evolve to exploit our weaknesses, and grow stronger from our defeats. If losing the VW war was acceptable to our parents, does that mean we should accept losing the war on terror? Must we subject our children to the next evolution of American defeat?
My opinion: Enough is enough. Man up, make a stand, and let's win this fight.
theWanker, I'm trying to help you. Your problem is your reliance on a shallow historical perspective, which makes you vulnerable.
First note. I missed this the 1st time, but I think you said "brute soldier force" or something silly like that. As a former soldier, semi-retired left-leaning activist and current college student, I would recommend you do what I did. Join the Army, learn what soldiering has to teach you, and find out for yourself what's on the other side. Personally, my Army time was both inspirational and instructive as a liberal, enough at least to shake my head over statements like "brute soldier force".
You cite the 20th century spread of both successful and relatively young-and-struggling democracies. That's a great start for explaining the rationale for OpIF. Again, I occasionally (just occasionally ) go too far in-depth in this forum, but I'll give you a few more research starting points.
UN. When I was a soldier, the last thing any of us wanted was to be stuck on a UN-led mission. The blue beret and helmet was anathema, because those ops were always poorly run. Research the post-Cold War history of the UN, to include Haiti, Somalia, Rwanda and the Balkans as well as Iraq, and why the Clinton admin withheld UN funds in the late 90s. Research the UN mission in Iraq, post-Desert Storm to OpIF, to include the current Oil-for-Food program scandal. From there, for what reasons did some of the nations that passed multiple resolutions on Iraq obstruct their enforcement? Research the dysfunction of internal UN bureaucracies. Research the work of UN envoy Sergio Viello de Meja, lead UN reformer and Annan's Number One (Yes, I watch Star Trek), who was assassinated in Iraq last year. Given the UN reticence over the Iraq mission that you cite, ask yourself, why was he personally eager to follow the US lead and take the UN mission into Iraq? Put it all together and ask yourself - even before 9/11, was the UN functional as a world governing authority? Now, if you reach the conclusion that it wasn't - GIVEN the US's position as the lone standing superpower, our standing dependence (with consequences) and relationship with the UN, and our ties and history from inception with the UN, what is the American responsibility of global leadership? Some say none, that Bush Sr handed our global leadership responsibility to the UN with the conclusion of Desert Storm. That no matter how dysfunctional the UN has become, and no matter the accompanying consequences, world affairs are no longer the US's problem.
My opinion is, we have too much invested in the UN and its duties, and the consequences if its failure are too dire, to continue to allow the UN to fail its mission. How many more Rwandas will it take before you realize the UN needs to be fixed?
Key question. Do you believe America's global leadership responsibility ended with the Cold War?
north Korea and Iraq are different situations, defined by different factors and histories, being handled, therefore, in markedly different ways by the GWB administration. You would be well-served to learn the histories, and compare and contrast the GWB handling of both situations. GWB's different approach to nK, in fact, is informative of the rationale for OpIF.
Democracy and the American role. Remember, American power only in special cases means control. Control, like in present-day Iraq, and for a time Japan, W-Europe and Korea, is very expensive. As a nation of businesspeople, as well as freedom, we don't like 'expensive'. We're not into imperialistic and colonial power, in the sense of 19th-century Europe. We're looking for partners, even when they're competitors (much to my consternation as a 'domestic populist', but that's my contradictory burden as a JFK liberal). In other words, we're looking for a globalised world community - of which the UN was supposed to be a catalyzing and processing agent.
The better description of American power is actually 'influence', which covers a lot of ground, including 'control'. In any case, the two areas of the world most directly and deeply impacted - socially, politically, economically, militarily - by the US upon WWII, as the point we assumed status as a bipolar, globally influential superpower, are Europe and Asia. (The Monroe-doctrinated Americas is a different case.) Again, you cite the spread of democracies. Indeed. Map it out and do your homework. Look for causal reasons and roots. WWII->onwards, the most involved areas of American influence and the spread of democracy and free markets are a near-perfect fit. Unfortunately, our global reach has been more limited in other areas, like the Middle East and Africa, and therein, the Democracy and Globalisation phenomenon has not been as successful.
The ties that bind. Have we resorted to the level of 'control' to influence democracy and free markets in every nation which has adopted them? Of course not, but that's the beauty of it. That's how we defeated Communism without a world-destroying war. In terms of control, we only had to engineer the roots, eg, the Marshall Plan and the nation-building of Japan and Germany. American diplomacy relies on many tools and we have used various means to influence global developments. OUR way develops partners, motivated by self-interest, so that we don't have to do all the work.
As the engine of globalisation and the preeminent democracy, as any good craftsman, we are called upon to choose the right tools to do the specific job. Different jobs require different tools. As I said, change has to begin somewhere and the first steps are almost always the hardest.
theWanker, if we do it your way, we'll be fighting indefinitely with "brute soldier force" all over the world. Do you want a War Without End? Maybe you're so bloodthirsty that you want even your kids' lives to be defined by your never-ending war, but I'm not. I want our heroes to come home someday, mission TRULY accomplished, so they can make babies and empower our country in a changing world.
The alternative to your generations-of-war suggestion is what GWB has begun: bring the full kit of our globalisation tools to bear, so that we can limit the use of the American scalpel, and the sacrifice of our blood and treasure. Do the hard work, take the necessary first steps, as only we can, so that Democracy and Globalisation can take root and grow in the region. Those popular forces can then fight Extremism and Terrorism on our, and the globalising world's, behalf.
Even if we do it OUR way, the best that we can, is success guaranteed? Of course not. Victory never has been guaranteed in our history. Our only comfort is that the American people have done this kind of hard work before against terrible enemies and short odds.
Our so-called Greatest Generation planted the roots that won us the Cold War. It's now our turn to do the same if we want to win the War on Terror. A Better World Is Possible, but the pivotal question is, is our American generation willing to make the same sacrifice and put in the hard work as our forefathers did? If we answer that question, we'll know whether or not we'll win the war on terror. It saddens me that, right now, your answer to the question is NO. I still have hope, though.
Study your history, not just CNN sound-bites and propaganda brain-mush. Your current, but hopefully correctable, ignorance is a weapon effectively used by our shared enemy, and I don't say that to be insulting. I say that as former MI, a profession in which Knowledge is, indeed, Power. I've given you a few places to begin understanding. Again, it should be enough for you to begin your enlightenment, as an American at war. Hope that helps.
"That he which hath no stomach to this fight, let him depart. His passport shall be made and crowns for convoy put into his purse. We would not die in that man's company that fears his fellowship to die with us."
"From this day to the ending of the world, but we in it shall be remembered - we few, we happy few, we band of brothers, for he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother."
King Henry V, Act IV, Scene III
Last edited by NYCbballFan on 05-08-2004 at 08:30 PM
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05-08-2004 04:17 PM
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Originally posted by Brian!
The problem with your thinking is that for the most part we aren't dealing with rational people. No pro democracy march or pro womens right rally will change the mind of the islamic extremist. Their goal is to convert us or kill us.
I have hope theWanker will take it upon himself to rise above being a terrorist's patsy. People like him opine on OpIF with something akin to the superstitious, primitive suspicion that a flash camera is stealing one's soul. He doesn't understand it and it scares him, so he thinks it MUST be evil. He denounces, based on a poor grasp of the issues, without offering any constructive suggestions, again because of the same poor grasp of the issues. He doesn't seem to realize that if we lose the war on terror, our defeat will be because of him and people like him who only subtract, and cannot add.
GWB's assumption and hope is that the vast majority of Arabs and Muslims are rational people who will embrace the modern world. I believe it, and I refuse to believe the terrorists are somehow legitimate representatives of Arabs or Muslims. I mean, heck, the American People includes Muslims and Arabs. We're not talking about some alien, foreign, 'barbaric' other. We're talking about people closely related to OUR people, and our Arabs and Muslims happen to do just fine as rational Americans. Heck, my best childhood friend is Muslim and I served with Arab-Americans. GEN Abizaid, head of CentCom, is an Arab-American.
The issue is of Empowerment, a concept Wanker is currently missing in his understanding. Any good liberal, humanitarian or even activist, needs to understand the truths of 'realpolitik' if he or she wants to make a difference in this world.
One basic 'realpolitik' truth is summed by Mao Zhe-Dong: "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun." That's as true for democrats (not the pol party sense), as for monarchists, as for fascists, as for communists, as for terrorists. It's an achievement on our part as a world leader that since WWII, we have been able to limit in some measure the use of 'Mao's gun', although the necessity of his gun has never changed nor diminished.
Case In Point: The current trouble with Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mehdi militia. He represents a sad minority. The vast majority of Iraq's Shia population reject his extremist vision of Iraq, yet MaS is (or was, hopefully) in possession of the Shiites' most important holy and civic sites. How? Mao's political power of the gun. He has it. And how will he be removed so the vast majority of Shiites can continue their disrupted and obstructed nation-building of the new Iraq? Again, the power of the gun. Ours.
Why are we in Iraq? Basically, to empower the roots of Democracy so that it can grow against, and despite, opposing forces represented by the gun-toting folks in Fallujah and the gun-toting folks in Najaf.
Globalisation is infectious. How else could it have spread across the Berlin Wall? It got into China somehow, too. We just need to find a properly placed carrier.
Your changing opinion doesn't change the fundamental possibilities, good and bad, of the mission nor that there is still much work left for us to do. We all will deal with the consequences of action or inaction, success or failure, long after GWB is a historical footnote. In that sense, we all have ownership of the war on terror and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Whatever you think of the American president, your choice is not about him or even about America (leave that to us in November). Your choice is about the future of our world, and which possibility you will work toward.
The war on terror has been an education or rather, a re-education. War can only be clean when one side has the luxury of overwhelming, decisive and well-applied power, wherein technology can minimize suffering, to the extent we can even control the time, place and duration of the enemy. Or, war is clean when one side fights and the other does not; a way to be clean in war is to avoid the ugliness altogether by accepting the consequences of inaction - the UN, Euros and Americans together, we've become MUCH too good at that.
Today, however, we are combatting an asymmetrical enemy who will not be boxed in by our power, is proficient in battle-tested propaganda that undermines a democracy's and a democratic coalition's will to fight, and fights in a way that ensures a type of warfare steeped in the ugliness he relishes but we can't stomach.
We are still learning about the Abu Ghraib scandal, which has been layered with media sensationalism. Was it just bad soldiers gone wild and poor leadership? We don't know how much intel factors were involved. A troubling aspect of the popular reaction is that we obviously still don't respect the terrorists. We need to realize that with the nature of this enemy, ground-level LTIOV-type intelligence - timely and actionable - must be the center of gravity in the fight. How do we acquire that intel, if we can't rely on 'clean' high-tech means? There are old-fashioned ways, ones we've had the hubris to deny ourselves. This enemy, however, has stripped us of our hubris. Ask yourself, to what extent are you willing to extract intel, if that info means the difference in protecting yourself and your loved ones, me and mine, Spanish commuter trains, Bali night clubs, the Twin Towers, religious celebratory crowds, humanitarian aid workers, and the many other would-be victims? Not to mention the lives of government officials, soldiers and police struggling to establish the security and stability necessary for the birth of a strong democracy. It's a hard choice, a real-world choice and not one for the classroom.
The reality is that it's very easy to talk in classrooms and pubs with glowing terms about the 'right' way to change the world, indeed the very meaning of a better world. Americans like to talk that way, too - we're all guility of it. At some point, however, we as global actors lost sight of the harsh, unavoidable realities, the very scale itself, of change. Study our greatest endeavors, connected to our greatest names, the Roosevelts, the Churchills and the Lincolns, go into the nitty-gritty, and what do we find out? Change is hard, expensive, often ugly, and a struggle. Historically speaking, the Abu Ghraib scandal is paltry, despite the unprecedented global media microscope.
If you want a return to our WWII visionaries who changed the world in bold strokes, OIF is that return. The opportunity is real and upon us, even though it happens to be more unpalatable than you imagined. If you condemn the Iraq mission and the Americans involved in it, then you also condemn the ends of Saddam's reign and the UN's harmful, indefinite 'containment' of Iraq, the nation-builders who are in Iraq via the coalition, the physical and intellectual resources, and the activists and humanitarians who are sacrificing and working under harsh, dangerous conditions to build the future of Iraq. You condemn us, then you condemn both the international and native hope for a new Iraq, which depends on American help, and would still depend greatly on American help even with a higher level of world-wide popularity and support.
Before you accuse the US of separating itself from the world community, keep in mind that Iraq isn't the only mission in the world. There's much on-going cooperation, even within the ME region. To start with, check on how the US, NATO countries and the UN are doing in Afghanistan.
Closing thought. I picked this up on a recent visit to the City of New York Museum, quote from one of my (sadly deceased) political heroes. Senator D. Patrick Moynihan (D-NY), notable as a liberal reformer: 'If you don't have 30 years to devote to social policy, don't get involved.' Moynihan was discussing his many social reform initiatives within the US, the massive commitment necessary to implement specific reforms within an established infrastructure. Think about that. If that's what change demands in the best-equipped infrastructure in the world, what kind of willpower, flexible thinking, hardship, setbacks, difficulty and scale of time - sacrifices - should we be ready to accept if we TRULY believe in our collective responsibility to stand up a reformed, strong, independent Iraq?
Perhaps you do, but we Americans don't have the luxury of turning our backs on world affairs, even when we make mistakes. Our position, our power, our ties and history, give us a great burden of responsibility - and it's true, we have not always been diligent enough with our leadership role. Our actions and inactions, our successes and failures, all bear global consequences. With that burden, IF our will and commitment amounts to no better than assigning a scapegoat in an unpopular American president, and with that meager satisfaction, turning our backs on our global effect and the peoples who need us, then we deserve to fail.
Return to Intro post.