A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel.--Robert Frost
The Americans are coming! The Americans are coming!
Is America an oil-starved, rogue superpower?
Being not only an avid reader but a dedicated listener of talk radio, I believe I've heard just about every hysterical conspiracy theory going.
One popular theory has George Bush, Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz accepting The Project for the New American Century as the ultimate plan to essentially dominate the globe. Some have even gone as far as to tie the American Century Project's conclusions to the James Baker led task force report titled Strategic Energy Policy Challenges for the 21st Century. Depending on one's political persuasion, a bit of long-range prognosticating can easily be offered as proof that something diabolical and unstoppable is underfoot. Add to the mix a president that does not shy away from bold decisive action, coupled with a propensity for not adequately enunciating his far-reaching foreign policies and you've got a full-blown conspiracy sure to keep the internet and talk radio abuzz for years on end.
Are we really waging a "war for oil," as the armchair pundits would have us believe, or are we working to ensure global stability for the foreseeable future? While there is certainly no denying the fact that there can be no future global stability without reliable oil sources and oil prices not given to wild price fluctuations, it is short-sighted if not foolhardiness to suggest that protecting said oil sources and prices is proof of an imperialistic, neo-conservative Dr. Evil calling the shots from a hardened bunker deep within a mountain range near you. And with all of that said, let's explore the Pentagon's entrenched mindset since the end of World War II.
In a nutshell, "mutually assured destruction," or "detente" would aptly sum up our military posture for the past half century. The Soviet Union was big, bad, communist and always rattling some sort of newfangled nuclear saber. In response, we spent trillions of dollars and rattled right back at them. In fact, we spend so many trillions of dollars countering the seemingly growing threat, we eventually spent the Soviet Union into oblivion as a functioning military, economic and ideological alliance. Ronald Reagan said "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall," and Mr. Gorbachev responded in kind. And as the Soviet Union miraculously imploded before our very eyes, our military planners were forced to re-think our strategies without a clear and present danger presenting itself. Enter China.
Much like the Soviet Union before it, China was big, bad, communist and always rattling some sort of nascent nuclear saber, albeit, a very primitive version. And while we spent much of the giddy nineties halving our military and calling it our "peace dividend," newer transnational threats to global security were growing in scope and intensity. While we plotted our future defense of Taiwan, or South Korea, we took an occasional half-hearted swat or two at those other threats without ever taking them seriously. When bold and decisive pre-emptive action was being called for by some of the underlings at the Pentagon, and some at the Naval War College, the Base Closure Commission dominated much of our inept defensive planning. We kept on planning for the big war with the big opponent, while a few rogue states worked in conjunction with a global network of rogue warriors to wreak havoc on global security. September the 11th, our modern day Pearl Harbor, was the direct result of these missteps, in large part, by our having politicized our approach to all things military. When we should have been preparing for smaller regional conflicts and urban warfare, we were arguing about what to do with gay soldiers and female soldiers. Bin Laden and his legion of followers had to be laughing to themselves with the advent of "Don't ask, don't tell," while they planned our untimely and spectacular demise.
Wrong War? Wrong Time? Wrong Place?
The entire world can clearly be divided into countries classified as being "haves" and "have nots." And for the purposes of this exercise, we need not delve into why some countries are "have nots" and how they came to be that way. They are what they are, and for the most part, the "haves" have ignored the plight of the "have nots" unless a national disaster, or a well-televised genocide campaign happened to wreak havoc upon them. The more developed, more functional countries are compassionate toward their less developed neighbors. Well, every once in a while.
The more developed nations, the "haves," would rarely, if ever, conspire to make war on each other. It's not in their best interests as it would likely cause a major ripple in the global security they are all equally dependant upon. There are some squabbles between these more prosperous countries from time to time, but nothing that would ever take them to the brink of war. A quick glance at the globe is all that is required to differentiate the stable "globalized" countries from the countries that are not part of the global equation and worst yet, could cause some degree of destabilization for every country, no matter what their level of global involvement. When a beef between the more stable nations erupts, it typically results in hollow threats of trade wars, tariffs, or a diplomat being unceremoniously bounced from his embassy. And after a brief war of words, these nations will eventually kiss and make up. Globalization, or the interconnecting of our economies, demands that they do so and they know it all too well.
But when transnational terrorists, or worse yet, when nations and their "leaders" start threatening to topple the entire global financial house of cards, all bets have to be off. Clearly stated threats to global peace and prosperity have to be countered and the list of available nations capable of countering those direct threats is a very short one. When murderous rogues aided and abetted by rogue states start talking about nuking, gasing or poisoning whomever they wish, the time has definately arrived for said individuals and states to be reacted to in a rather demonstrative fashion. When the destruction of two of the largest skyscrapers on the entire planet is commonly referred to as the tip of the iceberg by the murderous cutthroats that perpetrated such an unthinkable act upon the rest of the world, a paradigmatic shift of epic proportions was clearly called for. Someone, anyone, had to step forward and reluctantly become the world's policeman. Enter George Bush and the world's readily-recognized (At least in private) proxy force.
It does not matter that no Weapons of Mass Destruction have been found in Iraq up to this point. All that matters is that Saddam Hussein claimed to have had them in great supply, clearly had them at one time, had no qualms about using them, and had clear ties to terrorists across the entire Middle East. He was obviously a threat to his neighbors (Iran-Iraq War of '80-'88; Kuwait invasion; Funding Palestinian suicide bombers) and he made a career of weilding threats against the United States and it's allies. To not take him seriously, to not take him at his own words, would have been tantamount to inviting further catastrophic disaster in a post-9/11 world. And to those who continue to call this the wrong war at the wrong time, I would have to ask them the following questions: Should Saddam Hussein have been rehabilitated? Or should he have been replaced? Should Bush have invented some newer, tougher sanctions that looked great on some paper with a United Nations letterhead, but no had real implications to them? Or should he have delivered to the Middle East a shock to it's entire system?
The Middle East
Despite sitting directly on top of the great majority of the world's oil reserves for a century now, the Middle East is a collection of "have nots" near the bottom of the "have nots" list. The Middle East is populated by people that have suffered through generation after generation of abject poverty, while it's ruling families continually enjoyed the very best comforts that the world had to offer. All the while, the abject discontent of the Middle East populace simmered until it finally surpassed the boiling point. And meanwhile, despite decades of massive foreign investment, the Middle East contributes next to nothing to the world other than oil and unchecked terrorism. The world economy is totally dependant upon it's oil, while it's only other major export of note threatens to disrupt, or even collapse the world economy. This presents a prickly morass like none previously seen. There can be no real global economic stability without these nations, while they simultaneously pose the greatest threat to that economic stability.
And while our elected leaders have called for peace summit after peace summit after redundant peace summit; the clarion call of the Middle East has been that there can be no peace until the very last Israeli is driven from the region, or more preferably, killed. And recently added to that list are all Americans, or anyone that collaborates with them. In other words, to pretend that negotiations are still called for with misguided people promising death to anyone they have a disagreement with is a fool's errand. And as some of them continued to play by no rules at all, the window of opportunity for peace was slammed shut by none other than them. Rather than invite further 9/11s, our president decided to act decisively and force these "have nots" to join the "haves" once and for all. He delivered a major shock to their out-of-control system and he did it the only way possible: By ordering a pre-emptive military strike. And for that bold decision, he has been thoroughly villified by the folks schooled by the likes of Barbara Streisand, Michael Moore, and a slew of unemployed Soviet-era generals rushed before the cameras by CNN. So be it. Bush's bold decisions are yet to be judged by history. But many years from now, regardless of the eventual outcome, I believe he'll be lauded as a man who tried to do what was right for all of humankind.
He is constantly mocked as being a simpleton for believing in supposedly antiquated concepts such as "liberation" and "freedom" for all of the world's peoples by the very same folks purported to be so caring and compassionate and all-inclusive. What they fail to realize is that Bush is not a reckless cowboy determined to finish what his daddy started a few years ago. What he has done is to invite the Iraqis to join the list of "haves" in a world that desperately needs to shrink the size of the "have nots" list. And as a result of one day having the Iraqis become a productive and stable world partner, he's hoping to introduce the ultimate domino theory to the Middle East. If every country were to be added to the list of "haves" versus the "have nots," war as we currently know it would be next to non-existant, or at the very least, an oddity to be studied. Many, many wars were touted as "The War to end all Wars," but this particular war is exactly that to some degree. An honest attempt to bring to average people's lives who have otherwise never known it freedom, hope and a modicum of economic security. And for that he is compared to Adolf Hitler, while Saddam Hussein is the closest the world has come to know as a modern day Hitler.
Our Exit Strategy
There is a distinct reason why Colin Powell is being drummed out of this administration. The overriding reason being his own doctrine of not going to war without knowing when we were going to quit beforehand. He is the ultimate reluctant warrior, which all warriors are and probably should be. If you remember correctly, as Secretary of Defense way back when, he was diametrically opposed to the first gulf war. The predicted casualties were just too much for him to risk in a ground war that eventually took all of 100 hours to prosecute and win.
He is an American patriot that has served his country well for decades on end and he deserves nothing but thanks and praise from the little folks such as ourselves, but as far as bold strategists are concerned; he's not anywhere near the top of the list. Is it any wonder that he has become the darling of the wishy-washy, casualty-averse folks that possess the big stick, but can never, ever justify it's use? There was a time when American soldiers were seen as liberators to much of the rest of the world, but when many of our own "leaders" decry our troops as nothing more than an occupying force; should we really be surprised by the current reaction of our committed foes and our less than committted allies alike? United we ain't, folks.
Surprisingly, the current mindset is that Donald Rumsfeld should be summarily dismissed because he supposedly "made mistakes" while prosecuting this war in Iraq. And how many lives were lost on Utah beach? At Tarawa? On Iwo Jima? Should the history books be re-written in an attempt to portray General Dwight Eisenhower as an uncaring man who made nothing but mistake after mistake and paid for it with the lives of the men serving under him? With war being little more than an on-going adjustment to the latest on-going adjustments from the opposite camp, how can we be so quick to judge the actions and plans of those who have been charged to see such things through to their logical conclusions? If a talk radio caller from Glen Lyon can do a better job of prosecuting a war than Donald Rumsfeld can, I'll be the first one to admit that I've missed something important.
It could be pointed out that I've never experienced the horror that combat is, but then again, I never held my right hand aloft and took an oath of loyalty. Others have and I have nothing but the utmost respect for them and their courage under fire. But not having ever experienced serious combat does not preclude anyone from having an opinion about whether it's really necessary or even completely justified. The growing body count in Iraq does cause me to take pause almost each and every day, but I truly and firmly believe in what we're doing in the Middle East. Sadly, our short-sighted decision to gut our military a decade or so ago has resulted in the disasterous "stop-loss" personnel policies and eaten away at the morale of our soldiers and their courageous families. To offer those folks words of encouragement at this point would probably infuriate them, so I'll not go there.
We're currently being told that Iraq is a hopeless "quagmire" worthy of our only other documented quagmire (Vietnam) only because Donald Rumsfeld himself underestimated the number of troops we would need to "win the peace" in Iraq. Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't we have upwards of a half million troops on the ground when we suffered through the Vietnam quagmire? I really don't see how "supporting our troops" while ripping our administration to shreds is not giving comfort to our enemies. As long as they percieve a rift (growing or otherwise) within our country, they will press on with their war of attrition in the hopes that we'll eventually lose our stomach for what needs to be done. In that respect, this is Vietnam all over again.
So, what is our exit strategy? It seems apparent to me that our exit strategy from Iraq is that we will not exit Iraq until it joins the list of the nations that will only add to global stablilty.
That's a bad thing?
I'll leave you with this. A caller to Sue Henry's WILK talk radio show had this to say to her on Christmas Eve:
"I don't think the Prince of Peace would ever do to this world what you guys are doing to it."--"Kurt from Scranton"
You guys? You know, Christians, Republicans, those damned America-first neo-cons, or whatever it is that he calls Americans today.
What he fails to understand is that America is not doing anything to the world other than offering it a working model in progress of what can be and what should be for all of the citizens of the world. What he should be concerned about is why some of the folks sharing this planet with us just can't seem to get their acts together.
For me, the question begs: Is peace and prosperity something worth fighting for?
I'll leave it to y'all to answer that one.
I'm but a simple man not well-schooled in the not so delicate art of modern warfare or geopolitics. Then again, how many of us really are?
Who picked a fight with whom?