Wednesday, December 28, 2011

American Exceptionalism, Unrealized

One score and two years ago, America reached a crossroad.  With old enemies consigned to history, it was now in the position, to show how the most powerful nation in the history of the world could react to this historic power vacuum. Would it show that such power could be benign, and show how far the world has come since the Roman Empire?  Would it become a good neighbor to the world, and not be feared for its potential to control or conquer it? 

Alas, the road we chose was hegemony, unilateralism, and xenophobia.  With the passing of September 11, 2001, instead of finely focusing our retribution to the country that housed the terrorist, we embarked on the longest war in our history with a country, in Afghanistan’s neighborhood, that didn’t even have a remote relationship to perpetrators of 9/11, Iraq.  A war for no great reason, that came to no great end.  

America’s opportunity to be so much more to the world of the future was irrevocably lost.  Rather than choosing someone to lead us into the future, we chose instead someone to lead us back into the past. Instead of partnering with other developed nations to coach the developing world in democratic principles, the Bush administration, advised by neo-conservatives, concluded that it is their manifest destiny to unilaterally enforce democracy in the developing world, with an evangelical zeal, typical of ideologues.

President Bush with his “have his cake and eat it too” mentality also declared war on taxes, as well as Iraq, exacerbating our ability to pay for our wars and adequately equip our service people.  Resources were stretched so thin, that the war in Iraq was essentially at the expense of what should have been the true beachhead of the war on terrorism, Afghanistan.

Until President Obama, we were, in a desert version of Viet Nam, under equally false premises, and likely to result in an equally similar outcome.  We had forgotten the lesson that Viet Nam taught us.  Unwarranted wars yield only unwarranted death and destruction. 

Americans must come to see that the continued prosecution of an ill advised war, such as Iraq, on essentially the premise that not doing so dishonor those who have fallen so far and marginalizes the efforts of those service peple still embattled, is absurd.  With this reasoning, the death of more is warranted primarily to validate the preceding deaths, is a classic “Catch 22”, making disengagement impossible. 

Serving in the military in a time of war at the behest of your country is always honorable. Fighting, sustaining injury, and losing one’s life, in answer to your country’s call, deserve a level of respect that can never be adequate to the sacrifice.  

Loss of life in the true defense of our nation is never a waste, but in the defense of a truly flawed worldview, is.  This is as true now as it was in Viet Nam.  The outcome of that war was the same outcome had those 55,000 lives not been lost.  I had begun to wonder what the death toll in Iraq would be before we ended up pushing rescue helicopters from our aircraft carriers into the Persian Gulf, as we did in the closing days of Viet Nam.

I believe that entry into unwarranted wars by America will not diminish until the children of ALL Americans are compelled by law to participate in these wars, and that when inducted into the Armed Services, rotation into the war zone from non-hazardous duty stations, WILL be a given, and that there will be NO DEFERMENTS and NO LOOPHOLES.  Only then, will the instrument of war be relegated to the absolute last resort, and used for a much less ambiguous concept as “in the defense of our nation”.  Our nebulous objectives in Afghanistan are, at best, dubious.  As such, the above critique applies.

We have to make wars as hard to get into, as they are to get out of.

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