“”This is not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity”
I haven’t written a whole lot recently about our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Partly because it’s a depressing topic, and partly because I am wrestling with some new insights about such wars and the people who support them. President Obama’s latest pronouncement on the war in Afghanistan pushed me over the edge though, so I’m going to try to organize my thoughts a bit and put them to, well, electrons and pixels.
Sigh. Let’s just start with his one quote: “This is not a war of choice.” OK then, the USA, arguably the most powerful nation the world has ever seen, with a globe spanning military that spends more money than the rest of the world’s militaries combined … has no choice but to be waging war against Afghanistan? No offence, but when someone says “there is no alternative,” you’re being sold a bill of goods. There are almost always alternatives, and when we are talking something like foreign policy, the world is vastly too complicated to say “this is the only option.” Especially since we are talking a giant military power using it’s military might to subdue natives hiding in the woods on the other side of the planet.
However, it’s not surprising. I’ve begun to realize that people who say a war is a good thing are operating from a singular place. This is one of those things that I am struggling to put into words. The people who say we can “win” in Afghanistan are parsing the problem in a very simple way. They basically define the problem at its core of one between good and evil, and once you’ve decided you’re the good guy … it becomes a moral imperative to “solve” the problem, and by extension, since you’re obligated to solve the problem and since you have the moral high ground … anything you do is acceptable if it leads to victory. It’s like a doughnut, it just goes round and round. As long as they stay on the doughnut, their “logical” position is unassailable.
Try to point out that maybe it’s a bit more nuanced than good vs evil, and they have reams of evidence about Muslim, Nazi, Commie, socialist, etc atrocities. Heck, there’s whole books and web sites devoted to cataloguing same. Point out that the good guys have committed atrocities, and they are either in complete denial about them, or somehow claim that our enemies left us no choice! Try to point out that our actions in the past might be the source of a lot of these problems, and it’s either denied that our part played any role, or it’s simply that even then we were trying to do the right thing. I mean, once you’ve internalized that you are the good guys, any evidence to the contrary can easily be viewed so as to support your assumption. So it’s like trying to argue with someone who thinks the Moon Landings were a hoax or that the earth is 7000 years old etc. Anyone who has ever had this experience will know how frustrating can be. Even if they are polite and respect your position, they are unshakable in their beliefs.
Unfortunately, there is a dark side to this. If it was just a matter of polite disagreement, that would be the end of it. However, it’s not. If one has decided that one is the good guys, then it’s “obvious” that anyone who disagrees with you is on the bad guy’s side. And that’s a slippery slope indeed. For that leads to the obvious extension … if things aren’t going well, it’s because of internal enemies. It was inconceivable that ragtag Vietnamese guerrillas defeated the US military, so we must have been defeated by peaceniks and the liberal press. It was inconceivable that Germany could have been utterly defeated and humiliated in World War One, so Germany must have been defeated by a Jewish fifth column. And to some people it was inconceivable that a nigger could be elected president of the United States.
So it doesn’t matter that Obama is enthusiastically pursuing Bush’s wars. Obama is living proof that the bad guys are calling the shots, so whatever he is doing is part of their agenda. Which is why we are seeing arise of the militias, and ever upwards spiral of hate speech from “conservative” commenters, and increasing polarization in our once great land. And as our pointless “mission” in Afghanistan continues to breed more terror both abroad and at home, I fear the domestic scene will get uglier and uglier. Yeah, pretty safe bet from many perspectives, but still, I’m trying to see how and why people spin themselves and their nations into knots. Maybe I won’t change anyone’s mind, but at least I don’t lay up and night trying to figure it out. Now I am free to sleep and have nightmares.
Our colonial adventure in Afghanistan will fail like every one before it. Or worse, it will “succeed,” and Americans will die therefor decades. Iraq is the West Bank and Afghanistan the Gaza of our times. This is not only wrong, it’s sick. God save us all.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit, is central to illustrating the post, and its use here in no way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image. I’m actually a little unclear on whop holds the copyright, but I got it at Imageshack. Its description: “A soldier of the German armed forces Bundeswehr patrols near wreckage from the Soviet-Afghan war, outside the German army camp in Kunduz, northern Afghanistan April 16, 2009.” I’m sure one could make a montage of such images going back to Alexander the Greats’ time, as I am sure their will be future images in the sequence.)