What Is It Good For?

What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing.
Say it again.

Several months ago I wrote a short piece voicing my opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The very first response I got to that post was: "Would you say more about your position?" This is the first of three or four posts on the subject of war, opposition to war and the dark reaches of the American psyche that still resonate from the war that nearly destroyed us -- Vietnam.

My first point is also my primary thesis for everything that follows on the subject. War as we know today flows from the experiences in the 20th century. History, in this case, is a horrible guide to current international relations. It matters not that General Patton studied the military tactics of the Romans and Greeks, this is not World War II. Today any serious reflection on the conduct of human relations must come to the contemporary conclusion that war as an instrument of national politics is obsolete.

War is obsolete.

Not that history is a useless guide but what we learn from and what we take with us into the future are critical decisions. My parochial school education taught me that for every christian martyred by the romans another three converted to the fledging sect of christianity. Today the madrasah that indoctrinate radical islamists find their young converts in backwash of western alliance military activities. Over seven years of occupation of Iraq simply provides too many opportunities for citizens of that country to turn against the U.S. Even if you hated Saddam and welcomed the liberation of 2003, over the ensuing years your neighbor is shot, your daughter is searched on the street by soldiers, your infrastructure is not rebuilt and foreign troops patrol your country. Your heart and your mind change.

I do not blame Barack Obama nor either George Bush. I blame history. I can only imagine, but I can imagine it vividly, the first time the joint chiefs of staff briefed the new president. The new president who spent 8 years in the Illinois legislature and 4 years in the U.S. Senate must have been overwhelmed at what the U.S. presence in Afghanistan was holding back. Hundreds of suicide bombers and dozens of dirty bomb plots hatched by Al-Qaeda were going to rain down on the west without a continuing war against terrorism in Afghanistan. Iraq perhaps is more a war of the western hubris that we can and should impose democracy on those backward middle-east countries and their oil reserves. 

In either case the problem is blindly following a failed course of history. War stopped Germany and war stopped Japan but since then no country has risen up to attempt to conquer the world. Terrorism cannot be defeated with historically warlike tactics. The western world should and must present a cultural shining example of what peace can mean in a post-industrial society. An vibrant example of what society can be is what will win the hearts and minds of those seeking freedom. Instead we use bullets and predator drones to kill those who with justification believe we are trying to conquer them for our gain.

Are they right? Well of course they are and of course they are not. There is no overarching governmental policy that drives those opposed to "Amerika". But we are the wealthiest, most successful nation in human history. We can have a clear, articulate policy towards the rest of the world, that policy should begin with the words: "We have made mistakes in the past." But we wish to change the course of our historical path and we invite others to join us in this historic opportunity to abandon war and embrace peace.

Of course not everyone will come along. Of course not everyone will forgive us for past transgressions but that is no reason to compound our historical mistakes and create even more enemies. Declare our current foreign policy bankrupt. Envision change -- c-h-a-n-g-e, where have we heard that before?

To those who find this proposal naive, to those who find the words: Give Peace a Chance absurd. I would like to ask: Just how long do you think you get to prove your path of death and destruction will win out? The lessons of history are clear, when it doesn't work you stop or your culture and your country will collapse. It takes some time to turn the ship of state away from a course founded in worn out principals, but we simply have to begin and no nation on earth can make these changes except the United States of America.

The first step -- bring all of the troops home now.