Face Of The Enemy

Has the nature of “war” changed?  Is “war” different now from what it was in WWII?  Is

A LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel) fro...

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patriotism always “good”?  When a nation goes to war with selfish intent, to what extent are its citizens complicit?  These are important questions as the nation debates the confusing issues of the Iraq and Afghan wars in the context of 9/11.

There is plentiful evidence that both Germans and Japanese citizens in WWII were patriotic and supported their governments.

Adolph Hitler cleverly and adeptly tapped into smoldering public resentment over the

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extreme economic penalties exacted by the Allies at the end of WWI.  Telling the German public what they wanted to hear he played German national pride like a violin, with strong emphasis on Aryan superiority.  The Nazi party was also adept, in the absence

of a free press, in hiding Holocaust atrocities from a citizenry that preferred not to know where the Jews were going.  The fact that Jew’s tended to be more prosperous than most citizens, as well as clannish, had stoked ethnic resentment in the economic hard-times between the wars.

In Japan militarist leaders used national pride, a xenophobic culture of obedience to authority, and a religion with a human face (the Emperor) to embark on conquest of Asia.  Throughout the war the Japanese people religiously and obediently supported the war effort and were committed to fight to the death for their

A-Bomb Tests

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country.  Only Hiroshima and Nagasaki prevented a million more American deaths at the end.

So, were the citizens of those countries complicit in the evil that their governments committed them to?  They were certainly guilty of ethnic hubris.  There is no way I can say that any of those individuals deserved to die because they were patriotic, especially in a fascist state, but by the same token those

political entities deserved to have their governments overturned by force.

Is patriotism always good?  No, because Germany and Japan waged war not for defense

General George Patton

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but for selfish economic gain.  What about the motives of the United States in the Second Iraq war?  To the lasting discredit of the George W. Bush government our motives there are suspect because no WMD’s were ever found, nor was there any link between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 terrorists.  Also, no one can deny that our economy depends, at least for now, on political stability in the Middle East.  That preemptive action set a precedent for our country that will be hard to live down.

So, in WWII we were at war with nations. With whom are we now at war? Judging from the media and blogs there is considerable confusion about this.  Clearly many people feel that Islam is the enemy after seeing violent Muslim demonstrations in Indonesia and Pakistan calling for “death to Christians” and burning the American flag.  Right now we are fighting only certain fundamentalist sects of Islam, but we are edging dangerously close to war with the whole religion.  There is ample precedent for this in the Middle Ages.

But, a religious war is not the same as war between nations. In a religious war there is no national government to defeat or with whom to negotiate peace.  The combatants of a religious enemy are not soldiers, they are guerrillas and terrorists who wear no uniforms and can blend in with a population.  They are motivated by religious fervor and most are ready to die for their cause.  More importantly, those who die in their cause are likely to motivate even more recruits to their cause.  Many believe, myself included, that the more our country tries to nation-build, such as in Iraq or Afghanistan, the more we are resented.  It does not matter that our intent is good in such cases because we are outsiders meddling in their affairs.  Such is the nature of xenophobia.

There are somewhere between 2 million and 7 million Muslim citizens in the United States and in 2005 there were about 15,000 Muslims serving in the U.S. armed forces, putting their lives on the line for our country, theirs and yours.  Are these people too our enemy?  The notion seems absurd, and yet distrust abounds.  Part of this I think derives from the nature of religion and the natural human distrust of tribal differences.  In other words, xenophobia.

Islam is no more easily defined than is Christianity.  There are many different groups within Islam.  Should all of Islam be blamed for 9/11 when Bin Laden and the

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perpetrators were fundamentalist fanatics?  No.  It would make as much sense to treat different Christian sects as all the same.  Catholics were responsible for the Inquisition and for victimizing parishioners by selling indulgences.  Protestants were responsible for the Salem witch trials.  Mormons were responsible for the Mountain Meadows Massacre of 1857.  Blaming Christianity for these crimes now would thwart people’s need for spirituality and the good that most churches do.

I am suspicious of Islam. I do not like many of the sinister things I hear about it, but there are disturbing things in the Bible too.  I don’t like the idea of plucking my eyeball out if it offends me, for example.  And as far as turning the other cheek when I or my family are smitten, you can forget that – that smiter is going to get smitten back for sure.  No, it’s just too easy to cherry-pick bad things about religion to demonize people who are different.

It is significant to me that officers commissioned in our military take an oath of obedience NOT to the Commander In Chief, NOT to Generals or Admirals, NOT to Congress, but to the Constitution of the United States of America.  This means that our military leaders owe allegiance to principles, not other human beings, and one of those principles is freedom of speech, embodied in which is freedom of the press.  Another is the prohibition of establishment by the government of religion, and by extension, the separation of religion from matters of government.  This means toleration of diversity to the extent that it does not interfere with other citizens’ rights and freedoms.  The

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Enemy is Intolerance and the answer to it is the First Amendment. Believe any religion you wish, or none at all, so long as you respect the right of others to do the same.

I say, enough of nation-building.  Let America keep her defenses second to none and stand as a shining example to the world of what religious freedom means.  If we can keep it.

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About Jim Wheeler

U. S. Naval Academy, BS, Engineering, 1959; Naval line officer and submariner, 1959 -1981, Commander, USN; The George Washington U., MSA, Management Eng.; Aerospace Engineer, 1981-1999; Resident Gadfly, 1999 - present. Political affiliation: Independent, tending progressive as the GOP recedes from its Eisenhower roots.
This entry was posted in Ethics / Morality, Foreign Policy / War, Islam, Nuclear weapons, Religion, Terrorism, War and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Face Of The Enemy

  1. ansonburlingame says:

    Jim,

    I wrote a lengthy reply and it was not accepted by your web site. Will try again if I can recall at least the substance of my remarks.

    Your blog is well said and reflects the dilemma’s facing us today. I assume it was written to show more restraining views to my more “warrior like” blog on 9/11 remembrance, which is fine.

    Nazism reflected the choice of a nation, Germany, as a form of government, ahborrent as that political philosophy was to at least “us” today. We went to war to defeat that philosophical form of government and the practices espoused and carried out at the time. No one moralized about our actions 1941 – 1945. We were UNITED as a country.

    After Normandy, and in bombing campaigns beforehand we never worried about who was on the receiving end of those bombs or onslaughts by tanks and infantry. If a town “shot back” we all know what happened post Normandy. Our goal was winning and those that tried to thwart that goal we steamrolled, wounded, killed or incarcerated. It was in fact WAR, fought under international norms of conduct at least by us at that time.

    Now we all worry greatly about waging war against a religion. I for one do not propose to do such. I want to wage war against an abhorrent philosophy that hides behind the shield of a religion to practice abhorrent (to any civilized modern society) actions. I call it Sharia Law, not the Islamic religion. Those that promote Sharia Law are simply beyond the pale of any modern society and I for one oppose them and am willing to fight against them.

    But how pray tell does anyone make a distinction, at the individual or small group level, exactly who is merely worshipping as they have every right to do or on the other hand promoting LAWS, akin in moral content to Facist slaughter of Jews and others in times past. Politically we have been unable to make that distinction clearly and stand accused of trying to be arrogant, anti-religous zealots bent on being a world policeman.

    We entered WWII only after years of hand wringing, isolationism, etc. It took a simple sneak attack of large proportions to drive us to war. But once we went to war, a declared war following a “day of infamy”, we took off the gloves and ultimately prevailed. We NEVER moralized as a nation who was under the bombs dropped on Dresden or Tokyo during that war nor did we do so when the bombs became of nuclear magnitude.

    Was 9/11 a “day of infamy” akin to that of Pearl Harbor? If not why pray tell do you think that not to be the case? Sneakyness, magnitude of loss of life, magnitude of “cost” of structures destroyed, etc. all seem on the same scale to me. Yes, one attack was directed by those leading a nation and the other by those leading a perverted form of a religion. But were not both attacks “INFAMOUS”?

    After the fact and with around a million America troops still alive that would have died had we invaded Japan, many now so moralize over our wrongs done to innocents. Well your blog points out how those innocents fought just as hard in support of their government as we did at the time. In the case of WWII, might indeed made right.

    Now we no longer are able to muster up the unity as a country, for whatever reason, to do that today. If the enemy was only those that promote Sharia Law, not the much larger Muslim population that lives under that law, AND we could distinguish between the two on the battlefield and politically, then I ask why we lack such unity of purpose today.

    Instead we the people become either very confused or Quaker like in our opposition to the use of military force. Given that confusion or sentiment against the use of military force, it gives me cause to be concerned.

    No America will never live under the rule of Sharia I suspect nor will we adopt the beliefs and practices of Quakers as well. But we sure seem very confused about where in the middle of those extremes we might want to live as a nation. As a “warrior” I have some ideas. Were I a liberal I would have others. I UNDERSTAND the ultra liberal view as well as such views from the extreme right or Neo Con approach to war today.

    But as we struggle to find a middle ground of internation conduct today I see no UNITED or definitive solutions available from within our country.

    Anson

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    • Jim Wheeler says:

      Anson,

      Thanks for your reply and comments.

      Your question about why we do not have the same unity as in WWII is a good one. Here is my take on that.

      Pearl Harbor represented a very serious attack by a major industrial nation on our nation. The implication behind that was that Japan, and by extension their Axis partner Germany, sought world domination, both militarily and economically. The potential in that was profound. It meant that our way of life was literally threatened. On a gut level the civilian population even feared invasion. My wife, who unlike this Kansas boy lived on the East coast, recalls the blackouts and neighborhood wardens enforcing them. Fear was palpable and extensive.

      9/11 was different. We were appalled at the destruction and loss of life, but I don’t think anyone felt that this one attack was anything more than a lucky act of terrorism. I know I never thought that the Muslims were going to invade us or change our way of life, or hurt us economically in the long term. I felt anger, but not fear. In WWII, fear made the draft socially effective. In the Vietnam war, that visceral fear was missing and the draft was a failure, IMO. The same goes for 9/11. Now we have a professional military that constitutes only between 1% and 2% or so of the population and the rest of the country is not personally engaged. And the fear factor is absent – the body politic feels we are basically safe, not from random attacks but from damage that would affect us all directly. In fact, my impression of American culture is that most people are thoroughly immersed in their own little worlds, twittering, tweeting and texting about their own personal worlds of employment and entertainment and are only tangentially aware of world problems. Maybe this is what the American Dream leads to – complacency.

      I have long shared your wonderment as to why most of the populace doesn’t feel the same as I did about foreign affairs, especially during the Cold War. I think our military profession shaped out thinking, but the body politic felt protected and relative safe. And fortunately it turned out that way.

      To sum up: the difference is Fear.

      Jim

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  2. ansonburlingame says:

    Jim,

    You observed, “The implication behind that was that Japan, and by extension their Axis partner Germany, sought world domination, both militarily and economically.”

    I observe as I listen to jihadists, that is EXACTLY their dream or hope as well. A relatively small number of “radicals” stand up in thought and deed for that goal. But they are SUPPORTED by a much larger part of the Muslim world at large. Part of the Muslim world spends lots of money to bolster those ideas and actions as well.

    It is very difficult, on the battlefields of Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan to distinguish the real enemy defined as those willing to fight and die against us. We get American soliders killed all the time trying to make that distinction and making as sure as possible that we only shoot at that very carefully defined enemy. As such we don’t win ANY wars taking that approach. We didn’t in Vietnam, we can argue about Iraq and in Afghanistan are headed for a “tactical” withdrawal before any hope of victory is achieved.

    Do you think that five years from now Afghanistan will be a democracy of any sort or that the Taliban will not play a decisive role in how that country operates, including the abhorrence of Sharia Law, abhorrent to EVERYONE except some truly insane religious zealots.

    How could ANY WOMAN anywhere support and defend Sharia? Why do they choose to do so and what should someone do when such support “harbors the enemy”? They are not innocents. They are accomplices to genocide akin to Nazis in my view, the “gens” in this case being any non-believers.

    I have an editorial inputted to try to make this distinction. We’ll see if it sees the light of day. I have asked Carol to make it a guest column if it is too strong for an editorial.

    Anson

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  3. Duane Graham says:

    Jim,

    An excellent response to the cultural angst that seems to be growing in intensity.

    You mentioned something that I don’t think many of us appreciate, and it represents a consensus among both political parties:

    “…no one can deny that our economy depends, at least for now, on political stability in the Middle East.”

    What if we weren’t so dependent on Middle East stability? What if the world found another viable source of energy? Would the region be even more unstable, what with declining revenues from the sale of oil? Would we care, then, if those folks annihilated each other? Would we still meld our foreign policy with that of Israel’s? In other words, do our interests in the Middle East go beyond mere economic interests?

    Although it will be sometime before the world drastically reduces its need for Middle East oil (China will be a much bigger player there in the near future I suspect), I just wonder if our foreign policy would change all that much.
    Duane

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  4. ansonburlingame says:

    To both,

    Do either or both of you think that our decades of support for Israel are based primarily on OIL? Or instead is such support for a deeper purpose? If we were self sufficient in energy resources is it your thought or request that we simply walk away from Israel and let geopolitics in the Mideast take its course, without American influence?

    If that is the case, that we should walk away from Israel once we solve the “oil” problem, then just how two faced and superficial are American values, values related entirely to our own self interests? If in fact our concern is only for oil why have we given trillions of dollars to Israel for its own defense since, what, 1948? We could have much more security of our oil supplies if we just let Arabs overrun Israel and be done with it, long ago.

    Now consider this. Radical Islamics, jihadists, AND those that support them through direct financial support and/or subterfuge, politically, promote a political system originating in “biblical” (OK, Koranic) times, specifically the 7th century. The precepts of Sharia Law are ANCIENT historical laws akin to “an eye for an eye” in OUR Old Testament.

    Those laws are enforced with great zeal in some countries and those same countries promote the export of such poltical philosophy elsewhere in the world. Some even promote such right here, today in America. Is the promotion of an abhorrent politcal philosophy a threat?

    No, of course not as long as it a simple political position espoused under our laws of free speech. But can’t we consider such folks that promote that philosphy as at least political OPPONENTS? Sure we can.

    So how do we treat political opponents in our society? Well just watch TV or read blogs and editorials and see for yourself.

    And what happens when political zealots move from “speaking” about their philosophy to promoting or causing violence in their zeal to implement change? Is it then OK to use force on force? We do it for “right wing nut jobs”, KKK, etc. Why not do it against political opponents that use force, right here in River City? Now go watch the video that I tried to post (unsuccessfully) but did highlight. Are those producers “nut jobs”?

    Now moving overseas. When political opponents turn to “enemies”through the use of force against us and our allies, what should we do? Well there you have the foundations for the war on terror which we are backing away from now with all the speed possible it seems.

    Now go read my blog on Tony Blair and consider his thoughts on that subject. Pretty profound thinking in my view.

    Allowing religion, any religion in our country is an American values of great importance. Not allowing government force against that religion is also a fundamental that MUST be practiced.

    But when religion moves to the realm of POLITICAL PHILOSOPY (Sharia Law) what then should we do. To me it is very clear to reject such philosophy that we consider ahborrent with all the peaceful strength we can muster. AND/IF such political opponents promote violence we move to another plain, no so peaceful to reject such efforts in our own self interest. THAT is not a war of preemption in my view. It is one of defense AFTER the violence becomes manifest, a la 9/11.

    I challenge a thoughtful progressive to write about his/her views on Sharia Law (NOT the Islamic religion or Muslims in general) and what we should do to or about those that “vigorously” promote such laws, anywhere?

    And if you complain that it is not possible to separate religion from a political philosophy then go read our own Constitution. It does that quite well, in my view.

    Anson

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  5. Jim Wheeler says:

    To both,

    I posted another comment on Anson’s Tony Blair post a few minutes ago, and those apply to this post as well. But, I want to comment on Anson’s reference to OIL.

    Please note that in my original post here I did not imply that oil was our principal motive. I simply mentioned that our motives in the Middle East are SUSPECT because of that, and particularly since we undertook the second Gulf war pre-emptively. Anyone who thinks that isn’t being used against us isn’t paying attention.

    Now I am not so naive as to think that oil is not a PART of our motives and I don’t think either of you are either. But, there is no question that America is, and has usually been, a champion of freedom and democracy throughout the world, and that certainly applies to Israel. But, by the same token we have too often shouldered more than our fair share of that burden, especially since WWII. Europe and Japan have prospered economically while we paid for a lot of their military defense.

    Sharia Law is certainly a hot-button topic, loaded with religious implications. I think one has to ask whether it is America’s duty to correct that world-wide, and if the answer is yes, then how best to do it. I don’t think war is necessarily the only answer and I do think a national political debate on it is in order.

    Jim

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  6. ansonburlingame says:

    Jim,

    Well said, EXCEPT the short Sharia comment. I am now writing mightily to separate Sharia Law from ANY religious implication. It is a political philosophy growing FROM a religion. And it is a centruies old political philosopy originating in the 7th century AD with little or no change in the modern world that I see.

    It would be akin to some religious nut case promoting Old Testament Law today particularly in terms of punishment (eye for an eye), treatment of women, etc. etc.

    We MUST absolutely reject the connection between Sharia as a religion which in my view it is NOT in any way. It is a set of laws and we have a political system to decide such matters, including WAR if necessary to reject the inroads of such abhorrence into our country or MAYBE SOME of our foreign friends and allies, MAYBE only in that case.

    Anson

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    • Duane Graham says:

      Anson,

      I don’t understand the irrational fear of Sharia here in the United States, drummed up by people like Newt Gingrich without any grounding in reality, and I don’t understand how we can prevent Sharia from becoming the law of the land anyplace else. I just don’t get it. Does anyone think that we would go to war because some nation wanted to adopt Sharia?

      Anson asked progressives, “what we should do to or about those that “vigorously” promote such laws, anywhere?” Well, I’m not sure, but I am sure it should be something short of making war on them. We can do all we can to promote our national values to the world outside our borders, but it seems to me we have people here who don’t understand or accept those values, what with the nasty things they are willing to say and believe about our own government, a government of, by, and for the people.

      In any case, I am of the mind that we should make people of all fundamentalist faiths uncomfortable to expound and defend their faith-based political views, without stepping on their civil right to express them. And by “uncomfortable” I mean subjecting those views to intense scrutiny and using ridicule where it is appropriate.

      And of course it’s possible to separate religion from political philosophy, but I believe you’re mistaken, Anson, if you think that would ever be the norm, no matter what our Constitution says. Would that it were. A lot of people have political views that are shaped by their religious views, whether they be Orthodox Jews, Muslims or Christians. The things we need to promote are our secular values—the things that all of us as Americans should be able to say Amen to.

      And then when someone approaches us and advocates laws, Sharia or other variants, that run contrary to those values, ALL of us can say HELL NO.

      Duane

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  7. ansonburlingame says:

    To anyone,

    Let me try to make the above even more clear. Now doubt we were founded as a Christian Nation. Everyone that initially “came over” were persecuted Christians (or almost all). Christianity has been a bedrock religion for 230+ years and probably will remain so for a long time.

    But in fact we are really a Nation Of Law, a nation of law founded upon a political philosophy SOME of which philosophy came from the Christian faith but for sure not all of it. In fact our Founders established a system not promoting ANY religious faith and for sure not allowing that faith to dominate our legal system.

    To a degree any religion is a philosophy as well. Jesus in fact promoted a philosophy of love and tolerance under the auspices of a broader religion. By and large our Founders took elements of that philosophy and incorporated such into our Constitution. They choose to pick the “good” parts, primarily New Testament ideas expanded upon over 2000 years into political phiosophies, primarily English and some French perhaps into a system of laws that we have today.

    Now if Muslims took the “good” in the Koran and developed a set of modern laws drawing on the “good” I would have no problem with at least arguing such approach rather than standing for a call to arms against it. But I hope you agree there is little if any “good” in Sharia as espoused by the idiotic ENEMIES from radical Islam.

    Anson, again

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  8. Jim Wheeler says:

    Duane,

    I realize that I skipped over your interesting question:

    “What if we weren’t so dependent on Middle East stability? What if the world found another viable source of energy? Would the region be even more unstable, what with declining revenues from the sale of oil? Would we care, then, if those folks annihilated each other? Would we still meld our foreign policy with that of Israel’s? In other words, do our interests in the Middle East go beyond mere economic interests?” And, “Would our foreign policy change that much?”

    Of course it’s academic, but still interesting. One wonders about motivation behind big decisions. Just think of what has been done in the name of 9/11! We wouldn’t be in either Iraq or Afghanistan now if not for the paranoia of 9/11. Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11, but we were mad as hell and need to kill something!

    As far as Afghanistan goes, yes there were terrorist training camps there and Bin Laden retreated there before apparently heading for the Pakistani hills. But, here we are militarily in both places still, because they are political tar babies. Once you touch them, you’re stuck. (My father, who was a bit of a redneck, once told me, “If you save the life of a Chinaman, in their culture you become responsible for him the rest of his life.” I was never quite sure if that was one of his jokes or not, but in war it seems to be the case.

    Who knows what the real motives are that take advantage of paranoia? What plots are hatched by the good ole boys in the Skull and Bones. What role, the assassination plot against Bush I? America has always been a militant society. Teddy Roosevelt charging up San Juan hill. Douglas MacArthur dodging bullets in the trenches in WWI. The Civil War. Remember Pearl Harbor. Remember the Maine. Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes!

    It’s a good question. One thing I’m convinced of – talented demagogues will always be able to get the blood up in the body politic, and therefore, whoever we elect as our leaders takes on profound meaning in this context because the situations can go either way.

    Jim

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    • Duane Graham says:

      Jim,

      There are, of course, multiple reasons for our support of Israel: maintaining regional stability to keep the price of oil affordable; our support for its democracy and Western values; an influential Jewish constituency here in America; and last but not least, an influential swath of Christian fundamentalists and evangelicals who see support for Israel as a key to our national well-being based on Biblical blessings and curses and end-time theology.

      My curiosity, I suppose, is just how much weight each of those considerations carries. Perhaps each is strong enough on its own to keep our almost unwavering support going way into the future, but I just wonder how things would change if the world no longer cared what happened around the Persian Gulf.

      Duane

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  9. ansonburlingame says:

    Jim and Duane if you are lurking,

    Jim said, “Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11,” I absolutely refect that sentiment. He and others in the Mideast had a LOT to do with 9/11. No their actions could not be proven in a court of law or public opinion. They were far to smart to blatantly take such actions. Their contributions to the fundamental hatred of American, the fundamental cause of 9/11 attacks, were far more subtle.

    Iraq provided significant contributions from GOVERNMENT to support the families of suicide bombers. Those governments even promoted such attacks in public statements. Those governments financially and morally contribute to Hamas and Hezbolla today. Most of them would bomb Irael back to the stone age if they could, without a hesitation of any sort other than the fear of retaliation.

    Sadham KILLED his internal opposition that MIGHT have caused Iraq government to take a more neutral position, even the use of long outlawed weapons of mass destruction. Do you really think that such acts did not perpetuate the ideas fomenting in the Mideast that CONTRIBUTED to 9/11.

    Finally, you say without 9/11 the Iraq and Afghan wars would not have been launched in 2001 and 2003 and were only a result of America hysteria over 9/11. Probably true if NOTHING akin to 9/11, here or abroad, occured later on. BUT IF such attacks were launched later OR are again launched in the future, do you think we would or even should sit back and negotiate??

    IF nothing else, I HOPE you agree, that right or wrong both wars have acted as a deterrent against future attacks, thus far. I see no “little Sadham’s” (other than perhaps Iran) making such noises in the Mideast at the level of government policy for now.

    Any Monday morning quarterback can condemn any “old” war with a lot of what if’s that may or not be true. The facts on the ground are what leaders must use at the time to make such decisions. In the case of Iraq AND Afghanistan the American people and their congressional representatives supported President Bush, somewhere in the range of 80% in both “invasions” at the time. NOW was that support simple hysteria or maybe some common sense of promoting our values, aggressively, instead of now appologizing for them.

    Anson

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    • Duane Graham says:

      Anson,

      I guess I’m shocked that you can hold such views after all we know now about the Iraq war. And it won’t do to say that, well, we didn’t know then what we know now. The point is that before going to war, we should have known. There was evidence that our judgments were flawed and that evidence was ignored.

      There has been plenty of stuff published to refute what you have said here, so I won’t go into it.

      But I will say something that you seem to ignore or don’t understand. The situation in the Middle East is much more prone to instability now than before. Iran has been strengthened. One thing Iraq under Saddam Hussein represented was a counter to the regional aggressions of Iran. And Iran is a real threat to us and to Israel, as opposed to the phony case made about Iraq.

      As for your suggestion that using our military to promote “our values” is an acceptable use of the military, I am, again, shocked. The purpose of the military is to defend us against our enemies, not promote our values. When you talk that way you sound like a Wilsonian.

      And Jim has handled very well your allusion to Obama’s so-called apology. Honestly, you really should turn off the right-wing television or stop getting all of your information from military sources who hate the current president.

      Duane

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  10. Jim Wheeler says:

    Anson,

    My comment that Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11 was intended to mean that he had no DIRECT connection with the 9/11 high jackers and their planning of the attack. I certainly was and am under no illusion that he was friendly towards the U.S., despite the years and millions of dollars of military support he received from us. He was a repugnant dictator who got his start as a torturer and assassin. I am aware that he gave some support to Hamas and other terrorist groups. But, I would suggest that his regime was less dangerous than those of Iran and Syria, neither of which we chose to attack.

    One could also make a very good case that oil-rich fanatics in Saudi Arabia (esp. the Wahhabi branch) and Pakistan rank near the top of a list of financiers of terrorism. IMO, Saddam was a piker compared to the others I’ve mentioned here. The Wahhabi’s, of which Osama was one, have funded and continue to fund extremist “schools” all over the world. If we wanted to cut off funds for those, all we would need to do is get serious about the energy problem. That would be a solution by treasure alone – no blood required. But what’s a little blood? We’ve got an all-volunteer military for that.

    So, you choose to use Saddam’s support of anti-American groups as justification for at least the second Gulf War. I contend that it was not worth the amount of blood and treasure we spent, given how unstable is the resulting government, but as I’ve said before, I hope I’m wrong. I hope the new Iraq succeeds.

    If the solution to terrorism is to be war and nation-building, then we have a long list to go through before we’re done. After Syria, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Sudan we have Indonesia and perhaps the Philippines waiting in the wings.

    Relative to your last paragraph about 80% support from the public and Congress for the wars, that ignores the non-existent WMD’s (Iraq) and that Afghanistan was not the only source of terrorist training, nor was it even Osama’s final hiding place (apparently). I don’t think we observed the Powell Doctrine in either place (Wiki version).

    I hope you are not accusing me “apologizing” for “our values”. But if you want to accuse me of not wanting to push our values on other cultures, guilty as charged.

    I find Sharia law just as repugnant as you do. I just disagree with invasion and nation-building as a solution. And for what it’s worth, just because Obama tried in speeches to extend an olive branch to the less-extreme Muslim majority, I don’t think Obama was apologizing either, no matter what Rush Limbaugh says. I think the effort was a failure – you can’t reason with religious zeal, especially when the masses are whipped into a hate-frenzy by imam’s with an agenda. But I don’t blame him for trying. War should be a last resort, IMHO.

    Jim

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  11. ansonburlingame says:

    Jim,

    Wahhabi sect of Muslims. NOW THAT is a good topic. Fortunately they are Sunnis and thus a check on Iran, internal to the Muslim world. Our subtle (if possible) efforts in diplomatic circles should reinforce that split, a divide and conquer approach to Muslims in general. And by conquer I do not mean a war, simple weakening the “enemy” which BOTH Wahhabis AND the militant Shites are, without a doubt in my mind. As you point out OBL IS A WAHHABI.

    Read yesterday’s article in the Globe about the spread of Wahhabi’s into Balkan Countrys. Recall then 1992 – 95, Clinton’s own war, to prevent the slaughter of Muslims by Serbs. We prevented such genocide and now look at the results. Is THAT spread of Wahhabi elements in Islam a threat of some sort to America and our allies. Sure it is. Do we go to war with Saudi Arabia to stop such antics. Of course not, for now at least.

    Now go back to Blair’s remarks of late in terms of standing up for our values. Do we in some way “stand up” to the Wahhabis? How? Do we accomodate their ideas and spread of such as “freedom of religion” or instead strongly oppose such spread as an aborhorrent POLITICAL philosophy? Has the current administration TRIED to make that distinction, publicly. Not that I have heard for sure.

    Then of course there is the at least symbolic “bow” before the primary proponents of Wahhabis. Intended or not, the message is strong, in my view along with the rhetoric coming from the President at that time which was pure political excuses or appologies for past American actions.

    The ONLY former President in modern times that has attacked later administrations, with vehemence in my view, is Jimmy Carter. Has Bush said a WORD, publicly about Obama? Has Obama, publicly, both domestically and internationally diminished American actions to uphold our values in the past. Of course he has. He and his followers STILL at least subtly imply it was Haliburton and OIL that was our motive, as you even suggested earlier.

    Such sentiments are right in line with blaming our economic woes on fat cats on Wall Street as well.

    Obama’s and his supporters BIGGEST WAR has been against Bush and Republicans and he frames their past actions in terms much stronger than I have ever heard him use against say the Wahhabis, a word seldom heard in our debate over international issues, internally. I wonder exactly how many Wahhabi dollars from Saudi Arabia support the mosque at ground zero??

    And of course as a former member of the military I believe that war is the ultimate option. Well, war as we engage it now may not be so because we aren’t really waging war, we are trying, unsuccessfully to nation build.

    If instead of calling Iraq and Afghanistan “wars” we could all agree to call it a misapplication of military force. Would that make sense? And who pray tell is ultimately responsible for the improper use of military power. Last time I checked it is the Commander in Chief, ultimately.

    Can we, even Duane, agree that BOTH Bush and Obama, and probably Clinton as well have not wisely used American military power since 1992 while agreeing that Bush I got in right in the First Gulf War, using the Powell Doctrine AND the Six principles as a basis for the use of such power. And for damn sure Reagan got it right in bringing the Cold War to a final close, quickly, and decisively. Reagan may have gotten many things “wrong” but not that one, IMHO.

    Hell, even the hated Nixon understood such matters with his “China opening” AND his staggering attempts to “get out” of Vietnam, somehow.

    Anson

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  12. ansonburlingame says:

    To both,

    There are in my view understandable arguments (in hindsight) for the Iraq AND Afghan “wars” pro and con. I leave that aside for now as arguing the past. Let’s look to the furture and try to decide what should be done NOW in the best interests of America and the western world.

    Go read THE MUSLIM WORLD that is an attempt to lay out the geopolitical “world” TODAY as regarding the Islamic faith and efforts to spread that faith outside the boundaries were Islam is currently practiced.

    At least CONSIDER that snapshot that I tried to present.

    Then look forward 10 years with or without American influence in and around the current Muslim “world”.

    With little or no American influence, diplomatic, morally or militarily, the furture picture is disturbing to me in a sense of OUR OWN national security, THEN, not right now. Consider a nuclear Iran as well as an Islamic dominated Pakistan with nuclear weapons/material.

    Might such a world, then, no give pause to consider another 9/11 but this time with a dirty weapon or even a nuclear weapon spreading radioactive materail or exploding over NYC, etc? Do you think that is possible?

    If yes, then what do we do realistically to prevent it?

    Then consider the consequences of Chamberland’s (Actually British) appeasement of Hitler in the 1930s. Was WWII a much greater holacaust for the world as a result? I believe history is convincing in saying “yes” to that question.

    It gives me pause to ponder and consider options NOW to offset the possibilites of THEN. After all that is what national security policy is all about is it not?

    Anson

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