Friday, March 17, 2006

The Long War

I think it's safe to say that the march towards a conflict with Iran began years ago, with Bush's infamous "Axis of Evil" speech. The open hostility of the Bush regime towards Iran is palpable in U.S. foreign policy. The "so-called Liberal Media" is all a-twitter with reports about the impending dangers of a nuclear Iran. But is the concern legitimate, or just more fear-mongering by the Bush White House?

If past events are any indication of future results, we all should know the answer to that question (from Juan Cole via AlterNet):

If the Supreme Jurisprudent of theocratic Iran has given a fatwa against nukes, if the president of the country has renounced them and called for others to do so, if the International Atomic Energy Agency has found no evidence of a military nuclear weapons program, and if Iran is at least 10 years from having a bomb even if it is trying to get one, then why is there a diplomatic crisis around this issue between the United States and Iran in 2006?

The answer is that the Iranian nuclear issue is deja vu all over again. As it did with regard to the Baath regime in Iraq, the militarily aggressive Bush administration wants to overthrow the government in Tehran.

I am certainly opposed to theocratic regimes of all kinds, as religious autocracy is no less oppressive than a secular regime such as Saddam Hussein's. However, Bush's reckless policy of aggression towards nations he deems "evildoers", as though the world were scripted by DC Comics, helps foment the very danger from which he claims to be protecting us.

The Iraq war has descended into a chaotic mess, much as every opponent of the war had predicted back in 2003. What began as preventive war, based on faulty and misleading intelligence, has since morphed into an impossible nation building exercise, to the likes of which conservatives used to be opposed. It has cost the United States thousands of lives and billions of dollars, to say nothing of the terrible cost to the Iraqi people. All of this sacrificed to achieve what can probably be called a slow boiling civil war which could boil over at any time. Iraq is the terrible consequence of a foreign policy based in neo-conservative ideology, unfettered by the political complexities of the real world.

And now the sights of the Bush administration are turning to Iran. The Bush Doctrine of preemptive war and regime change can appear seductively simple, at least on paper. Confront regimes that are hostile to democratic freedom, use our military force to remove oppressive regimes and then help the people of the newly liberated nation build a golden age of democratic peace. It sounds so easy, this utopian vision of a democratized world. No messy diplomacy, no morally ambiguous expediency. Nothing but the crusader certainty of "shock and awe". Reality, sadly, has little familiarity with utopia.

The reality is that many autocratic nations, such as Iraq, have a seething current of sectarian strife, held in check only by the authoritarian jackboots of the ruling regime. Iraq is rife with sectarian reprisals, as the vicious cycle of retribution between Sunnis and Shi'ites continues to yield greater bloodshed. Further, there is no such thing as a war against one man. The invasion of Iraq may have had as one of its many causus belli the toppling of Saddam Hussein but the reality is that tens of thousands of Iraqis have died along with their former leader. It's akin to performing delicate surgery with a large chainsaw; the tumor may be removed but the patient is in no less peril.

That's one of the reasons the insurgency against the U.S. occupation continues. Not because Iraqis liked living under Saddam Hussein but because at this point every Iraqi has lost a friend or family member to the violence. Democracy and the freedom from tyranny may seem hollow next to the reality of a dead child, a dead coworker or a dead parent. Such is the price of freedom, of course, but it was never George W. Bush's place to impose that price on the Iraqi people by demanding their sacrifice.

Iran certainly bears close watching, as does any autocratic regime. But, again, as with Iraq, the clear and present danger seems to be more from U.S. aggression than from any tangible threat from Iran. The problem remains the conservative love of war, combined with a White House filled with veterans of the Cold War. The Republicans have made mythical the notion of the "just war"; the noble battle for freedom.

The use of military power has been so enshrined within the ideals of U.S. nationalism, that many conservatives now believe that military action is its own justification. Many and loud are the cries that we must not "cut and run" from Iraq, as if Vietnam didn't teach us the folly of a self-sustaining war. Strong is the insistence that, now that Bush has taken us to war, the American people should line up and unequivocally support "the mission" because it's the only way to support the troops. Such is a total abrogation of our responsibility as Americans to make certain that our military is not exploited in a war of ill-purpose such as this. President Bush works for the American people and it is our responsibility to determine when the mission is no longer in our interest. Bush clearly doesn't have the integrity or leadership ability to admit that the war in Iraq was the wrong mission for our military. Those advocating for an unending "long war" for no better reason than their own macho catharsis, their need to be the biggest, most violent bully on the world stage, demonstrate nothing but contempt for the men and women forced to lay their lives on the line for such hubris.

The "long war" continues, sadly, and it didn't begin in Iraq. It began in a political party of cowards and opportunists, who need the blood of other people's children to feel powerful and the profits of war to feel wealthy. It began with the Cold War and yet never ended, because these same conservatives can only define themselves by their enemies. They need Al-Qaida in the same way they needed the Soviets. A constant enemy, a constant threat, by which any amount of war profiteering or any degree of curtailing of civil liberties can be justified. Without the constant fearmongering and endless war, the American people might look up and realize that their nation is only a wavering light, dimmed by fear and bloodshed, when it could be a blazing beacon. And then where would the Republicans be, if the American people began to dream of how great a nation they could have once unfettered by constant war and fear?

Unemployed, I think.

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