The End of War

of all, I’m sorry for not being around much lately, but there’s something
about being the parent of a soldier that makes you feel really helpless when
something happens. As many who read this blog know, my son Tim was deployed to
Afghanistan this past August. He’s serving his country in one of the most
dangerous areas of one of the most dangerous countries in the world, just so he
can better afford to go to college.  But
that’s another column for another day.

a week ago, my son and the others he serves with were scouting for IEDs, and
one of them went off, a little too close, and he was thrown back. From the way
he describes his symptoms, he’s definitely suffered a concussion, but it’s difficult
to tell if it might be worse than that. Tim has this tendency to “not want to
worry me,” and still hasn’t figured out that it’s not what he tells me that worries me, but what he doesn’t tell me. 

for the last week, I’ve been trying to go through channels to speak to a
doctor, and talking to him via instant message and email as much as possible,
trying to gain any information I can. This is my baby we’re talking about here.
I’ve raised him by myself since he was an infant, and the very thought of
losing him to a “war” that should have been over years ago really pisses me
off.  The former Vice President, Dick
Cheney, made me want to reach through the television screen and slap him when
he accused our current president of “dithering” last week.  What in the bloody hell was HIS
administration doing for seven years, if it wasn’t “dithering”? For shit’s
sake, folks; our mission over there was to wipe out a couple of thousand
scumbags who were behind the terrorist attack that killed 3000 of our people.
We had them cornered eight goddamn years ago; why are we still there?  Oh, yeah; it’s because we stopped in the
middle, and started a war with another country not too far away; one that was a
pain in the ass, but which didn’t attack us at all. That’s not dithering? Roosevelt
and Truman beat the Nazis and the Japanese in half the time that it’s taken to
wipe out a small group of people who are apparently so lacking in weapons that
they had to use four of our airliners and box cutters as weapons when they got

I got off track. I don’t really give a shit about Dick Cheney or any of his
evil spawn.  I won’t be satisfied until
Dick is sitting in a jail cell for all of the crimes against humanity he’s
committed, but he won’t ever hold public office again, so screw him.

I sat there by the computer the last 5-6 days, waiting to hear anything from or
about my son, positive or negative, I had time to think. (I do that, you know –
it’s why I’m not a wingnut.) Why the hell is this country so freaking
war-happy? My son is not the only person I know who has served over there;
there have been many. But I have to tell you; having your only kid, and the
most important person in your life,  sitting in a war zone has to be the most
stressful thing imaginable; it’s not something we should ever wish on
anyone.  I have always been something of
a pacifist, but this experience is making me more so. And I understand that
tens of millions of people either are, or have been at some time, in my
position. So again I ask: what is it that makes us so war happy?

I’ve seen the film “Why We Fight.” It’s an excellent film that I recommend to
everyone. But it explains the reasons why many of those in the government want
to ratchet up the war machine; too much of the economy is dependent upon it.
But why the hell are they so successful at
ratcheting it up? There has to be something inside of us that makes us so
susceptible to warmongering, because we do it so often.  If tens of millions of us have been through
the stress I’ve been through the last few months, what the hell is inside of us
to want to see it done over and over again? We have this tendency to think of
all of our soldiers as heroes; are we so in need of heroes that we have this
insatiable need to create more, and this is the only way we can think of?

last war in which we had a justifiable role was World War II. I’m a pacifist,
but that doesn’t mean every war is wrong.  Our involvement in Korea was pointless,
especially given that it’s still not even over. 
The cease fire is nearly 60 years old.  Vietnam goes without saying. Grenada was a
short, pointless testosterone fest, in which people died so that chickenhawk
wingnuts could crow about the size of their  peckers.  The Gulf War should never have happened;
George Bush, Sr. had the means to prevent it, but chose instead to rally the
wingnuts behind yet another pointless war against a hapless foe, because he had
no idea how to do anything else. To his minimal credit, Bush 41 at least put
together a war plan with an end game and stuck to it, pulling out relatively
quickly. On the downside, he established a permanent presence in the Middle
East, which is a really stupid move, if our actual goal is to promote peace in
the region. Of course, oil companies don’t want
peace in the Middle East, because then they can’t use the instability over
there as a phony rationale for increasing the price of oil. But again; that’s
another column for another day. Then, Bush went into Somalia, another pointless
exercise, and Clinton  intervened in
Kosovo, which was also unnecessary on many levels. But the neocon era was about
to hit its peak, when we “elected” the greatest warmonger in US history, George
Bush, Jr., and his evil puppetmaster, Dick Cheney,  who proceeded to conduct two wars and screw
them both up royally. But then, in the next election, he actually received more
votes than a war hero who promised to stop both wars.

the hell is wrong with us?  Why do we
seem to like war so much? Even when it’s stupid and pointless, a large portion
of us talks about “winning” and “losing” as if it was a goddamn sports contest.
 It’s not, folks. NO ONE “wins” a war.
Getting the other side to surrender just means you slaughtered so many of their
people, they can’t fight any longer. Who “won” World War I, exactly? Have you
ever thought about that? We got the Germans to cry “uncle!” and sign the Treaty
of Versailles, but the terms of that treaty were such that it pissed the
Germans off enough that they put all of their money into a war machine and
started yet another one.  Then, after we “won”
World War II, we headed straight into a “Cold” war, in which the entire world
was stressed out over the possibility of nuclear annihilation, so did we really

since then, we can’t honestly even say we “won” a war. How many of them do we
have to lose before we figure out that you can’t “win” a war that doesn’t
directly involve the safety and security of your own country?

we as a nation suffer from such a lack of self-esteem that the only way we can
feel good as a country is to beat the shit out of other, smaller countries? I
don’t know about you, but individuals who think like that are rightfully called
“bullies” where I come from, and we as individuals don’t put up with that kind
of behavior from them. Why do we think that acting like a bully makes our
nation “safer”? Have you ever watched what happens to a bully, eventually?

remember the school bully when I was in elementary school; I’ll call him J.  He was a real asshole. But it was funny; he
only went after kids he perceived as weaker than him; he was always insulting
me, but being something of a quiet pacifist-type even back then, I ignored him
and let it roll off my back. Of course, being the typical bully-type, which is
someone who is generally pretty stupid, he took my quiet as being an inability
to defend myself.  Well, one day, my
friend Howie and I had an argument, and being 11 year old boys, the only way we
could figure to settle the argument was to go out on the ball fields and fight
after school. The stupid thing was, Howie and I really liked each other, so the
fight was half-hearted at best. We were smacking each other, but it wasn’t with
the intent of hurting the other. In fact, we were practically laughing, because
neither one of us was really into it.

enough, here comes J the bully, who started in on me. He had chosen me to pick
on, because between Howie and me, I was smaller and skinnier, of course. Now, I
can’t remember exactly what he said or did, but something coming from him made
me snap, and I beat the living shit out of that kid, and given that at least
20-30 kids had gathered around to watch it and cheer me, I effectively ended
his career as a bully.

that what we want as a nation? Do we continue to engage in pointless wars,
until one day we end up getting the shit beat out of us by someone we consider
to be “lesser” than us? Do we want to be known as a “bully” by the rest of the

of the reasons we have so much to fear from terrorists these days is because we
have increasingly become known as a bully on the international stage.  The reason we won the “Cold War” against the
Soviet Union was because we were seen as the “good guys,” relatively speaking.
Of course, we engaged in some questionable garbage in that time, especially the
Vietnam War, but even then, our stated intention was to bring peace and
stability to the world, while the Soviets just ran over other countries and
forced them to adopt their bastardized style of “Communism.”

since the Cold War ended, it’s almost as if we’re trying to demonstrate to the
world that we’re just as “powerful” AS THE OLD Soviet Union or something, and
it’s pissing off the rest of the world.

need to hasten our exit from Iraq; we don’t belong there. In fact, before we
pull all of our troops out of the country, we should hand over everything else
to the Iraqi government. “Good guys” don’t occupy other countries.  Let the Iraqi people rebuild their own country
and run their own oil company; we have no business doing any of that. If we
want to train Iraqis to protect their own country, fine; fly them off to a
remote area somewhere and train them. My kid was apparently ready to fight in a
foreign country after about 4 months of boot camp; it sure as hell shouldn’t
take years to train Iraqis to fight in and for their own country.

Afghanistan, we just need to leave. I’m not saying this because Tim is over
there; I’m saying this because there is literally no reason for us to be there.
If the Taliban takes over again without an election, fine; we’ll help the
Afghan people take over their own country from afar. But it’s clear that no one
wants us over there, especially the people who live there, who we’re supposedly
over there “saving.” One day last week, NATO gave their blessing to sending more
troops over there, and all I could think was, “fine; then let the other members
of NATO fill in with the extra troops. Who the hell is NATO to be giving an okay
to the use of our soldiers to fight to
support a government that is corrupt and unpopular, anyway?

country has to get over its addiction to war as a definition of our worth as a
nation. Too much of our economy is tied to what we laughingly refer to as “defense”
spending, even though most of our actions since the dawn of the neocon era has
been largely offensive in nature. Every war since has lacked any sort of
rational basis. They all seem to have been entered into in order to demonstrate
the sheer awesomeness of our power to everyone else in the world. And that is
just crazy, folks; it’s the kind of lunacy that right wingers engage in, not
reasonable people.

time to end these wars as painlessly as possible, and to bring our troops home.
It’s time to dedicate ourselves to protecting our own borders, and engaging in
diplomacy everywhere in the world. That doesn’t mean we never send troops
anywhere, but we should concentrate more on actual “defense.” War has to be
rare, and used only as a last resort. 

concept of spending $1 trillion that we don’t have on two wars we don’t need to
fight should seem absurd to everyone. It should seem doubly absurd in light of
the fact that the same idiots who spent the trillion dollars on two unnecessary
wars are now claiming that spending the same amount on health care for everyone
over the next ten years would be devastating to the economy. If the government
has to constantly rationalize a war in order to fight it, we shouldn’t be
fighting it, and these assholes have been rationalizing Iraq and Afghanistan
for eight years now. It’s time to stop warmongering.

in the position of having a family member in a situation where he could end up
dying or maimed is painful for everyone. 
Let’s see to it that it never happens again. It’s time for American to be
about peace.


The End of War — 2 Comments

  1. Just one more point about my personal biases. I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Albania and tend to be impressed with nonmilitary international assistance. Although I almost never support military intervention, I nonetheless see the psychological value of having a US present in a country like Afghanistan. It is tremendously reassuring to a people that the US (and Europe) has a presence there. But we can be present without having to essentially take over the military functions in a country.
    robert nagle, aka idiotprogrammer

  2. Another fine post, as usual.
    I am very sorry to hear about your son’s concussion.
    One wiseguy once pointed out that that we could eliminate the DOD entirely and still have a relatively safe nation. (relying on the Coast Guard and National Guard to help out). “Defense” has begun to mean “projection of power” (and inevitably foreign interventions of dubious value). I can at least understand the motives of going to Afghanistan. In contrast, I cannot understand even contemplating taking military action against Iran, and yet conservatives bring the subject up frequently. Can they be serious? Apparently Israel has been sending out signals that it will do it alone (never mind international law) and that America will have to go along or at least turn a blind eye. I give the Obama a lot of credit for turning things around. But I haven’t seen any attempt to disabuse Israel of this ambition.
    One thing the US is good at doing is international development, and the big obstacle in Afghanistan seems to be security. (but note that public opinion in Afghanistan is improving ). The problem is that the US military can provide a temporary security blanket, but this requires a continuous injection of manpower and money. The true test of whether the surge in Iraq paid off is whether Iraq will backslide into what it was before or requires more manpower, more money. The same will probably be true of Afghanistan. On a positive note, though, Obama at least seems to be open to debate about what our mission should be (in contrast to the previous administration).
    One problem with Afghan-type interventions is that we start picking favorites and feeling the fallout of picking the wrong politician. This happens so often that it seems the rule rather than the exception.
    In summer of 2001 (when I was predicting all sorts of ominous things for the US), I half-jokingly mentioned to my girlfriend at the time that I would be happy with Bush’s domestic policies if only he didn’t get us entangled in any wars (ah, how naive I was back then). I made clear that every few years America feels compelled to devote its full military attention to solving some international hotspot; it almost seemed unAmerican to embrace multilateralist solutions or admit that we can’t change the world. I still think is US is incompetent both at setting limited objectives and using international organizations to achieve its ends. Most countries when they hear of a foreign political disaster just shrug their shoulders, say it’s a shame and move on (maybe donating some humanitarian assistance and moral support). The US on the other hand seems like a micromanager determined to fix everything even if doing so will do more harm than good.
    The main problem I see with Afghanistan is not geography conspires against the very notion of centralized government. Any government would have to spread itself very thinly; even the US could do nothing to stop that. My strategy for Afghanistan would be to identify one region of Afghanistan that is governable (and not constantly overrun with rebels) and focus on humanitarian development there. Let the Afghan nation see the fruits of limited intervention. Instead the US approach seems to be to focus on problem areas and try to uproot the bad elements. Nobile, but futile.
    robert nagle, aka idiotprogrammer