Lessons to learn from conflict
written by Bill:
Your comments about this column are welcome ~ e-mail Bill at
A place for intelligent writers
A place for intelligent readers
founded 2004 by ron cruger
President Obama addressed the nation this week, to mark the end of American
combat operations in Iraq.
Let’s hope he’s right.
he is, it will be one of the very few plans to work out as intended in that unfortunate and unfathomable region. Do not forget there
are still 50,000 American men and women in uniform in Iraq, and they’re not exactly strolling through the park. Danger continues to
lurk around every corner in a country that’s still a toss-up to go into civil war.
are lessons to be learned from America’s long slog:
• This was a war of choice, not necessity,
and that’s nearly always going to be a mistake. Iraq did not attack the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.
Extremists within the borders of Afghanistan did attack the United States on Sept. 11. The United States should have gone into Afghanistan
with guns blazing. But, did the Iraq campaign take America’s eye off the ball in Afghanistan? Seems so to us. Undoubtedly, it’s harder
now to play catch-up in Afghanistan.
• Is the world better off without the murderous regime
of Saddam Hussein? Absolutely. But was that sufficient reason to fight a war? Absolutely not.
When the American people are angry and in a fighting mood, they can be led almost anywhere. That doesn’t mean it’s the right thing
• When reason returns, an unnecessary war becomes an unpopular war. And unpopular
wars cannot be sustained.
• Realistically, the two countries posing the biggest threats in
the region are not Iraq and Afghanistan, but Iran and Pakistan. Throw in India as a wild card. Did this conflict reduce regional risk?
• The U.S. military, when unleashed, is unmatched in its ability to rain pain on
an enemy. But the military is ill-equipped — for good reasons — when it comes to building nations and playing midwife to democracy
in foreign lands.
Mind you, none of that diminishes the respect due America’s heroes in uniform. Whatever was asked of them, they did.
Still today, they perform brilliantly. These young people are America’s best.
Which raises three more points:
The families of those who gave their lives in the service of their country must be cared for. Forever.
Those who suffered debilitating physical or mental disabilities must receive the services they need for as long as it’s needed.
Finally, the American people need to step back and take a long hard (and shameful) look in the mirror. For nearly a decade these two
wars have been fought by a tiny sliver of the population. In fact, even counting family members, the number of people truly sacrificing
for the call of duty is minuscule. More than 99 percent of Americans have no connection to the wars, and make no sacrifice to support
the wars, which probably explains why so many seem not to know or care what’s happening over there. The political class is afraid
to ask people to play any role. Here’s my take: There should be a war tax to raise the money to pay the cost of war; there should
be a national service requirement, similar to other countries, which makes it a duty at some point in one’s life to take on a role
for the country — that might be military, it might be public service. Duty should be shared — or not undertaken.
hope Obama is right, and that soon the rest of America’s troops can come home from Iraq. Likewise, it’s past time to redefine success
in Afghanistan and move toward resolution. That’s unlikely to be a clear-cut military victory. Some sort of reconciliation is the
only hope. And we cannot impose it.
Last, but hardly least, let’s
get serious about alternative energy sources. Yes, we all know, the world runs on oil and that need is not going away overnight. But
our entanglement in the Middle East surely would lessen in direct proportion to diminishing thirst for oil. The most innovative and
productive country on the planet ought to figure that out.