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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Those who want Iran war wouldn't be drafted

GEORGE TEMPLETON
COMMENTARY


By George Templeton
Gazette Blog Columnist
 
The Hero
James had to prove he could win at the casino.   The house knew that the coin toss would come up heads or tails.  It paid twenty dollars out for a ten dollar bet on either pick.  James knew he could always win by putting ten dollars on heads and ten on tails, because those were the only two possibilities.  Will our Middle East policy be similar? 

War Drums
According to an authoritative survey, more than 2/3 of the American people want military intervention in Iran.  The survey participants would not be drafted to fight.  They never experienced the sacrifices of the Greatest Generation.  They had not heard about civic duty and World War II war ration books limiting the availability of meat, sugar, butter, gas, and tires.  The victory speed limit was 35 miles per hour, a value incomprehensible to HB2662, the recent “authoritative” speeding fine dismissal bill.

Peace is our objective.  We don’t pick fights.  We promote democracy instead of building empires, but our freedom depends on liberty in faraway lands.  To be safe, we have the largest military force in the world, but its use can escalate conflict instead of increasing security.  Our actions have always been defending and spreading freedom, but this can be mistaken as aggression.  Terrorism is not national.  We require the support of those whom we would bomb. 

Bullies
Genuine authority helps us.  An authoritarian makes everybody’s rules.  He preaches less government, but it does not apply to him.  He hides behind closed doors claiming that transparency inhibits his free speech.  To retain unjustified and unwarranted control he tears down accomplishments, generates ill will, distrusts, and denigrates others instead of building them up.  Real authorities have a statesman-like character putting people and enduring principle ahead of self-interest.  Authoritarians believe that leadership is the exercise of power given by wealth.

Bullies risk our security by extending their authority into areas they know little about.  To force their way on others they repress disagreeing speech.  They restrict voting, limit choice, and make false claims when they can get away with it.  Their belief simplifies and removes ambiguity.  It makes cooperation, moderation, and humility into vices that demonstrate weakness of character.  Certainty is necessary to believe that democracy can be introduced by military force and that we have the license to remake the world in our image. 

God Said
Pat Robertson summed it up when he said that we should crush ISIS like we did Hitler.  He accused our President as not believing in America and as lacking “fundamental values” because he was taught by elite leftists who don’t really love this country.  If one is not a religious fundamentalist does it follow that he is an atheist?  Does love of country require intolerance of constructive critique?  Are the values of the poor and obscure more patriotically moral than those of the rich and famous?  Is “anticipatory self-defense” needed to prevent war? 

Destiny
In 1950 many people argued that man would never go to the moon, but they believed in invaders from Mars and flying saucers.  I was fascinated by those pictures on the covers of the science fiction magazines.  I was not allowed to read them or to attend movies concerned with the threat of nuclear war, like Rocketship X-M and The Day the Earth Stood Still, but they could not keep me from reading the science fiction in the Saturday Evening Post magazine.  It was the same way with the book of Revelation that captured my attention more than the preacher’s sermon.

Revelation is often viewed as warning of world ending events that are starting to happen, but this could be a consequence of constructing a pattern to fit with what we are familiar with.  It seems a big reach to give John, the writer of Revelation, knowledge of tanks, airplanes, and nuclear bombs when he lived within the technology of the ancient Roman Empire.  If the end is predestined there is not much hope for most of the world and little point in geopolitics.  John may have used his fantastic dreams as a literary tool.  If so, John calls us to do something different, not to remain on the sidelines, because we have hope for the future and responsibility to it.

Controversy comes from history and the writings of the great thinkers including the Bible and the Constitution.  But the fact remains that we cannot agree on what they say, even if they are a belief instead of a book or document, and even if they are claimed literally true, original in meaning, and never ambiguous or contradictory.  We learn as much about ourselves in the present as we learn from investigating the past. 

Historical
The “news” host impugned his university student “children” when he claimed that they could not honestly answer their atheistic, “America hating”, liberal professors.  Was he confusing what to think with how to reason?  We wonder if his children actually believed, “Daddy knows best”.   Was he referring to the old “consensus school” history that Texas school boards want taught?  Today’s social history recognizes recent controversy and that women and minorities have a history of their own.
History does not repeat itself, but we can contemplate human patterns and gain perspective from them.  Why, when, and how do we wage war?  Is it true that all American wars have been defensive?  Does America always win the war and lose the peace? 

World War II
Diplomacy is as important as winning battles, but the “unfair” World War I Paris peace conference unintentionally sowed the seeds of German resentment and Hitler’s rise.  Appeasement was not a new political strategy in the 1930’s.  The problem was that Hitler could not be appeased.

World War II began in the years 1931 to 1941 as a series of unconnected wars in Asia and Europe that began to coalesce in late 1941.  Today, the tension among national and religious interests in the Shias, Sunnis, Sufis, Alawites, Houthis, Hamas, Hezbollah, Al-Qaeda, Taliban, Al-Shaabab, Boca Haram, and ISIS prove that religion does not belong in the public square.

It’s not true that the Axis dictators grabbed power contrary to the will of their people.  Realizing a threat, America provided military aid to the nations fighting the Axis.  We provide arms and sanction economically, but we cannot command others to do our bidding.  We can change their minds but not their hearts.  Similar policies led to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Even though there were 15 million Americans in uniform deployed around the world, they amounted to only 25 percent of the allied forces.  We did not single handedly crush Hitler.   However, America was becoming a super industrialized nation.  We supplied more than 50 percent of the war material used to defeat the Axis.  By the end of the war, America owned nearly 2/3 of the world’s gold and more than 1/2 of its manufacturing capacity.  Our exports more than doubled our imports and we were a net creditor.  We were the world’s leading producer of oil, steel, airplanes, automobiles, and electronics.

Opposite to Patrick M. Wood’s conspiracy theories and the Payson Tea Party’s anti-science paranoia, technology is what won the war, created the middle class, cured disease, fed, clothed, and entertained us.  Our people’s sovereignty and their cherished principles, not military might or wealth, made us into the greatest nation. 

The Cold War
The defeat of the Axis eliminated the common enemy of the U.S. and Russia, but it did not lead to peace.  It left a power vacuum accentuating the opposed ideologies of Communism and Capitalism.   The resulting Cold War would come to threaten the destruction of the earth in the 1980’s.  The policy of Mutual Assured Destruction gave us the false security of invincible power.  It lasted until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990.  The Korean and Vietnam wars were fought within the blanket of that ideological conflict.  The current conflict is between Islamic and Christian anti-intellectualism and Western Values. 

Korean War
In Korea, the surrender of the Japanese left the country occupied by American and Russian forces, each having installed rival governments.  In 1950, with Stalin’s consent and Truman’s condemnation, the North invaded the South.  Because Russia had boycotted the UN, we were able to get UN sanction for military intervention, but that threatened to turn into another world war when the Chinese came to the aid of the North Koreans.  Sixty years later, Korea remains divided and we still have a costly military presence there.  Sanctions did not prevent North Korea from developing a nuclear weapon. 

Vietnam War
The Vietnam War began with the failure of French colonial rule that deprived the Vietnamese people their right of self-determination.  The Gulf of Tonkin belief denied all Johnson Administration responsibility for an attack by the North and ignored contrary evidence that a second attack may not have occurred.  By 1968 we had more than 500,000 forces in Vietnam and we had stopped but not defeated the Communists.  The war was a failure because the South Vietnamese government was never stable, we did not adequately consider Vietnamese cultural history, the difficulty of creating a government like ours, and that the war was not just a domino game.  This longest war showed that we underestimated the resolve of the Vietnamese people and overestimated the commitment of America.  We won every battle but lost the war. 

Permanent War
America has a responsibility to promote common humanitarian interests by setting clear examples.  The rise of home grown Islamic terrorists reveals a weakness spawned by the compromise of principles and united by Islamic fundamentalism that will not be resolved by military might. 

The Winner
Everybody wins in a fair negotiation, but American politics negates that.  The possibilities between having and not having a bomb cannot be managed by divided government and showmen.  Experts know that the game will be different fifteen years from now, but simplification speaks louder and clearer than science.  Our risk is that we will become like the hero described in my introduction, James, who always wins but accomplishes nothing.







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