I don’t pretend to be a learned scholar, however this is what I believe to be correct. Your opinion may vary from mine on this topic.
My rational for participating in any international conflict are simply my own. I’m a Marine Corps veteran during the Viet Nam war, but not a combat veteran. I don’t offer this opinion as some do that are heroes or have special expertise on the subject. I do have the benefit of reasonable perspective. If you don’t have principles by which you stand then obviously you have no principles. That shouldn’t suggest being stubborn is right, it just means you won’t be goaded or intimidated into making bad decisions despite all of the variety of public opinion. Polls shouldn’t inform your principles, they just indicate a popular opinion. Remember this example, public opinion used to support slavery.
I’m a General Smedley Butler type of Marine. He became a pariah for politicians because he said this; “war is a racket“. I tend to side with him. He didn’t say that to be clever, he knew it from first hand experience and was honest. If you care to read more honest assessment as to why we’re in Afghanistan, go to this link. Why We Fight II.
In almost any conflict, foreign or domestic, I think 3 basic questions need to be raised and answered with certainty.
- Can I avoid this fight or is this fight inevitable? If inevitable, get the best data and answer with facts as to why this is the situation. Emotional reactions tend to be the worst solutions.
- Is avoiding this conflict life threatening for my country, family or I, or are there peaceful options to prevent this fight?
- Assuming, leaders have struggled, agonized and sought viable options and remedies, then what will it take to win the war?
– a) What resources are necessary?
– b) How devastating will this conflict be?
– c) How committed is your support and logistics for the long-term struggle and the frequent reversals of fortune that are part of a war?
– d) Were we invited to this conflict? If so, what are the motivations of those making the request?
Notice when you get to questions contained in number 3, there isn’t anything about exit strategy, purpose, or duration. Why do you think those questions aren’t necessary? Well here’s the ugly truth about war or any global conflict, duration and exit strategy are something invoked by the media or politicians that know very little about the nature of a war. You don’t win wars with the strategies of Korea, Viet Nam, or what we did in Iraq. All or nothing has to be the aim. If you can’t commit 100% as we did in WWII, then you haven’t satisfactorily and truthfully answered the 1st question let alone any of the others. Don’t send inadequate resources of men and material, because you think that you can limit losses by employing that type of strategy. Your enemy won’t adjust their goals based on weak commitment. If anything, it emboldens them to be even more aggressive. Only when the opposition has been totally brought to their knees, when they are willing to sign an armistice without pre-conditions, have you got an exit strategy that works.
WWII became necessary because WWI wasn’t settled. It seems there are historians still arguing over that one. People might also say Viet Nam is peaceful now and we didn’t win that war. That’s true because our answers to questions 1 & 2 were wrong. We weren’t required to be there to save our country from more aggressive conflict(s) despite the answers some of our politicians decided and explained to the public. False data gives you Viet Nam and Iraq as well as I believe, Afghanistan. I don’t entertain the debate about whether George Bush lied about the war in Iraq. Why don’t we need to know if he lied? Here’s the answer based on logic, you get the same answer when you know the right questions to ask. What’s important is the answers to the questions previously stated, not whether he lied or told the truth. If the data is wrong and the answers to questions 1 & 2 were false, you get the same results as if he lied. I think he believed it was the right thing to do and so did the vast majority of each political party at that time. Only when hindsight and public opinion turned against their decisions, did one party almost unilaterally decide it was wrong. Problems originate and so does endless debate when you don’t have the right answers to those first 3 questions.
I know some who read this will misunderstand and perceive me as too certain or with answers too simple. Believe me these aren’t simple questions and neither are the answers trivial. The questions asked require long thought, and lengthy debate. If you believe in God, then it’s time for some serious prayer. Those prayers shouldn’t be about asking for God’s support or approval. They should be about what’s the best course of action and be open to the thought that you might be wrong. Lincoln answered this type of question best; “.. my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right“. Getting that answer is the most difficult problem and may not come in the form expected.
The genuine struggle for anyone required to make this type of decision, is in trying to get the best information from every source possible and not base a response on the pressure that something must be done. It’s not a hawk or dove or ideology type of decision.
Making a choice one way or another shouldn’t be about political party affiliation or successful victory at the ballot box. Sometimes doing nothing at all is the best and most circumspect course of action. That can be easily misunderstood by the public as procrastination, but in point of fact, rushing into a bad decision doesn’t improve the decision.
Click on this link: Bill Moyer’s Extended Interview with Andrew Bacevich