Saturday, July 01, 2006

The Phony War

The so-called War on Terror is a phony war. Are we to believe that we are threatened by a disorganized band of disaffected radicals led by an exiled Arab hiding out in the hinterlands of Afghanistan or Pakistan?

After decades of ignoring border security and the status of foreigners entering the country legally but overstaying their visas, and meddling in the affairs of Islamic countries around the world, we are surprised that we are attacked using our own aircraft as weapons? Correcting this lapse of security is obviously is not a job for highly trained pilots, cruise missiles, tanks and a marine landing. It’s a job for the intelligence services, law enforcement, and maybe a few Special Forces, along with cooperation with other nations in confronting the threat. It’s also a signal to get off our duff and do something about border and internal security. We have our own domestic wackos, what’s a few more? We live in a dangerous world and we need to be vigilant.

But, the administration needed a war to accomplish its real goals, the plans for which were already on the drawing board. Old scores with Saddam Hussein must be settled, a beachhead in the Middle East must be established, and the waning powers of the executive branch must be shored up. There is nothing like a war to put the fear of God into the populace, legitimize the expansion of executive powers, and expose the weakness and sheep-like tendencies of Congress, who worry more about the next election than the welfare of the country.

We need look no further than Washington DC to find the axis of evil. The combo of chicken hawk neocons and frustrated cold warriors eager to kick ass and take names to control the world is all that is needed. These plotters claimed for themselves the sole authority to define what is good and what is evil, what tools of war are legitimate, what aggressive actions need to be taken preemptively, without threat to the country, and the means to carry them out. They abandoned the principles of humanity the country has held for generations by eschewing limitations on torture, using renditions and secret hideouts for interrogation, and sidestepping international conventions and cautions to accomplish their goals.

What do weak countries and their people do when confronted with the threats and actions of a superpower that controls a major portion of the worlds economic infrastructure and has the military might to crush any confrontation on the field of battle? How do people without sophisticated weapons confront a superpower or a country like Israel that is backed up by a superpower? Do they meet them on the field of battle with their rocks and rifles to be crushed by exploding missiles fired from planes or bunkers miles away? What recourse do they have besides secret forms of insurgency like sniping, exploding devices, or kidnapping? When these are the only weapons available and are effective why are they considered illegitimate?

In such conflicts between the weak and the strong, the strong not only exercise military superiority. They demand to right to define the terms and language of engagement. The tactics used by the opposition are stigmatized as terror, while the destruction of civilians along with military targets by antiseptic standoff warfare is deemed collateral damage. The use of disproportionate force is justified as the right of self defense.

History has shown that the only defense against incursions into weak countries by strong military powers is insurgency. Just as the colonialists were denounced by the British for using guerilla tactics instead of meeting in ranks on the field of battle in the Revolutionary War the insurgents of today are condemned for using guerilla tactics to defend their territory. If weak powers are to preserve their way of life against the demands and incursions of strong military powers they must use all effective means at their disposal to defend themselves. Striking at the homeland of strong military powers is a legitimate means of defense. Particularly, in the case of democratic countries, where the civilian population must sanction the actions of their government, attacks against the civilian population have a measure of legitimacy.

We must come to realize that most of our problems with Islamic groups stem from two sources: the dangers of religion in creating extremist tendencies in downtrodden people who see no hope in the future, and our meddling in their affairs and supporting other countries that do. They have a right to decide how they want to be governed. And they must have the courage to overthrow dictators in the same way they are willing to repel an occupying power. We must restrict our actions to defense of our own country from external and internal threats, and diplomatic initiatives to influence the affairs of other countries, unless more drastic action is sanctioned by a legitimate majority of the world’s nations. We must uphold the values that made our country great and that are embodied in the declaration of independence and the constitution. We must maintain our system of checks and balances. We must keep our press free of governmental pressure. We must provide for the least among us who can’t provide for themselves. We must sustain a strong and vibrant middle class. We must treat people humanely and compassionately. We must lead be example, not by force. If we do otherwise we are on the road to the trash heap of history.

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