Thursday, April 9, 2015
Why Do Americans Like War So Much?
I find American attitudes about war to be absolutely confounding and sometimes, it makes me wonder just how screwed up our priorities are.
We will march and protest and petition not to have to bake a freaking wedding cake for a gay person or to keep Susie, next door, from having an abortion. We will march against Obamacare. We will pooh-pooh what scientists warn about climate change because....the Bible (which, of course, we all interpret every chapter and verse perfectly - we know exactly what god meant and if you disagree, you're wrong). Sports fans get up in arms about deflated footballs or deflated racecar tires. We will go to the mat to protect our right to carry guns - anywhere, any time, anybody. We join groups and contribute dollars to rescue pets and save tigers and protect whales.
We all have particular issues that light our political fires.
Unfortunately, war doesn't seem to be one of them. We are currently at war in Iraq and Syria and Yemen... oh, not declared war. Those declared wars are over, don't you know? It's just that they didn't end simply because we said so - because other stuff came up that prevented us from following through. So, we are still fighting in Iraq and we're delaying the departure of all our troops from Afghanistan.
These extensions of our wars have been going on for months. They might be ruled unconstitutional if anyone cared enough to test that theory - since Congress hasn't approved them and President Obama is still operating under an order given to George Bush oh-so-many years ago, completely out-of-date, which at any rate, doesn't include Syria or technically, ISIS. And it's not the president hasn't asked Congress to weigh in. He'd like their back up for what he's doing but evidently, they just don't think it is important enough to spend their time on what with, you know, giving the big banks another chance to bankrupt the country on the taxpayer's dime and putting more onerous restrictions on abortion and cutting food stamps and, oh, yeah, vacations. Strange that they are so fervently jealous of their privilege about having a say in the negotiations with Iran but actual wars that we are engaged in right now, who cares?
Now, Iran, yes, there is a war that does pique Congress' interest....we're not at war with Iran now but the Republicans, and even some Democrats, would like to be. They are totally scornful of the president's silly little attempts to peacefully prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. No, they say, the only answer is war. The war-mongers who were wrong about every single prediction they made about Iraq are especially vocal about this line of thinking. "Bomb, bomb, bomb," says John Bolton and Dick Cheney and the rest of the Iraq War crew. And oddly enough, the media, that so-called liberal lamestream media, quotes them as if they still had a shred of credibility.
But it is the people themselves who interest me. According to a poll by the Christian Science Monitor, two-thirds of Republicans support bombing Iran while 38 percent of Democrats do.
I wish the poll had asked people how they conceived of this happening. We go in, we bomb, Iran's nuclear capability is destroyed, we dust off our hands and come home? End of story?
Do we really think it would be that easy? Do we really not believe there would be long-term consequences?
That is actually what we did think about Iraq, isn't it? We'd go in and topple Saddam, we'd show them how democracy works and they'd be so happy. We'd go off and leave a peaceful, democratic Iraq behind.
But that isn't what happened. Iran and Iraq had been roughly equal spheres of influence in the Middle East, each keeping the other in check. Saddam was actually the preferable dictator from our point of view, being secular rather than rabidly Islamic. So what we did was totally destabilize that part of the world and soon Al Qaida sprang up to fill the void and when we decimated Al Qaida's leadership, the even more barbarous and bloodthirsty ISIS took its place. Do we truly believe the best way to win friends and influence people in the Middle East is to bomb yet another Islamic country, seeing as how that tactic has been such a dismal failure in the past?
We went into Afghanistan to get bin Laden and Al Qaida but we decided to stick around, why, because we thought Al Qaida would reconstitute itself or because, what the hell, let's kill off the Taliban while we're already here? Except the Taliban isn't killed and probably never will be.
And what gets me the most about all of this is that, while we'll protest and vote and sign petitions and posts comments on Facebook for all kinds of less-than-intense issues, we allow our representatives to send our husbands and mothers and sisters and brothers and children off to fight a war, and perhaps die, or return with a life-altering injury, with what amounts to a political shrug of our collective shoulders.
We don't ask if it will be worth the lives of our loved ones. We don't ask what the end game is. We don't ask our leaders how we will know when we've won. We don't ask about the economic costs and whether the price is worth what else we'll will have to give up as a society. We don't ask whether, if these wars are so critical, we shouldn't put our hearts where our mouths are and re-institute the draft and make everyone sacrifice for the cause instead of sending the same soldiers over and over. We don't ask if maybe we should double what we spend on veteran's health to insure that every one of our wounded warriors get proper care when they come home.
Nope, every damn time the politicians yell "charge", a significant number of us pick up our flags and holler in militaristic agreement. Then we go back to watching football games while our kids gear up to go to war.