Tuesday, April 18, 2006

From small to big forebodings

This morning I heard that President Bush should not fire Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld because when one member of the cabinet goes there is a "blood in the water" effect in Washington that will demand that more heads role. This is not a reason for keeping Rumsfeld in his position. You cannot base your evaluations of performance of one individual on the possibility that other people may want others fired should you decide to fire the original person. This would be like the factory manager who refused to fire an incompetent boob because then his competitors might want him to fire other employees regardless of their quality.

Should the President fire Rumsfeld? So long as President Bush's war strategy is fundamentally flawed, which the prolonged Iraq battle is merely a symptom (as is the Iranian march into the nuclear age), I don't see how shifting the players beneath the President is going to make any difference.

According to CNN.com (http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2003/iraq/forces/casualties/), American casualities currently amount to 2,377 killed, 17, 549 wounded. These numbers have amassed over a period from March, 2003 to the present day. American war casualties are never something to be looked upon with joy or even optimistically (at least for Americans) but in comparison to the bloodbaths of the last century and a half of warfare the numbers for the Iraq War are comparatively very low (we lost over 100,000 men dead in our very brief involvement at the end of World War I), particularly when one looks at the amount of time involved in the conflict. The problem with war casualties arises when the benefit to us does not make such a loss justifiable. In the case of Iraq, there has yet to be any benefit.

Conspiracy theorists ridiculously claimed the war war for oil, yet there has been no oil boon for anyone as a result of the war, due mainly to sabotage by terrorists inside the country. But there would have been no boon to American companies anyway as the nationalization of the oil industry effected by the Ba'ath Party so many decades ago was reaffirmed by the United States when it became an occupying authority. No privatization of the oil industry has been provided for in any of the drafts of Iraqi constitutions which have so far appeared and is unlikely unless an incipient capitalist movement is bubbling under the surface of Baghdad, or Washington for that matter.

The reasons for the war originally, the potential of Iraq to arm terrorists with weapons of mass destruction always fit other regional enemies much better (Iran and Syria) or that Saddam Hussein ran a terror regime which supported terrorists (which was true, but Iran makes Saddam look like a little bully in a candy shop), have been either unsubstantiated or made to look foolish by the fact that Iran is now doing whatever it wants after decades of unpunished terrorist action. The reasoning offered concurrently, but emphasized after it was clear the WMDs might not have existed, was to bring liberty to the Iraqis. I love liberty, I wish the whole world lived in liberty, but I do not think it the responsibility of the United States of America to correct the mistakes or tragedies of others. If we choose to do so, I expect to benefit from it and for the likelihood of success to be very good. Iraq did not meet these requirements, as we are so painfully seeing. With a rich history of republicanism to draw upon, not to mention plenty of examples of successful revolutions (and many more failed ones), there is no reason why the free countries of the world should go about freeing people, the benefits to us do not outweigh the costs. I maintain that the United States or any other free country has a right to do such a thing. Dictatorships and tyrannies abandon their right to rule when they abridge the individual rights of men. However, this is a separate question from whether we, or anyone else, should put our own citizens on the line for the enslaved peoples of the world.

As one who was ready, willing, and able to drop out of my freshman year of college on September 12, 2001 and go to war (the reason I did not do this has to do with a conversation with my father), and who supported whole-heartedly war in Afghanistan and even Iraq (though with the proviso that we not nation-build and that Iraq was not the primary or even main enemy of the United States), I am supremely disappointed in the current course of events. Ultimately, President Bush is responsible for this state of affairs, he has been dealt one of the most difficult hands any POTUS was ever dealt and he has unfortunately lost more hands than he has won. Difficulty does not excuse failure. America was not attacked by terrorism, which is a tactic of combatants, it was attacked by men with ideas, beliefs, financing, allegiances, and a cause. We must articulate what their cause is, identify its adherents, state-sponsors, and more importantly, articulate our own cause. Are we fighting, as we have in Afghanistan and Iraq, to spread Islamic theocracy and command economies around the middle east where such systems already exist in abundance? If so then we should pack it in and wait for the end, such a strategy has no hope of winning, just as trying to become Fortress America, preventing innocent immigrants from coming here, erecting trade barriers, etc. has no hope of making us safer or more prosperous. As both parties are so close on nearly all major issues, or when they may be right they end up being wrong (Democrats: right on abortion, then go on to try to subsidize it for poor people in this country and around the world, Republicans: right on trade, then go on to raise steel tariffs instead of repealing them outright), our hopes for actual security (while still holding onto those pesky civil liberties) are looking depressingly slim.

Add to all this the troubling rise of mysticism, in this country embodied in evagelical religious types as diverse as Jimmy Carter and Al Gore, to Pat Robertson and George W. Bush, and around the world embodied as Islamic fanatics trying to bring down the Western world, and you have a sad picture. As if this could not get any worse, the warriors assembled against these people, to avenge the secular Western world, consist of crazy loons (Ward Churchill) or people with virtually no ideas, concepts, or ability to think long term (or at all). Those who don't have their heads up their asses are so few and far between that transformation at this late stage is nearly the equivalent of the hail mary pass. But just like the nearly lost football game, you have to throw the ball, on the chance, however slim that you will come down with it in the endzone. The difference here is that if your receiver misses the ball or it is badly thrown, the worst that can result is a lost football game, in the world of today, a failed hail mary means doom, and not pie-in-the-sky religious doom, but actual collapse.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great post Alexander. I agree with everything. What do you think of TIA's coverage of the Iraq war? And even broader, what do yo think of the way Objectivists have approached the war effort? I like the way Yaron Brook and ARI continuously argue for a non sel-sacrificial approach to warfare. But Tracinski and Wakeland keep trying to sell Iraq as a watered down version of an "essentially good" strategy. That I don't but. I'm curious to hear your thoughts.

G. Davis

BTW, if its not too personal, what did your father say to talk you out of enlisting?

Anonymous said...

I forgot to spell check and made some funny typos. Sorry.

Alexander said...

It's obvious as to why Objectivists are split over the war effort. Some value the fact that we've taken out two evil regimes, whereas before we had taken out none. Others are more concerned about the fact that we picked the wrong target and are letting the big fish get away to plot unfettered. I am of the opinion that the world is better with no Saddam, that should have been our principle going in and coming out, take out Saddam, message being if you select madmen like this again, don't be surprised if our response is worse in the future. However, we are under the impression left by the "success" of the Marshall plan, that we must stick around in countries after we fight wars with them and now it is leading us down a costly road, sapping our strength and diverting our attention at a time when we cannot afford it.

I really see nothing to create a new push for doing the right thing without some miracle of principled leadership or, much more likely, another large attack on us or a key ally (Israel). Unfortunate as it is, it is no surprise in a world dominated by range of the moment thinking.

As to my talk with my dad, he merely impressed upon me the importance of finishing school first (my undergrad degree) before deciding to do that. I also realized that the professional military would handle the first phases before I got in there anyway, what would the government do? Also, the situation, in terms of needing people did not, and still does not, appear dire as to the requirement of men (at least judging by the fact that the government has issued no calls for volunteers, etc.) If that happened for the purpose of going into Iran or Syria, then I would seriously reevaluate what I'm doing right now. However, I have no confidence in such a fortuitous turn of events