I was recently taken to task—and also taken aback—for posting an editorial in the Roanoke Times
, by a good friend of mine who is over in Iraq now. His opinion carries weight, since he has been there for a year now and has seen much from his post. He is also a thinking engaged citizen-soldier. Since the debate is of central importance for us all, I think it only right that I set forth my opinions on the issue and let them stand on their own merits.
My friend thinks that the war in Iraq is a gross mistake, that it is a waste of money and worse still a waste of American life. Whatever good we have done is now more than made up by the harm we are doing. He thinks that we should be fighting terrorists in their lairs in other lands, and if we are to be doing good works in the realm of humanitarian ops, there are better places to do them, Sudan being one.
This is what I think. It is not meant as a riposte to one who whose friendship I value greatly, but a statement of my beliefs and positions.
1. That there is no “war in Iraq” and “war in Afghanistan.” There is only The War. Iraq and Afghanistan are two of its campaigns; at present the most active overt ones. There are others: the Horn of Africa, the Philippines, and naval operations in foreign waters. Still others are being fought in ways and places that will remain secret for any years.
2. That the War did not begin on 11 September 2001. It began, in its immediate form at least, in February 1993 with the first bombing of the World Trade Center (and arguably years before). While we treated that and other subsequent incidents—Khobar Towers, the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the USS Cole—as criminal matters, we failed to see them as acts of war. Our responses not only did not punish those responsible, but by their inadequacy actually encouraged further attacks. Also, we did not ask for this War; it sought us out.
3. That the War in its present form is but the latest manifestation in the age-old struggle between the West (formerly European Christendom) and the Middle Eastern, Muslim world. Various powers have carried the standard for each side; it is now the turn of the U.S. to act for the West. It is a struggle between our civilization and an astonishingly retrogressive ideology which combines the most objectionable features of an aggressive proselytizing religion with the social and economic features of modern totalitarianism.
4. That the War is absolutely worth fighting. Our opponents are implacably hostile to us, and would convert, enslave or kill us they see fit. They allow no sort of let’s-agree-to-disagree co-existence. If we do not fight today in Baghdad it does not mean that we will fight next week in Boston, but it does mean that we will take a step backwards and give our enemies breathing room. We should be engaging the Muslim world in all quarters, by diplomatic, economic and cultural means when possible, but by military means when necessary. Nowhere should the extremists go unchallenged, from al-Anbar to Zamboanga. Don’t like oil at $70 a barrel? Imagine it at twice that; imagine U.S. and allied merchant shipping unable to ply the seas without fear of attack; imagine American tourists unable to go to Europe because militant Muslim populations have made it unsafe to do so and have cowed the governments of the countries where they live.
5. That in failing to find distinctly labeled stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, we also found, almost by accident, the real weapon of mass destruction: the seething body of discontented, mis-educated, unemployed males, whose sole outlet for dissent is in voluntary destructive acts, and who are preyed upon and exploited by wily, conniving clerics and politicians. They exist in a dysfunctional society, the roots of which go back centuries. To win the battle against those forces will be to score a lasting victory for the human race and protect our own security and prosperity. To quote General McCaffrey, “Our aim must be to create a viable federal state under the rule of law which does not: enslave its own people, threaten its neighbors, or produce weapons of mass destruction.”
6. That the War effort ought to engage and involve the entire U.S. population. Right now, the military and the intelligence community are the ones doing the fighting. Every arm of the federal government should be involved, spearheaded by the State Department. Citizens need to be told and shown that the danger is real, it is potent, and it is the job of everyone to do his or her part. Those who are not in the armed forces have many options open to them, from local first-response units to volunteer organizations dedicated to disaster preparedness and relief. They can also vote. There needs to be a strong national consensus on the War, how to fight it, and why it must be won. It seems to me now that there is too much talk on if to fight the War, and why.