U. S. Involvement in Afghanistan Risks Conflict with Pakistan

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Map of Pakistan

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After 9-11, the American people were understandably angry, wanting someone to blame. Osama bin Laden was the target of most of the anger, and rightfully so, given his leadership in Al Qaeda, the organization that planned and carried out the 9-11 hijackings. Mr. Bush’s call for the United States and its allies to attack states sheltering Al Qaeda members, especially the Taliban government of Afghanistan, seemed reasonable to most Americans. However, it was not.

The CIA had the right idea–send small special forces units in to hunt down Mr. Bin Laden and his allies and halt the effectiveness of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Instead, Mr. Bush, on the advice of Mr. Cheney and Mr. Rumsfeld, decided on a full scale attack on Afghanistan for the purpose of destroying the Taliban government. The history since then has been one of intractable problems–a resurgent Taliban, the corrupt Karzai  government that lacks the support of the majority of the people, a rising number of deaths and injuries to U. S. and allied soldiers. What is most dangerous is the increasing danger of conflict with nuclear-armed Pakistan. The NATO attack on Pakistani positions, ostensibly in self-defense, killed two dozen Pakistani troops. In response, Pakistan closed the border with Afghanistan, cutting off 30% of allied supplies. The Pakistani people, especially in the western regions, hate the United States and are pushing for a new Islamic government in Pakistan. The present government hangs onto power by a thread. If that government falls and is replaced by one hostile to U. S. interests, what will allied forces do if attacked by Pakistani forces? They will have to respond in self-defense, and conflict may escalate from there. While one might argue that this will not lead to nuclear conflict since even as Islamic government would not want to face the total destruction that results from a massive allied reply to any nuclear attack, making such an assumption is dangerous. A government totally dedicated to the tenants of extremist Islam may want to go out in a flash of martyrdom if it resulted in the loss of a U. S. base in the region or in a large number of American casualties.  It is only of limited comfort that Pakistan does not have a delivery system to send a nuclear weapon to the United States–unless they employed terrorists.

The United States needs to remove its forces from Afghanistan, allow the Karzai government to negotiate with the Taliban and other interests to set up a solution to the armed conflict raging between tribes and warlords in Afghanistan. The U. S. should have learned its lesson in Iraq–which has a Shite government friendly to Iran, which has done nothing about the wholesale persecution of Christians, and which most likely will not be sufficient to maintain order, even with several thousand mercenaries hired by the United States government. An immediate withdrawal would be ideal to avoid further costs of the war, both in lives, money spend, and in costs to the reputation of the United States in Central Asia and in Muslim countries in general. Then the United States needs to pursue a more humble foreign policy focused on American interests with war being used as a last resort, not a first resort.

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Bloodthirsty Evangelicals

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A sad fact of contemporary American Christianity is the open-ended support many Christians give to war. Among the most fervent supporters of George W. Bush’s wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan have been conservative, Evangelical Christians. This is not to say that all Evangelicals support the wars–as with any group, there are exceptions. However, Evangelicals, who are mostly politically “conservative” (though I fail to see what is “conservative” about waging war) have tended to support U. S. military intervention abroad. Many Evangelical churches will have special services to honor our “heroes,” the troops returning from Iraq or from Afghanistan. Evangelicals in general are the most zealous supporters of “American Civil Religion,” with a U. S. flag prominently displayed in church and with patriotic songs sung at services on or near the date of national holidays such as July 4. Christians who protest the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are labeled as “wimps,” “liberal peaceniks,” or worse. Sometimes the rhetoric comes across as saying that a person who opposes these war is less of a Christian than those who support the wars. And some Evangelicals I have heard are bloodthirsty–there is no other accurate description. They will talk about nuking all “enemies of America” with an expression of sadistic glee.

Even if a Christian supports the notion that war is sometimes necessary, that does not imply that the Christian should accept the justness of any war a nation wages just because he is a citizen of that nation. Some advocates of just war theory opposed the Iraq War in particular–Iraq had never invaded the United States and was not a threat to the United States. “Preemptive war” is nowhere a part of just war theory. Yet millions of traditional Christians naively supported Dubya, Cheney, and Rumsfeld in their execution of an unjust war that killed many thousands on  both sides.

Even if a war is necessary, no Christian should support it with glee, nor should the Christian rejoice at enemy deaths. Such a message is contrary to Christ‘s command to “love one another” and to “love your enemies.” A bloodthirsty attitude toward killing is incompatible with Christianity. Such an attitude is so contrary to the message of Jesus that, from a traditional Christian point of view, it is difficult to see how one who accepts that attitude could live in the eternal presence of God. Hatred of others and joy in killing and in war are products of Satan, not of God. “Blessed are the peacemakers,” Christ said in the Sermon on the Mount. Perhaps Evangelical Christians, who are so literalistic on other parts of the Bible, should follow this advice literally.

Libya: Another Foolish U.S. Intervention

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The neoconservatives, nation-building liberals, and a few pseudo-libertarians are whining about the opposition to another foolish U. S. and European intervention–against Qaddafi in Libya.  “We’re just trying to overthrow a cruel dictator,” or “We’re trying to save innocent people” are the excuses such individuals give for bringing the United States into another Middle Eastern conflict. The U. S. only removes dictators it finds inconvenient–it does not remove the authoritarian regimes in Bahrain or Saudi Arabia. The U. S. did not militarily intervene in Pinochet‘s Chile when he was in power murdering his people, nor in the semi-dictatorial China. The sheer hypocrisy of American policy is nauseating. Long-term, that is how those in the Middle East, even those who appear to support the U. S. intervention, will view the United States. The direct involvement of France, which sent fighter jets, will not help matters–the old North African colonial power strikes again. Despite claims of limited U. S. involvement, pressure will mount for further bombing and eventually for the introduction of U. S. ground troops. Hopefully Mr. Obama will at least fight that suggestion. He has followed the warmonger Hilary Clinton‘s advice too much already. Mr. Obama has become, in effect, George W. Bush II. Not only has he intervened in Libya, he has not brought back most of the troops in Iraq, and he has expanded U. S. intervention in Afghanistan. He has not renounced the use of torture in the treatment of prisoners held by the U. S., and he has not closed the prison at Guantanamo Bay. The United States has become a permanent warfare state–and wars cost not only lives on both sides, but also money. Although it may be a matter of time before U. S. national debt is so large that the U. S. imperium will collapse, much harm can occur in the meantime–and is occurring. It is long past time to stop the influence of warmongers on the left and on the right as well as the influence of the military-industrial complex on United States foreign policy.

The Tea Party–Are they Finally Supporting Cutting Defense Spending?

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The Tea Party Movement has energized the Republican party and poured new blood into a party that had become corrupt and bloated with country club Republicans and RINOs. However, like many self-styled “conservatives,” they did not seem interested in cutting defense spending. Yet now there are Tea Party leaders who are saying that defense spending should not be off limits in attempts to bring government spending under control. This is a positive development.

The military became bloated during the 1950s as a result of the Cold War. Instead of combating Communism, which would have eventually collapsed under its own inefficiency in the Soviet Union and elsewhere, the Cold War created a vast “military-industrial complex,” to use President Eisenhower‘s words from his 1961 Farewell Address. Not only does a bloated military suck up government spending, it encourages the United States to be involved in unnecessary wars that feed the defense industries with fat profits. Vietnam, the U. S.’s involvement in Bosnia, and Iraq are good examples; some response to Al Qaeda in Afghanistan was necessary, but an approach using smaller special forces units and CIA agents, which was the original CIA plan, probably would have worked better than sending over 100,000 American troops. The more the military-industrial complex is fed by war, the more money it demands, and the more money defense-related companies with government contract make.

In addition, a large standing army is a threat to freedom–deep cuts in defense spending could reduce the military’s size and limit the potential threat to both the sovereignty of the states and to individual Americans. Concentrations of power in large organizations, whether those organizations be big government or big business, is dangerous to freedom–and the combination of big defense industries, big government, and a large standing army, is particularly dangerous. More than just “cutting the fat” out of the defense budget is required to bring defense spending under control–and I wonder if any Tea Party leaders want the deep cuts necessary. Hopefully the fact that some Tea Party leaders are at least open to cutting defense spending will lead to a broader discussion of the need for deeper cuts to control the power of the military-industrial complex.

Wikileaks: More Dangerous than Helpful

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As an opponent of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, it would be easy for me to praise Wikileaks for revealing evidence of U. S. torture in those wars. Or I could argue that the recent leak of State Department cables was useful in revealing a chaotic and seemingly incoherent U. S. foreign policy. But Wikileaks is more dangerous than helpful, and leaking secret government documents borders on treason.

Lives may be at stake. After these leaks, State Department personnel overseas may find themselves threatened by angry citizens from the countries where they are stationed. Other countries will be angry at the information in the leaks, which may do irreparable harm to U. S. relations with those countries. Some secrecy is essential for diplomacy to take place and for the State Department to do its job. Any other country has similar secrets, private memos criticizing other countries, memos about espionage activities, etc. Most countries would charge someone who leaked such sensitive information with treason, as indeed it is. Real people’s lives are at stake, as well as the ability of the United States–under any administration– to conduct diplomacy. Hopefully, if federal law enforcement does not do its job, Congress will play a role in stopping such a serious breach of secret information in the future.

The New York Times made a poor decision in its decision to reveal the information from the leaks. Of course if it had not done so, one of the other major news organizations would have revealed the information. This does not make revealing such information right. The idea that journalism must reveal every fact it knows is a morally irresponsible idea. Perhaps most of the damage to U. S. foreign policy can be undone, and prayerfully all U. S. personnel in the foreign service will be safe. I pray that the United States does not find itself drawn into another foreign war due to blowback from these leaks. The risk to the United States is too great for another leak of this magnitude to happen again.

War as Brutalizing

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Justin Raimondo’s column (http://original.antiwar.com/justin/2010/10/07/support-the-troops/) reminds us that war is brutalizing. Although I think there are more U. S. troops who retain a moral sense than Raimondo believes, when human beings are put into a situation in which they are in combat constantly, are always watching their back for the next shot that could kill them, and in which they do not know whom to trust among the local population, no one should be surprised at the results.

This, however, does not morally justify the action of those U. S. troops who have done wrong. Their crimes are horrifying to anyone with the moral sense of a human being. Sadly, I would not be surprised if those people most likely to either soften the actions of these troops or, worse, justify them, will be otherwise traditional Christians. “Christian warmonger” is an oxymoron, and always has been, despite centuries of Christians who have failed in this area. In any case, I am appealing to natural law, the notion that brutalizing another human being is intrinsically wrong no matter what utilitarian result one might wish to gain from it. In the case Raimondo cites, the actions of the troops seem more sadistic than utilitarian. They clearly were evil.  Thank God for the one soldier who was willing to stand up for what was right despite facing the wrath of his peers. He is a moral hero.If only there were more.

Anti War Activism, Patriotism, and the Federal Government

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So the government has raided the homes of antiwar activists in Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, and North Carolina. Shades of the 1960s, anyone? During the Vietnam era, antiwar activists discovered the cost of questioning the military-industrial complex. Now I am not saying I think the 1960s anti war activists were saints. Some were losers such as member of the Communist Party and the Socialist Workers Party. But they were correct in opposing a needless war. And it was wrong of the United States government to harass anti war groups simply because they opposed the war in Vietnam, a position they have every right to espouse and defend. The Constitution, after all, guarantees freedom of speech.

The Iraq War was based on lies, involved attacking a country that did not attack us, and resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths and injuries and an Iraqi government that is friendly to U.S.-hostile Iran. The Afghanistan War has done little to stop the Taliban, and successes against Al Qaeda have been due to a combination of good intelligence, effective use of drones, and small special forces units, rather than large scale military forces. The CIA’s original plan to use smaller units to hunt down terrorists was the correct idea, but the Bush Administration opted for all out war. Mr. Obama, albeit under intense pressure from the military establishment, opted to continue the war with an increase of troops. That will be a never-ending war, or at least it will continue until the U.S. is too bankrupt to support it. What is so anti-patriotic about opposing the war in Afghanistan? One can admit that the Taliban are evil in their treatment of women and in their cruelty in general without supporting a quagmire. Opposition to the war is not support of terrorism. Yet the United States government seems to think so, just as it did during the Vietnam era.

Paul Craig Roberts has argued that after these raids the United States is already a police state. I would not go that far yet, but they are a step in the wrong direction. So-called conservatives, instead of supporting wars and demonizing supporters of wars, ought to return to the traditional conservative view that the United States should focus on dealing with its own problems and not be involved in foreign wars. Such wars only increase the power and influence of the central government and are not good for the country. War is necessary only when it is clearly in the national interest of the United States. And opposition to war is just as patriotic, if not more so, than support of war. A true conservative will not support federal police forces entering homes because people oppose the position of the United States government–unless so-called conservatives would rather emulate Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot. De facto, if conservatives support a police state that persecutes anti-war activists, they are implicitly supporting the tactics of every dictator in history. With “conservatives” like that around, true conservatives do not need liberal enemies–they have enough in their own camp.

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