American Militarism and Support of Atrocities

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No one can deny that it is heroic to be willing to lay down one’s life for others. That is what Memorial Day should be about, and often, it is. However, I see more and more evidence that it is becoming a celebration of militarism and war itself as well as a justification for atrocities in war as long as Americans commit those atrocities. One example is the zeal of people who condemn President Obama for apologizing to the Japanese for the use of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Now I am not a fan of Mr. Obama overall, but in this case he did the right thing.

Japan was on the brink of surrender by July 1945. A few hardliners in the Japanese government were holding on, but many American officers, including Generals Eisenhower, MacArthur, and Lemay (!) opposed the use of the atomic bomb, believing that an American naval blockade and bombardment would convince those in the government suing for peace to capitulate by the end of 1945. The bombs themselves were obviously devastating–the Hiroshima bomb was designed as a 20 kiloton bomb; it was a partial dud, producing only 10 kilotons of explosive power, yet killing 80,000 people. The bomb at Nagasaki was not a dud, but it missed its target; it struck a surrounding city and some suburbs, yet still killed 60,000 people. If it had hit its target head-on, the death toll would have been higher. Nagasaki and the surrounding area was the most Christian area of Japan, yet have any of the supporters of the atomic bomb seen photos of the churches destroyed by the bomb?

War against the civilian population in general is condemned by just war theory. Yet that has been a common American practice since Lincoln instituted it in the War between the States. Sherman’s path of pillage, rape, and death was the prelude of his genocide, with the help of one General Sheridan, of the Native Americans of the west and southwest. In the Philippines, U. S. policy included mass shootings of men, women, and children. In World War II, American saturation bombing in one Tokyo raid in March 1945 killed 100,000 people, and such raids occurred almost daily in other Japanese cities before the atomic bombs were dropped. The American occupation of Germany after World War II was no piece of cake, with about 1 million Germans who died in the year after the war’s conclusion. While some deaths were due to starvation and deprivation that occurs after every war, the occupation itself was quite brutal. A veteran who was over there told of an incident in a bar in which a German woman was murdered by an American. The commanding officer said, “We came here to kill Germans, and we killed a German.” There were no attempts made to find the killer. While some deaths were due to starvation and deprivation that occurs after every war, the occupation itself was quite brutal (as opposed to the occupation of Japan, which MacArthur ran well).

In Vietnam, American troops engaged in torture, including wrapping wires around a man’s genitals and shocking them with electrical current. Murders of civilians were routine; Lt. Calley was not the only one who mowed down civilians. Yes, the conditions were difficult, yes, the VC and NV regulars were brutal, but modern warfare brings people, including Americans, to barbarism.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, torture was standard U. S. policy until Mr. Obama stopped its use by American troops.

“What about the enemy’s actions?” militarists ask. Yes, the enemy often could be brutal, especially the Japanese, North Koreans, Chinese (in the Korean War), and Vietnamese, and no one today would accuse ISIL of showing mercy. But that does not imply that the U. S. military is somehow justified in committing atrocities. Sometimes silly pseud0-“Patriots” claim what whatever American soldiers do is morally justified. The implication is strong that somehow American soldiers are beyond original sin, an obviously heretical belief.

There are those who argue for the “war is hell” theory, that “all is justified in love and war.” This puts warfare beyond the realm of morality and would justify doing literally anything to win. That position is pure evil. If war really is that way, then all war is wrong and all who participate in it are committing sin. I am not ready to go that far; there have been just wars in history (I would include the First Crusade as well as World War II). But for a war to be just, it must be fought according to the rules of military justice, or else both sides stoop to the same level.

Christians (especially Southern Baptists and other southern Christians) too often glorify war. That is an offence for which they should repent, for is opposed to love and contrary to God’s will.

I am glad we won World War II but regret many of the means used which were not only immoral in themselves, but militarily unnecessary. They lowered the bar for future wars.

To be fair, some soldiers regret it if they did something unjust in war. They often suffer PTSD in part because of this. Any sin can be forgiven if a person repents, and no matter how bad their actions were, they can be forgiven by God. The vast majority of soldiers did their duty bravely and did not commit atrocities in combat. Some stopped atrocities from continuing, as the brave American helicopter pilot who halted the My Lai massacre (and who, unfortunately, was mistreated and called a traitor by many Americans).

Being a warmonger and militarist is contrary to the Christian faith. Supporting anything the U.S. does in war, even if it is immoral, is contrary to the Christian faith. Those who claim Christian identity and are warmongers and supporters of atrocities need to reconsider their positions, repent, and pray for forgiveness.

The United States Should Mind Its Own Business

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Once more the United State government, with the help of a cowardly, subservient media composed of the usual coalition of convenience o the war wing of the Democratic Party and the Neoconservatives, is sticking its nose where it does not belong. Attempting to follow up on the failures of Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the earlier disaster in the Balkans, the U.S. is now helping to stir the pot in the Ukraine. The  political unrest in the Ukraine reeks of the stink of the influence of the CIA and other American “intelligence” agencies. The media is playing up reports of human rights atrocities on one side in the Ukrainian dispute in order to stir up conflict with Russia. As usual, President Obama, carrying forward the tradition of Ruaaia-hating in the United States, “warns” Russia not to be involved in the Ukraine.

The sheer hypocrisy of the United States is sickening. While the U.S. is no worse than other countries, its claim to be a shining city set on a hill somehow exempt from fallen human nature should turn the stomach of anyone not brought up on the gruel of American civil religion. The U.S. had no problem subjugating its own rebellious states with the loss of 600,000 lives, and it engaged in mass murder in the Philippines conflict in the early twentieth century after starting a war with Spain in 1898 which was about imperial conquest and nothing else. Since then American interventionism has increased, especially after Woodrow Wilson’s utopian scheme of spreading American democracy throughout the world.

Thus the United States interfered in a conflict in the Balkans it did not understand, leading to the victory of the enemies of the United States who funded Al Qaeda and other Muslim terrorist groups with American support. In Iraq, millions died, including many children, in America’s crusade against Saddam. In Afghanistan, the Taliban is poised to retake the country, which it will absent continual American intervention that can only, at best, delay the inevitable.

The issue between Russia and Ukraine is an issue between those two countries. It is none of the business of the United States. If Mr. Obama, who is outclassed by Mr. Putin in leadership in every respect, believes that the most effective Russian leader in fifty years will give up Russian naval bases in the Ukraine and avoid influencing a country which is of vital stragetic interest to the Russians, he is naive and foolish. Russia refuses to be kowtowed by American pressure to change its legal system to reflect American anti-Christian secular values.  The newly rejuvenated Eastern Orthodox Russia has been a counterweight to the growing atheism, secularism, and watered-down Christianity of the United States, and the American elite classes resent that. The elites believe that they can teach Russia a lesson in the Ukraine. God forbid that they try to do so. As for warmongering Neoconservatives, if they wish to risk a nuclear war with Russia for the Ukraine, they are welcome to travel over there and fight themselves. To fight a war with Russia is sheer madness, and provoking them is close to insanity as well. The United States should get out of its empire mode and be a more modest nation. Hubris has been the downfall of many nations in human history. The United States, by overreaching itself in interventions that are none of its business and not in the U.S.’s national interest, needs to heed the proverb in the Bible: “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

Neoconservative Poison and Syria

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While most conservatives have awakened to the poison the Neoconservatives have injected into the Republican Party, the “leadership” of the Stupid Party blindly parades the Trotskyite rhetoric of the Neoconservatives in its eagerness for war with Syria. The Neocons and their allies, the war Democrats such as Mrs. Clinton, are parading lies similar to those that resulted in the United States becoming entangled in Iraq. Now we have accusations that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its own people. Sound familiar? As Pat Buchanan points out, there is no possible benefit the Syrian government would gain by using chemical weapons. Militarily it is not advantageous, and politically it is disastrous. It makes better sense to suppose either the rebels did the deed to draw the United States into an attack, or a third party who wants a war with Syria did the deed. The American people have finally realized the mendacity of the war rhetoric spewing from the Neocons and war Democrats, and are not going to buy into a new set of lies over “weapons of mass destruction.”

Conservative websites are divided, with traditional conservatives and even some who formerly fell under the spell of the Neoconservatives snapping out of their hypnosis. Yet the Neocons still whine for war with Syria–insane, since they would be aiding the rebels allied with Al Qaeda. There may be more parties represented among the rebels, but the majority are hostile to the United States and are allied with the same group who committed the 9-11 atrocities.

The Republican Party needs a housecleaning, and it needs it now. Voters should vote the Neocons, whose original leaders were originally Trotskyites who retain their utopian faith–this time supporting “spreading democracy throughout the world” rather than “spreading communism throughout the world.” Woodrow Wilson supported the same kind of naive idealism that led to U.S. involvement in a war that was none of its business and which paved the way for an even more destructive war only twenty-one years later. Republicans who are unsympathetic to Neoconservative warmongering should find sound candidates to run against Neoconservative Republicans and their supporters in the primaries. Conservatives should disavow the Neoconservative “think tanks” who have poisoned the Republican Party and damaged its chances in U.S. elections–but even worse, have pushed intellectual conservative in the direction of supporting the stupidity and immorality of modern warfare to attain abstract ends that have nothing to do either with reality or with U.S. national interest. Conservatives are finally awakening to the truth about the Neoconservatives–now it is time for them to do something about it.

On Women in Combat

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57684-2009-12-02-121214 www.army.mil

57684-2009-12-02-121214 http://www.army.mil (Photo credit: VA Comm)

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta will formally announce today that women will be participating in combat in future U.S. military operations. There is no doubt that some women could be effective in combat. However, there are problems with a general policy allowing women in combat that supporters of the policy change ignore due to their own egalitarian ideological presuppositions.

Just because some women would be effective in combat does not imply that most would be. Nor does it imply that allowing women in combat will not harm U.S. military prowess. Women are not the same as men–anyone not blind can see that–and those differences go beyond distinctions of sexual organs and breast size. Overall, women lack the level of physical strength of men. Exceptions do not trump averages. Carrying heavy packs for many miles, heavy lifting, and other areas of hard labor will still be done mainly by men. The possibility of pregnancy remains a problem. In the U.S. Navy, pregnancy is a problem to the extent that the Navy must assume that a given number of women will be sent home from ship duty over a certain time due to pregnancy. Human nature does not become optional when men and women are in close quarters. The emotional bonds created in combat are deep–soldiers die as much for their buddies as for an abstraction such as their country. Only someone naive would believe that in the stress of combat that only Platonic bonds would be formed between male and female soldiers. Anyone who has been in love understands how such a powerful emotion can interfere with reason and good judgment. The military can write all the policies it wants, but in the end human nature will triumph–and human beings are sexual beings. Pregnancy would become a problem in combat units, perhaps even more so than in noncombat units. Women desiring to remain in combat may be encouraged to have abortions, and beyond this murder of innocent human life other women, not knowing they are pregnant, could be killed in action, taking two lives. True, Israel has women in combat, but even Israel has backed away in part due to problems with military effectiveness.

For years, feminism has been claiming that women do not play a special role in the lives of their children. However, this is not the case. Even in the days of the household economy, in which the fathers provided discipline and moral education for their children, children would more often in the presence of their mothers. Such is the nature of biology, a nature that feminists want to deny or to transcend. Placing women in combat is the end stage of a radical egalitarianism that took away a living wage from a man, forcing a woman to work outside the home, and forcing children without extended family in an area to live their early lives in day care. It is no surprise that the order on women in combat came in the administration of a radical egalitarian from a Marxist background (via Bill Ayers and Bernadette Dorn), President Barack Obama. Human nature will assert itself despite attempts to remold it, and the new policy will inevitably fail. If it does not, I will stand corrected–but I have a strong hunch that the ones corrected will be the radical egalitarian policymakers.

The United States Should Stay Out of Syria

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Syria

No one can legitimately deny the brutality of the Assad regime in Syria. This is not atypical of many of the Middle Eastern states where ancient customs of absolute rule are slow to die. Some people, left and right, are calling for the United States to become involved in the Syrian conflict. This would be a mistake, even if it involves indirect help to the rebels.

The danger in any revolution, as George Orwell recognized in his book, Animal Farm, is that the end result of a revolution may be a government as repressive or even more repressive than the previous government. Are the Islamists who seem to be the majority of the rebels willing to set up a state that respects human rights? One would have to be naive to believe that. If the rebels win, Syria might get lucky and have a moderate Islamist government like the one in Turkey, if such governments can truly be called “moderate.” If the rebels are hard-line Islamists, then the state of the people in Syria may be worse than it would have been under Assad. One should be careful for what one wishes.

It is not in the national interest of the United States to become involved in the Syrian conflict. It may be in the national interests of Israel or Turkey to be involved, but the United States should allow the Syrians to fight their war and let the results be what they will be. Any military aid, or worse, sending special forces units (who may be there already–who knows?) or regular combat troops would be a disaster. The United States would gain little if anything and lose a great deal given the stress that the U.S. military is already under in Iraq and Afghanistan. Make no mistake about it, the “drawdowns” do not end U. S. military operations in those nations.

Corporations that make money off the welfare-warfare state will support intervening in Syria, but the unholy alliance between the United States government and large defense contractors helps the companies more than it helps the United States. Evangelical Christians, for all their good points, too often approach Middle Eastern politics thorugh the lens of a naive dispensationist premillenialist interpretation of the Book of Revelation. They strongly support American military intervention in the Middle East, believing that such is a part of prophecy being fulfilled.

Suppose the U.S. did get involved in Syria and a radical Islamist regime hostile to the United States was the result. The intervention would surely be said to cause more harm than good. War is a destructive force and often has unintended and bitter consequences that politicians do not invision from the safety of their air conditioned and heated offices. The United States should only go to war when the national interest is at stake. The claim of advocates of force that we would be fighting for human rights is a ruse since there are many countries with brutal dictators in which the United States does not intervene. The long tentacles of the Neoconservatives and war Democrats have slithered into the highest levels of U. S. foreign policy making. Congress needs to stand up to them and not fund unnecessary interventions into the internal battles of other countries. Both presidential candidates agree with the war party’s philosophy. That is unfortunate, for whatever the outcome of the November election, the United States will have a president who desires to continue the warfare/welfare state and its unnecessary interventions into disputes that are none of the United States’ business. If Israel or Turkey want to intervene in Syria–or Iran–that is their business. It is not our place to fight others’ battles for them.

American Civil Religion

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English: The United States Esperanto: Loko de ...

English: The United States Esperanto: Loko de Usono sur la terglobo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If I said there was a country in which during church services, church members sang tribute to their nation, carried flags in processional, celebrated national holidays, sang patriotic songs,  praised soldiers as war heroes for the native land, honored soldiers in uniform who came to church, of what country would you think first. My first thought would be of Nazi Germany, where civil religion was a way to honor the Nazi state and show loyalty to the Fatherland. Hitler hated Christianity but was willing to use it for his advantage and to stir up patriotism in the German people, especially in gaining help for the war effort. Worship of God was closely tied to worship of the nation-atate of Germany.

The United States, however, is similar to Nazi Germany in the sense that civil religion is a powerful force in American society. It first role with the coming of the Puritans in the seventeenth century, who envisioned America as specially blessed by God, “a shining city set on a hill.” That passage was quoted multiple times by Ronald Reagan. The idea was originally that America would set an example of Christian government to other nations of the world. That idea was reinforced by the Second Great Awakening at the end of the eighteenth century, American Civil Religion grew with the notion of Manifest Destiny and the rise of the American Empire after the Spanish-American War. This was tied in to European ideas of empire, of spreading “Christian civilization” throughout the world. That idea became more dangerous with Woodrow Wilson’s notion that the United States has a duty to spread democracy throughout the world. Thus, “Christianity and Democracy” should be the key words used to describe American Civil Religion. Instead of one’s land being considered a gracious gift of God, and the state ordained by God to punish evil-doers (as St. Paul put it), the nation-state became an object of reverence that rivaled God. American flags are marched in procession in churches along with the cross and are placed close to the altar at many churches. National holidays are celebrated such as Memorial Day and July 4, with hymns and the National Anthem played and/or sung. Soldiers returning from war are treated like Catholic saints. Sermons focus on the greatness of America and how “Christian” America has always been, despite scholarship that shows this was not the case in early America, not even in the case of the founding Fathers. Some churches are openly supportive of wars, including the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Church members dehumanize the enemy and call on America to “go over there and kick their a….”. Church members often support every American military adventure, claiming that God is on America’s side, ignoring the one million Iraqi children who died due to sanctions and the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed in the Second Iraq War. Only American lives are held precious by God.

The similarities with the Nazi German state church are striking. The state is venerated almost to the point of adoration. The United States flag, which has no business being inside a church sanctuary, is held in reverence almost as much as the cross. If ministers had any integrity and put loyalty to God first, the would take all national flags out of the sanctuary and not celebrate a national holiday as a Christian holiday. That may be too much to ask of American Christians, too many of whom buy into American triumphalism and silly theories such as Premillenialism that help to poison America’s policy toward the Middle East

Worship of the state should be decoupled from worshiping God. The church should pray for “all Christian rulers,” as the Anglican Prayer Book says, but not make the nation-state into an object of reverence. Traditionally it was one’s ancestral land that was worthy of veneration, not the nation-state abstraction. “Honoring the emperor< as St. Peter puts it, does not imply semi-worshiping the emperor, as the early Christians recognized when they refused to pray to the genius of the emperor. If only contemporary American Christians had the same level of wisdom.

Southerners’ Warmongering and Ron Paul’s Low Vote Totals in the South

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Electoral vote of the Southern United States i...

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It would seem that Ron Paul should do well in the Southern primaries. Southerners have traditionally supported a limited role for the federal government and have called for the federal government to actually follow the Tenth Amendment. Part of that tradition was affirming the sovereignty of the states over against federal power. Even though federal power might be used for a good end, it could also be used for evil ends, and to avoid tyranny, the federal government should not be allowed to force states to follow mandates beyond its constitutional authority. Federal moves to take power from the states or to force them to remain in the federal union by force were considered unconstitutional, from the War between the States to the de facto regional dictatorships of federal judges over certain states in the South which has been forced on them since the early 1970s. Ron Paul is the only candidate who truly accepts a strictly limited role of the federal government in the lives of the states. Yet Mr. Paul does far better in the North than he does in the South and finds himself in single digits in most Southern primaries.

Sadly, Southerners have been aggressive in supporting wars. War is the most effective way for the federal government to gain unwarranted power over the people and over the states. During the War between the States, Mr. Lincoln suspended Habeas Corpus and shut down newspapers that opposed administration policy. In World War I, opponents of the war were arrested and jailed. World War II massively increased federal spending and created a military-industrial complex that de facto runs the country. Federal spending–and federal incursion into the authority of the states–has increased at a rapid pace since the Second World War. The freedom and rights of the states that traditional Southerners valued, preserved for a time by Supreme Court rulings in the 1870s and by the decline of Reconstruction, have been weakened by every U.S. military intervention that bloats the federal government even more than before.

Yet Southerners have been rabidly pro-war, strongly supporting the Vietnam War (except for a few brave Southern legislators) long after the rest of the country had begun to question its wisdom. The 1968 American Independent Party vice-presidential candidate was Air Force General Curtis LeMay, who led the saturation bombing against Japanese cities in World War II and supported the use of nuclear weapons against North Vietnam as a way to ensure a South Vietnamese and American victory. The irony of a states rights party with a vice-presidential candidate who was part of the vast federal military-industrial complex who supported the anti-Christian murder of civilians was lost on Southerners. Southerners were gung ho about Desert Storm and were among the most aggressive in supporting the second Iraq War. Now Southerners are among the most rabid supporters of war with Iran, and Southern Evangelicals’ blind support for Israel’s aggressiveness is well known. A combination of Fundamentalist and Evangelical Christianity, Premillenial theology, and Scotch-Irish aggressiveness have combined to push Southerners into supporting wars that erode the very freedom from the federal government that they seek. Thus most Southerners support warmongering Neoconservatives such as Mr. Romney, Mr. Gingrich, or Mr. Santorum rather than supporting the true candidate for freedom from federal tyranny, Ron Paul.

Only if conservative Southerners overcome their lust for war will they be able to support a candidate, such as Ron Paul, who would work to reverse the power of the federal government over the states.

40% of South Carolina Republican Voters are Stark Raving Mad

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English: Newt Gingrich

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I look at my fellow Southerners in South Carolina with a feeling of exacerbation. Newt Gingrich, a pseudo-conservative, a “big government conservative,” a supporter, along with the late Jack Kemp, of affirmative action, a warmonger, and a supporter of torture as U.S. policy, won the Republican primary. He seems to desire conflict with Iran every much as Mr. Santorum. While I appreciate his conciliatory tone tonight, he resembles George W. Bush too much on both foreign and domestic policy. Ron Paul, who has the only sensible policy on foreign policy, received only 13% of the vote–thank goodness for the 13% who see beyond the lust for war and an ignorant Premillenial theology that has led to an unbalanced support of Israel in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Mr. Paul has opposed the arrogant Wilsonian triumphalism that Mr.Gingrich supports.How does Mr. Gingrich expect to balance the budget while expanding defense spending and pushing toward military conflict with Iran?

Mr. Gingrich said some good things in his acceptance speech about the Tenth Amendment–but this does not seem consistent with his policies earlier in his career. I have other questions: Does Mr. Gingrich support the free trade policy that has effectively destroyed American manufacturing? Does he really mean to appoint only strict constructionists to federal courts who will neither support the radical secularist agenda nor expand the power of the federal government over matters that should be reserved to the states? Is he willing to reconsider his position on torture? If American is as “exceptional” as he claims, surely he could support America being on the moral high ground by never participating in nor officially supporting waterboarding and other forms of torture? I doubt it,and unless I see evidence of a change of Mr. Gingrich’s positions on foreign policy and on torture, and if Mr. Gingrich wins the Republican nomination, I and other antiwar Republicans may have no moral option other than to vote for either the Libertarian or the Constitution Party candidate. The only votes that are wasted are those that violate one’s conscience. If Mr. Obama wins re-election as a result, so be it.

The United States and “Evil Enemy States”

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Deutsch: Philip George Zimbardo in Warschau, P...

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There has always been a strand of Puritanism in American thought that survives in part as a Manichean division between good and evil. Rather than seeing the United States as a mixture of good and evil, many Americans see it as “the good guy” in the world with no major faults. Individuals who disagree are labeled as “unpatriotic,” told to “go to Russia,” or are called “America-haters.” Although I do not deny that there are individuals and groups of people who hate their country, not every critic of American practices hates the United States. Nor is someone who points out that there is much good in countries considered to be enemies of the United States, such as Iran. Many Americans want an overpowering, evil enemy state because many Americans are more Manichean, believing in sharp lines between good and evil, than they are Christian. Christianity recognizes that no being created by God is totally evil–traditionally, since evil is a lack of good, and thus a lack of being, a totally evil being could not exist. If Americans of all stripes are honest with themselves, they will see that they are capable of great evil. Philip Zimbardo, the Stanford psychologist who ran the Stanford Prison Experiment, showed how “good” people can turn evil when they have great power (as prison guards) over others (in this case, students who played the “prisoner” role). He notes the power of situational factors that can lead to a good person torturing and even killing innocent human beings.

Reinhold Niebuhr recognized that groups are capable of great evil just as individuals are, and Zimbardo’s work showed this to be the case. Nation-states are groups of people, and in any group unethical practices can arise that lead to people doing things that are evil under group pressure. No nation is immune to this. Was the Soviet Union an “evil empire,” as President Reagan affirmed? I would say “Yes,” with the qualification that there was good even in the old Soviet Union, and evil in the United States of America. In the War between the States, Generals Sherman and Sheridan engaged in the first modern war (with Lincoln’s endorsement)–both these generals and President Lincoln believed that war should be engaged against the civilian population. The brutality with which federal troops put down the anti-draft riots in New York as well as Sherman’s March to the Sea are evidence of the results. The United States Army was brutal in the Philippines war in the early part of the twentieth century, mowing down men, women, and children. The United States Army Air Corps engaged in the saturation bombing of Tokyo in March 1945, and of course Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed by atomic bombs. President Roosevelt placed thousands of Japanese-American citizens in internment camps. In the Vietnam War, the United States dropped more tonnage of bombs than it did in the whole of World War II. The atrocities and torture in Iraq and Afghanistan (and in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba) are well known–torture has not been totally eschewed as the official policy of the United States, and the U.S. still sends prisoners to other countries to be tortured. Civil liberties, from the genocide of the American Indians to the mistreatment of the Irish, the Chinese, and of African-Americans, have not been uniformly honored in the United States. Does this mean the United States is an evil country? I do not think it is as evil as a totalitarian society such as the old Soviet Union or China under Chairman Mao, but it does mean that the notion of the United States as the paragon of virtue and (during the Cold War) the Soviet Union as the epitome of evil is a Manichean view that does not reflect the good and evil mixture found in all nation-states.

President George W. Bush held a simplistic, Manichean view of the world that many Americans eagerly followed. Saddam’s Iraq was an evil state, and the good United States was obligated to attack the evil state (at first for the alleged but missing “weapons of mass destruction” and then to “save the Iraqi people from Saddam”). Americans’ hubris was expanded by its view that it was the hero country liberating the Iraqi people from a Satanic dictator. Now Iran is the enemy, and the Neoconservative war cries are loud–and Americans are buying into the new lie as well. Yes, Iran’s president holds an evil position in his denial of the Holocaust. Nothing can justify his views, nor his support of the radical religious groups that have held the country hostage since the Iranian Revolution of 1979. However, Iran also has a working democracy, unlike many other states in the region, including states the United States supports. Israel has a vital interest in what Iraq does, and if Israel wants to defend its vital interests militarily, that is Israel’s task, not that of the United States. However, the Neoconservatives are appealing to American Manicheanism and demonizing Iran as the new “evil empire.” Hopefully Americans will see that all people are “fallen,” as well as all nation-states, and any positing of “We good, they bad” is misleading and leads to unnecessary wars and bad foreign policy decisions.

U. S. Involvement in Afghanistan Risks Conflict with Pakistan

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Map of Pakistan

Image by Omer Wazir via Flickr

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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