Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Culture of War

Glenn Greenwald has documented the increased desire of America to bomb Yemen.  Jeffrey Goldberg has documented the increased American desire to bomb Iran.  President Obama has committed to escalating the unwinnable war in Afghanistan.  Even though we are told that the combat mission in Iraq is coming to a close, there are still 50,000 troops there and combat will likely continue for a long time.  Meanwhile, experts are warning America that our reaction against the inaccurately-named "ground zero mosque" is fueling extremists.

We are caught in a self-defeating cycle.  Some Islamic extremists hate America and want to hurt us.  So America takes military action against Muslims.  So more Muslims hate America and want to harm us.  So America does something else against Muslims.  So they are more enraged and hate us more.  So we react again.  And so on.  If one didn't know any better one might be inclined to think that we are purposefully created conditions that would justify our ongoing military presence in the Middle East.  But that would be silly.

In any case, we can either let this go on indefinitely until we have an all-out world war on our hands or we can step back and try to regain our sanity and perspective by trying out the role of peacemaker for a while.  We can either be a country that is more and more reliant on a massive military-industrial complex or we can choose to disentangle ourselves from foreign intrigue as George Washington presciently advised.

Frankly, though, I find it slightly terrifying how many people in America support escalating our military presence in the Muslim world.  They are positively gleeful at the thought of bombing Afghanistan, and Iraq, and Iran, and Yemen, oh and Pakistan.  I don't want to live in a world where war is the preferred way to solve our difficult international problems, but that's where we're headed if we don't start actively opposing it.


Scott Pug said...

Right, wrong or other I have always been fascinated with certain people's actions of their times. Washington is one of them, and oddly enough, most of what I know about him could be folk lore. I'm no historian, but when I see his words or writings I do pay more attention to him than others.

The excerpt that I find both most relevant and striking from his farewell address has nothing to do with foreign policy at all, despite that being Washington's topic.

In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence, frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests.

The part I put in bold is what strikes me about the political climate in our country today. I despise the two party system in our country. I loathe the fact that we've sold the election of our officials to private parties that look out for their own interests more so than those of the people.

Most of all though, I despise the fact that politics in our country have devolved into what is wrong with the other team. Not about why our team is best.

I agree with you that Washington's words are prescient, and that he's deadly accurate in predicting the consequences of the certain mindset.

I just find it sad we're our own victims. I wonder if a leader will emerge to lead us into the next evolution of politics before we consume ourselves.

As a people we were sold "Hope and Change" in this last election, just as we were the election before that and the one before that.

I often wonder what it will take for the entire country to do an about face politically speaking, or whether I'll be lucky enough to be around when it happens.

Jacob S. said...

I think we all agree that politics in America is ugly, broken, distasteful, etc. But I still go back and forth on whether it is the two-party system that is to blame or the way we allow politicians to entrench their power.

A two-party system is useful for creating a marketplace for competing ideas. It is useful in nominating a narrow number of candidates and producing a majority winner. It is useful in getting people involved in policy discussions. But it is also harmful in that it narrows down all intricate issues into false dichotomies and coalesces power into the hands of a very few.

On the whole, I think a two-party system is generally okay, but it's how we administer it that bothers me. If we enacted federal term limits, did away with political gerrymandering so individual voting districts were not completely skewed toward one party, and toughened campaign finance laws so corporations couldn't buy elections, I think our democracy be in a lot better shape, even under a two-party system.

The last thing we could do was adhere strictly to the Mormon Ethic of Civility. Then we'd be in serious business.

Architect said...

War is not free. Perhaps this administration will be the one to close our military bases inside the borders of our allies. We can't afford perpetual war.

Scott Pug said...

But I still go back and forth on whether it is the two-party system that is to blame or the way we allow politicians to entrench their power.

Where I think the two party system, in our country, is to blame is that we've allowed that system comprised of PRIVATE groups to hijack our PUBLIC elective process.

Personally, I wish we'd get back to the good old days without running mates. Have elections be a rumble royale, top two vote getters are the president/vice president, governor/lt governor etc.

I think it's ludicrous that in so many states if I feel one of the Democratic candidates is better than the other AND I feel one of the Republican candidates is better than the other I would be unable to cast my vote accordingly.

As it stands where I live, the primary elections are optional. The parties themselves can put forward any candidate their leadership chooses.

I agree 100% with term limits, career politicians are a poison and a drain on the system itself. It fosters the behavior of politicians to do what is most likely to get them re-elected, not what is necessary which is exactly why our politicians refuse to make the hard choices our country needs.

The actions taken by our government in our economic depression are a perfect example of that behavior.

Anonymous said...

Are term limits really the answer? Watch the California legislature before you answer that. Redistricting would be a better idea if it would eliminate the extremes of both parties. But the single biggest problem is that our government has been pretty much bought by the special interests. Any new Congressman or Senator finds that out very quickly. This is something I know a little about since I used to work for one.