Saturday, September 18, 2004

The Morality of War - Part 3


This brings us to about two generations ago. The introduction of Nuclear weapons brought a term into use, which we are now well-familiar with: Weapons of Mass Destruction. Chemical Weapons appalled the world in World War I, leading to a number of conventions banning them, even in all-out war. The threat of Nuclear Winter leads many people to demand their outright ban. And the threat of Biological Weapons also moved nations to agree to their ban. The reasoning is easily understood; these weapons had little practical value in warfare, and all were the sort of weapon that killed thousands, even millions of innocents. The problem was, nations held these weapons for essentially two reasons - because they feared their enemies had them, and held WMD as a protection against their enemies’ use of those weapons. Or, they wanted these weapons out of a belief that it gave them an advantage with their neighbors. The United States and the Soviet Union, the world’s leading hegemonies for most of the 20th Century, had good reason to want to prevent the proliferation of these weapons, and on occasion would even cooperate unoffically, as the Osirak raid demonstrates. The world began to separate into classes of nations; "Superpowers", meaning the United States, the Soviet Union, and possibly Communist China; "First World" nations like England, Japan, and Canada, "Second World" nations like Iran (under the Shah), Argentina, or Pakistan; and "Third World" nations like Cuba, Somalia, or Vietnam. The lines were not always clear, but there was a distinct sense of envy in many nations which suffered lower standards of living, and who often tried to compel the richer nations to agree to wealth redistribution. Against this situation, the United States found itself in an untenable moral position: In Korea, the U.S. could not simply invade North Korea, as they would normally do in a war, because the Chinese had sent more than three hundred thousand men to North Korea, and in so doing continued to support North Korea’s threat to invade South Korea again. The threat of escalation to nuclear exchanges prevented any substantial resolution of the conflict by either side. In Vietnam, the politization of the war made military victory all but impossible, and that small remaining possibility was removed by the treasonous decision by Walter Cronkite and other leading media elites, to side with the Communists and declare the American effort lost. Sound familiar?

"Vietnam Syndrome" is a phrase used in many contexts, but in this case, I mean the loss of confidence by the American military, the loss of trust in the military by the American citizen, the loss of trust in the American government by most of the world (which was not helped by Nixon’s intransigence in the Watergate scandal), and the emergence of Terrorism as a tactic by the Soviets to disrupt governments and incite revolution. By 1975, there were more than a few supposed ‘experts’ suggesting that the USA needed to find an arrangement with the USSR while we were still relevant. Enter Ronald Reagan.

In 1979, the United States bungled the decaying situation in Iran, managing to anger both the forces of the Shah, and the revolutionary Islamists under the Ayatollah Khomeini. Carter’s reward for trying to mediate a peaceful transition for the new regime, was angry protests and the takeover of the American Embassy in Teheran. To make matters worse, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979, a move for which Carter held no response. The American military was underpaid, understaffed, underequipped, and demoralized. For a President to take a strategic offensive seemed sheer madness, and when President Reagan proposed his improvements to American readiness, more than a few of the media elite quickly suggested he was not in posession of his faculties. Or that he did not understand the new realities of Realpolitik, as so many high-brow critics dictated.

But if Ronald Reagan was anything, he was a man who understood the fundamentals, of both American Identity and the history of the United States. Reagan chose his battles, using diplomats and Marines where each would be most effective. He energized our military, rebuilt our alliances, and spoke decisively in every action. Reagan was also careful to keep close contacts with the Soviets, avoiding the feeling of confrontation or deliberate slight. The USA which faced the end of its relevancy in 1979, was by 1989 confident of its leadership in the world.
George H.W. Bush, whatever his faults, understood this worldview, and in 1990 stepped up to the task in the first Gulf War. Historians and veterans will debate whether the first President Bush should have stopped short of overthrowing Saddam’s regime, but a clear message was sent, nonetheless. Sources within the Kremlin reported that Mikhail Gorbachev, referencing the impressive power and accuracy of American military might, told the Politburo flatly "we have nothing to fight that kind of power". The Cold War was over, and the United States won.
I won’t waste time discussing the "Peace Dividend", because there never was one. An intelligent foreign policy during the 1990s, would have understood that as the sole remaining Superpower, America was a very big target, especially considering that all those terrorist groups born and bred by the Soviets, were now on their own, hungry, angry, and aggressive. A canny President would have realized that the media remained leftist, unwilling to provide more than token support for our military, and prejudiced against the success of American policy. A leader with a good education in History, would have realized that our success made other nations jealous and envious. An honest leader would have noted, that the "Peace Dividend" was an artificial construct, based on equally fallacious beliefs that the USA would spend less after the Cold War, and would somehow produce more money. And a concientious leader would have noted the rise of a new and serious threat to the safety and welfare of American citizens, the Nation’s interests, and our security.

(To be Continued in Part 4)

1 comment:

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