Although a few cynical observers anticipated that Barack Obama, the erstwhile peace candidate, would not end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – remember, he beat out Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination largely on the grounds of her pro-war positions – no one was cynical enough to foresee that his occupation of the presidency would lead to the U.S. military fighting no less than six wars in its third year under his command.
Republicans who have resolutely supported the ongoing wars of democratic imperialism over the last 10 years are long overdue to answer some very serious questions about the strategic sanity of America’s continuous military aggression, particularly now that American troops have returned to the site of their last military defeat in Somalia. Here are seven of them:
1. Are the national interests at stake in Afghanistan and Iraq more vital than eliminating all of the state and local government debt in the United States? The Minnesota government just shut down for the second time in six years, Wisconsin is engaged in a political civil war over its budget and both states are in relatively good financial health compared to bankrupt states such as Illinois and California. The $4 trillion that was spent on two of the six current wars alone would have been enough to not only eliminate the $2.4 trillion in outstanding state and local government debt, but to pay off 16 percent of the outstanding $9.6 trillion in federal debt as well. Alternatively, that $4 trillion could have been used to pay off 31 percent of all U.S. household debt, including mortgages.
2. How many wars are too many wars? The U.S. military is presently engaged in active combat in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Military history clearly shows that a nation’s armed forces don’t hesitate to overextend themselves and that such over-extensions usually presage a disastrous military defeat.
3. Is a permanent state of war acceptable? Since no conditions for winning what has been variously labeled “The War on Terror,” “The Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism,” “The Crusade for World Democratic Revolution,” “The Bush-Obama Wars,” “The Last Gasp of the U.S. Empire,” or my personal favorite, “The Drone Wars,” have ever been articulated, there is literally no end in sight.
4. Is an aggressive foreign policy even remotely compatible with small-government principles? If the U.S. federal government asserts the right to forcibly intervene inside the borders of nations over which it has no legal authority, there is nothing to prevent it from doing the same within U.S. borders – except, of course, for the same Constitution it is currently ignoring by waging six wars still undeclared by Congress.
5. Why are aliens from enemy nations permitted to migrate to the United States? If their countries are so dangerous that we have to attack them to encourage them to leave us in peace, it seems unlikely that settling tens of thousands of them in cities across the United States is going to make Americans any safer.
6. Why is popular Islamic democracy not only to be preferred to any other form of Arab government, but justification for military intervention? As the military history of democracies from Athens to the United States of America will show, democracies are actually more aggressively militant than most non-democracies. In fact, there has never been a more democratically legitimate leader than Adolf Hitler, who, unlike the unelected neo-fascists of the present European Union, went to the people no less than four times to confirm public support for his actions.
7. How long is it appropriate to fight a war that cannot be won when the nation is bankrupt?
After 10 years of neocons vigorously waving the bloody flag of a relatively trivial number of deaths in New York City, the potency of the emotional appeal to 9/11 has all but vanished. More than twice as many Americans have died in operations “Enduring Freedom” and “Iraqi Freedom” compared to the 2,996 confirmed to have died on Sept. 11, 2001. And an estimated 43,800 Americans have been killed by immigrants during those same 10 years; immigration has been 14 times more deadly to Americans than Islamic terror over the last decade.
What was once an open wound in the nation’s psyche has become nothing more than a Pavlovian bell rung by a manipulative political class to cause conservatives to stop thinking rationally and instead react like dogs drooling over dinner. Not only is 9/11 now a joke, it has become a corrupt symbol of many things that the original Independence Day was declared to oppose.
And here is one last question to consider as you celebrate the tattered vestiges of what was once American freedom. After every war of the 20th century, from World War I to Vietnam, Americans eventually learned that they had been manipulated into going to war by their political leaders. From the sinking of the Maine to the Gulf of Tonkin, from Woodrow Wilson’s secret machinations to those of Winston Churchill and F.D.R., history has always revealed that the bloody flag was at least partially stained with red paint. In light of what has happened in the last 10 years, what are the odds that this is not also true of the current collection of wars?