Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Bring 'em ALL Home, now, Mr. Obama!
A small news story appearing in the back pages the other day, prefigured a small 'Eureka' moment of perception. The story concerned Portland, ORE and a man caught on camera urinating in the city's reservoir. Once Portland water authorities spied the image, they initiated the dumping of 8 million GALLONS of treated water! Many critics in the wake of this debacle (especially given the increasing shortage of drinkable water in the world) said it was overreaction and noted that small animals, raccoons, porcupines and such often use it as a restroom. In any case a half pint of urine in some trillion gallons of total volume translates to a vast dilution.
Why did Portland's auspicious water board nonetheless dump all that treated water, which is now gone forever? My take is that they expressed an emotional reaction as opposed to a rational one. My 'Eureka' moment of perception occurred when I realized this is exactly analogous to what the U.S. did after bin Laden and his band struck on 9-11. So devastated was the nation in the wake of this attack, that it responded like an irrational, emotionally smacked victim - marshalling all the costly might of its superpower military resources - against a relatively small band of criminal n'er do wells. In effect, this summoning of massive force, including deploying ground troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, elevated the n'er do wells into a competing superpower by dint of over reaction. And all of it was out of proportion, an emotional response to the attack - such as the householder in Philosopher Alan Watts parable- who uses a flame thrower to eliminate a hornet's nest perched on his wall after he's stung in his yard. Trouble is, he destroys his own home in the process of removing the small nest!
Thus, in both cases - the over reaction to the pissed-in water, and the attack on 9-11, emotional reactions distorted, then nullified any benefits in the responses. Even now with bin Laden dead and gone, we're still fighting a "war" we cannot win...will never win. No matter if we poured a half million troops into Afghanistan, or Yemen, or Pakistan...or wherever. Why? Because all those nations are predicated on TRIBES! Afghanistan alone has dozens of differing tribes and trying to nation build on those is like trying to build a house foundation on shifting sand. In addition you can never fight any war against a mode of aggression, i.e. terrorism. It must be against a defined state. Moreover, there will always be terrorists so long as the strong prey on the weak, tyrants rule with despotic hands, and poverty scars the planet. Want to fight terror? Than initiate a multi-billion dollar organized program to deal with global poverty, while enhancing education in the world - as opposed to pissing away $690 billion a year on armaments trades.
This is why President Obama, in his speech tonight, must begin the withdrawal of ALL troops, finishing by the end of the year. Not a mere pitiful 5,000 then dribbling on to maybe 33,000 total (the numbers for his "surge" back in '09) and on and on dribbling - while pissing away $10 billion a month - until 2014.
As I wrote, as it turns out very presciently, in a blog on smirkingchimp.com in 2002:
The most appalling aspect of this - no matter how long the alleged "terror war" lasts- is that Bin Laden and his fanatics win. No question. Doesn't even matter if they bring his head back on a spit, they win. They got our own government to do to us what they themselves could not. To irrevocably alter our form of free government BY THE PEOPLE forever. To have the Bill of Rights - including all unenumerated rights- unceremoniously dumped in the rush to catch 'terrorists'
I then appended a remark made at the time by Sen. Russ Feingold:
"There is no doubt that if we lived in a police state, it would be easier to catch terrorists. If we lived in a country where the police are allowed to search your home at any time for any reason; if we lived in a country where the government is entitled to open your mail, eavesdrop on your phone conversations, or intercept your e-mail communications, if we lived in a country where people could be held indefinitely based on mere suspicion that they are up to no good....But that would be a country in which we would not want to live."
Very true. And at the time it appeared most Americans were happily prepared to live in such a nation (most couldn't name 3 of the Bill of Rights in numerous polls over 2002-03), their precious security and safety more important than their basic freedoms, and liberty - forgetting the famous quote of Benjamin Franklin (which all hyper security fascists hate to see):
"Those who would forego liberty to attain a temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety".
Not on my radar at the time, though I ought to have seen it, was the total of money squandered to halt the terrorism. Now it amounts to over $3.2 trillion spent. In 2004, when the vote came up to increase defense spending from 2.4% to 3.7% of GDP (which defense analyst Chuck Spinney called "the beginning of a war on Social Security and Medicare") it was written in the press:
Senior army advisers believe they can justify the increase on the grounds that it constitutes a 'preparation of the battlefield' in a war against terrorism that has no boundaries, because the September 11 terrorist attacks in effect initiated a worldwide state of armed conflict"
Process that insanity for a second! A gaggle of robed lunatics mounts a devastating attack on one major location (they also attacked the Pentagon but it was less horrific and deadly in scale) and the "generals" want to instigate a "worldwide state of armed conflict"! No wonder most of the nations of the world are now at the edge of economic default and in monstrous debt! Even bin Laden, when he was still around, declared his primary aim was not simple destruction but making the U.S. "spend itself into bankruptcy"! Isn't that exactly what we've done?
Then by all standards, he's won!
Unless, of course, we can call a halt to the madness, and step through the looking glass of reason to limit the damage in blood and treasure. That means pulling totally out, as a rational act of self-survival not "isolationism" as idiot McInsane tries to portray it in his senile assorted yammerings.
Besides, are we really terrorized? Are the Taliban terrorizing us? Let's look at first at the term "terrorism" and whether Americans are "terrorized." In fact, as Andy Rooney noted in a 2003 column, the word "terrorism" means (by the Oxford dictionary) the "systematic use of terror as a means of coercion."
But this does NOT describe the American scene. Americans may be hyper-vigilant, may be more aware, possibly anxious - but they are not cowed, or 'coerced'. I see as many going on planes, boats, trains etc. as ever - and not even with the screenings that the Israelis use! And they were even going out on spending splurges (as Bush Jr. admonished them to do) soon after the appalling attacks. A nation of consumers now, rather than citizens.
Neither is this a "war", a term misused ever since 2001. A genuine war - as it has always been fought and defined- requires a specific nation state as enemy. Not a gaggle of robed lunatics with a fancy name.
Neither can a real war be open-ended. There must be parameters for closure. What are the criteria for victory? For the enemy's surrender? Without naming such criteria, you have NO war! You may have an open-ended 'occupation' with intermittent "battles" but not a war.
Finally, a genuine war is always paid for (by taxes). Congress has the power of the purse in this, and it allocates funds upon declaration of war (as in WWII) but also sets limits. If spending therefore on men and materiel exceeds certain thresholds then revenue is increased to bear the added costs - which also thereby fall on ALL citizens. Even if millions of citizens have no sons in the fight, or other investment, they at least must pay higher taxes as a form of shared national sacrifice! But what have we found since 2001? Nothing but a decade of tax CUTS! Even as military spending has ramped up to 3.7% of GDP! This is insane! THIS IS WHY WE ARE ON THE VERGE OF BANKRUPTCY!
This is also why Mr. Obama must now call an end to this foolishness, especially now bin Laden has been dumped in the deep blue sea. Declare a putative victory and let's leave. The Afghans will either successfully build their own nation or fail, but in any case it will be THEIR plot to plow! If then many civilians are accidentally killed, including kids, it will be THEIR miscues responsible - not OURs (which in my mind have already cost us too many hearts and minds to be seen as other than occupiers, like the Russkies were). Summed up, as JFK put it in his American University speech some 48 years ago, we can't enforce Pax Americana on the world with American weapons of war. We can't be the cops of the planet, and in any case, we don't have the money to fulfill this ambition even if we wanted to - in our fervid delusions.
Thus what we are calling for (as sober national rationalists) isn't "abandonment" but preserving our own domestic security and stability. Remember that the downfall of Rome wasn't because of "barbarians at the gate" but rather military overstretch. The Romans were so diffused and scattered in military over stretch they lacked the resources or revenue to sustain them. We're in the same position!
Tell the Pentagon and generals to go suck on a root, Mr. President! Be the leader, not the follower of their agenda! BE the Commander-in -Chief as opposed to being their pawn and willing servant. The perseverance of this nation may well depend on it. Yes, we know some 1,670 lives have been sacrificed thus far, but do we want that compounded to 16,700? Does valuing the lives of 1,670 mean allowing the killing of another 15,000? How does this value those 1,670-odd already lost lives? This again, is insanity! It's similar to the faulty reasoning that hyper-miltary hard noses tried to invoke to keep us in Vietnam: 'How can we let those 58,000 deaths be for nothing?' But, had we stayed, there'd have been 158,000 dead we'd now mourn at the Vietnam Memorial instead of 58,000! Thus, cutting losses is the sign of the sane man, while increasing them to preserve an imagined need for value of the already lost lives, marks the raving of a lunatic. (Given the tribal situation in Afghanistan, and that we aren't facing a coherent nation state.)
You promised change, Mr. Obama, and we are all expecting a BIG, long overdue delivery on that tonight!