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War & Progress

Posted by Rick · July 16th, 2004 · No Comments

“The Latest Bush Doctrine,” an article by Dick Meyer at CBS News today, provides an insightful and non-inciteful view on Bush’s arguments for the war. The article gives Bush credit for a few things. It questions a few others. Ultimately those who support Bush so deeply that they can brook no criticism will not like the article. But for the rest of us, the article is thought-provoking.

In addressing one of Bush’s arguments for the war on Iraq — nowhere in the article will Bush be hammered for his changing from the “WMD” argument to the newer justifications — that the war made America safer, Meyer notes:

It is crucial to note a logical and ethical mistake here: War is not automatically justifiable because it may result in increased safety or general well being of the attacking nation or alliance. The increase in safety is one value weighed against others: U.S. fatalities (890 Americans so far in Iraq), enemy and Iraqi civilian casualties, money costs, relations with allied nations and relations with less friendly nations.

This is something we can think about and discuss without having to go into the “Bush-is-evil/No-he’s-doing-G-d’s-work” line of argumentation. It’s also a way of understanding the role of the American people generally — not just the role of the President — in making decisions about how we wish to respond to the vicissitudes of life. And it’s not limited to war against Iraq, either. Think about our increasingly harsh stance regarding things like crime and the war on drugs. Or the suggestion of one of my former co-workers from Oakhurst that we should round up all Muslims in America and put them in camps so his family can walk the streets at night in safety. (As if a) Muslims were all, individually, threats to our safety and b) merely taking Muslims off the streets would eliminate all criminal threats so as to allow his family to safely walk the streets at night.) As I pointed out when I heard him pontificating on this idea, besides the immorality of such a move, there are cost factors.

Meyer also points out that the President’s argument fails to take note of a few cogent counterarguments. For example,

If eliminating threats was so clearly justifiable and prudent, we would have invaded both North Korea and Iran by now and maybe even Saudi Arabia.

Indeed, we may, in fact be forced down the path to other wars anyway, in no small part because the war in Iraq has increased the discontent in the world for American policies. And not just with “enemies”; our allies are less inclined to react favorably towards us.

We, Americans, are becoming an increasingly war-like nation. This has negative consequences for us abroad, but it’s also affecting our ability to think clearly at home. For in addition to the war in Iraq and the war of world opinion (which most of us “ordinary” Americans — i.e., non-leaders — ignore), there are the increasing internecine wars, the culture wars.

And just as with the war on Iraq, where there were, at least initially, repeated illegitimate calls for us to shut up regarding our disagreements over this new pre-emptive war policy, so, too, is there a tendency to “rally the troops” in our internecine wars. Like Bush, we ignore counterarguments. This gets in the way of our ability to solve real problems. It gets in the way of our ability to evaluate proposals for how we will live and how our society will be structure. For example, with some of the things I’ve written here about the evils of a pro-business stance: Obviously, we don’t want to have an anti-business stance. Without business, much of what makes our society function, much of what gives our society value, would not exist. A war-like stance on these issues which will not tolerate compromise makes it impossible to entertain ideas for a balanced view of business; it makes us unable to recognize both the good and the bad in corporations so that we can enhance the one will mitigating the other. And this is just one example. Other issues where breaking into camps and attacking, rather than working with, one another include questions of taxation, education, law enforcement, civil rights, various freedom-related issues including privacy and speech, the environment and that big bugaboo, abortion, where the war flares so out-of-control that we kill not only fetuses, but grown adults.

The world may be easier to think about when we believe everything is black-and-white. Yet — politics aside — in reality, there are usually more than just two choices. Until we stop fighting long enough to start thinking, we cannot resolve the issues that tear at us. We cannot take the greatness that has been America and build upon it.

Wars, whether abroad or at home, are destructive. It’s time we realized that there are better ways to achieve our goals. Because unless we do, some of those goals will never be reached.

Categories: The Bush Regime


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