Ron Paul, Iraq, Gladiator, and Fighting the Last War

Funny how seeing a movie can crystallize your thoughts. I’ve had the so-called “War on Terror” on my mind since a conversation last weekend with a cousin in California. I even made a note to myself to say something about it on this blog tonight. I was tired as I lay down in bed, thinking I would go to sleep. I turned on the TV and found Gladiator, one of my favorites. I watched the whole thing and that added to my thoughts and so I write (okay, type).

One aspect of the film that hit me stronger tonight was the tremendous sacrifice a soldier makes in war, along with the powerful impact of death on those who love the fallen.

I suppose that’s nothing new. What is striking today is how such loss occurs in futile endeavors. Did we learn nothing from the Vietnam War? Of course not. Our president and vice president both dodged the war. What would they know about such loss? I never served, so maybe I don’t know much about it either. I can only imagine, from seeing it in movies, from the loss of my brother many years ago, from the fear of losing my children, but none of that is the same as living it.

My cousin would be happy if we were to kill every Muslim on the planet. I have heard similar sentiments from much closer family members, and from friends as well. He spoke of how the Muslims all want to kill us. In his eyes (and he is far from alone) we must fight them everywhere, because if we do not, they will come here as they did on 9/11.

This is just another version of the Domino Theory that pitted us against the Communists across the world. In my admittedly limited understanding of recent history, it is that theory that got us into Vietnam and sustained our presence there for so long.

In our current context the irrationality is so blindingly obvious that most people seem unable to see it. The ego of modern America is part of what drives this. How many times have we heard politicians say that America is the greatest nation on earth, or some similar remark. Half of these idiots have never been anywhere else, except maybe on some taxpayer-financed congressional junkets where they spend all their time in high-end hotels and at tourist exhibits.

Try strapping on a backpack and staying at a campsite in southern France, or taking a local train along the Japan-Sea backside of Honshu, and then tell me you know something about the rest of the world. I’ve done both and realize I still know next to nothing about the world, certainly not enough to say we’re better than somewhere else. My experience does qualify me to say that Europe and Japan are wonderful places to live, filled with people who are mostly decent. That is not much different from my country.

But I digress (must be the insanity). The ego of modern America tells us that the bad guys, whoever they happen to be this week, are out to get us. The enemy is diabolical and will stop at nothing to destroy us because … well, because we’re the good guys and the bad guys always want to get the good guys.

Part of that ego-blindness is the incredible manner in which we ignore our own misdeeds. We had to support Somoza and the Shah, even though they were not terribly nice to their people, because that was part of our greater mission to save the world from itself. Sometimes the good guys have to allow bad things to happen, and work with unseemly sorts, but we have to because we have to fight those darn bad guys and that justifies everything. We even worked with Saddam Hussein and supported Osama bin Laden. Besides, the people oppressed by our flunkies don’t count – they don’t fit within our ego definition of who matters. The media consistently reports on the number of American soldiers killed. Does anyone count the Iraqis?

There is only one prominent voice (Ron Paul) who points out how this bit us in the ass on 9/11. Most of America cannot hear that voice because it doesn’t fit in the storyline we are fed by the mass media (pro-war Republicans vs. anti-war Democrats). Or maybe it’s because people don’t want to hear the truth because that would fundamentally shatter their entire world view. What happens if we’re not the good guy any more?

The alternate scenario is far more sensible. They hate us and attack us because we keep interfering in their world. I agree that many of our current enemies are evil. But if we stepped out of their world and focused on our own, they would not take that as a signal to come here. Evildoers look for a bogeyman. We are currently supplying that image for them. If we walk away, they will find another. It would be delicious irony if the Europeans, Russians and Chinese found themselves dealing with nuclear-armed North Korea and Iran, after they helped them acquire the weapons. But the ego does not allow us to think that way. My cousin completely rejected this idea. He cannot accept the notion that they might not be interested in us if we left them alone. Our ego makes us believe we are so important that they must focus on us in one way or another.

The other prominent parallel is how the “Best and the Brightest” led us into and kept us in Vietnam, and messed the whole thing up. Today’s leadership (including nearly all of Congress – and yes I am including the Democrats) boldly donned the attitude of the Best and the Brightest. There is a saying that the generals are always fighting the last war. I don’t know if that explains it, but we did not do whatever we should have done to win the Vietnam War, and we are not doing whatever we should to win the Iraq War either.

One of the problems with both Vietnam and Iraq is that the public was never willing to sacrifice what was required to win (if winning was ever possible). One of the failings of leadership was a failure to recognize that public support for the wars would not be sustained. We are battling people who are willing to strap a bomb to themselves in order to kill us, and yet we are unwilling to make even the slightest of sacrifices. We do not conserve energy, for example. If we really want to defeat the Muslims and/or Arabs, all we have to do is cut our oil consumption in half. This would decimate the Arab economies. That effort on our part would be nothing compared to the sacrifices our parents and grandparents made during World War II.

We will not make that effort. The easier thing to do, and a fairly wise thing as well, is to stop messing around with the rest of the world. In playing our role as the world’s “Good Guy,” we ignore the Golden Rule (aka the Ethic of Reciprocity). We do things to others that we would not want them to do to us.

If some other country decided that America was being led by religious fundamentalists bent on controlling the world (when I started typing that I meant it as a ridiculous example, but then again …), and attacked us to save the world from us, we would not be too pleased. So where do we get off attacking Iraq? Oops. I keep forgetting that we’re the good guys. Sorry about that. I’m probably just repeating something Chomsky said anyway.

1 comment to Ron Paul, Iraq, Gladiator, and Fighting the Last War

  • Anonymous

    Will Ron Paul & Rudy Giuliani Debate Foreign Policy at Freedomfest?
    The annual FreedomFest conference, has issued a debate invitation to GOP Presidential candidates Rudy Giuliani and Ron Paul to use FreedomFest ‘07 as a debate venue to further explore their fundamental differences in foreign policy and the war in Iraq that were highlighted in the Columbia, SC debate. To review the debate invitation – http://www.freedomfest.com/debate.htm
    For more information on the July 2007 FreedomFest Conference in Las Vegas, go to
    http://www.freedomfest.com