The President’s Choice & Yours, Colltalers
The U.S. has been at war in the Middle East for all but the first nine months of the 21th century. President Obama may have just signed the guarantee that it’ll remain so for at least another 10 years. Worse: the world seems no longer hesitant to follow such trail of fire as it once did.
After a time of healthy self-doubt, when he warded off Pentagon hawks, weapons industry lobbyists, and a defense contractor-sponsored congressional caucus, the president seemed to have completely disavowed his own professed aversion to engage in open ended conflicts.
We may not need a whole century to see his capitulation as his biggest mistake, and whether this is an understatement or not depends of which part of his legacy you’d rather see etched in stone. With his act, though, such legacy will hardly be that of peacemaker, that’s for sure.
In some ways, his tenure has always been singed by the twin conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, whose expensive bill was handed over to him by George Bush and his merry warmakers. He, and by extension, we, thought it was all figured out, though: troop withdrawal from Iraq, check, troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, about to be checked. The rest was supposed to take care of itself. Or if it wasn’t, we could no longer afford to care.
(Let’s pretend for a second that we didn’t wreck those countries for good, bending them out of shape, along with their neighbors, and did the opposite of what every doctor swears by: primum non nocere, first do no harm. Oh, and produced hundreds of thousands of incapacitated human beings, both here and abroad, doomed to carry to their grave the bitter taste of signing up to serve their country, and winding up being had by it.)
Thing is, al-Qaeda’s endurance kept giving rise to successive groups of avengers against everything the American gun barrel symbolizes, until it culminated in the alphabet soup of intolerant thugs such as Boko Haram, then ISIL, and now, Khorasan, and who knows what tomorrow.
Each one of them was baptized by military hawks and warmongers, and dutifully echoed by the media, as ‘terrorists, bent on destroying America,’ as if, first, such thing was even possible, and second, any group holding a religious grunge, posing, or posting gory videos, with American-made machine guns, or machetes, and screaming hatred words, can qualify to the high status of being on the haywire of the Pentagon drones.
We’ve created these monsters, and by committing the whole country to an all-out war against them, regardless of national borders or whose interests and allegiances they may serve at any particular moment, we are in fact giving them the legitimacy that they crave to grow and thrive.
It may be President Obama’s biggest miscalculation because it’s one that has global repercussions that may take generations to mend and heal. Just as Bush squandered the international sympathy and support received by the U.S. after 9/11, engaging in the illegitimate invasion of Iraq, which had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks, the president now is squandering even the little goodwill his election had raised around the world.
No wonder some groups are demanding that he returns his 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, for so far, just two years to the end of his stay at the White House, he hasn’t neither been a promoter of nuclear nonproliferation nor has he fostered new relations with Muslims, two reasons invoked by the Nobel Committee to award him such a high honor so early in his tenure. They should have waited a bit longer.
Americans, and the world, however, may not have such a luxury. Despite much more serious challenges to global peace, represented by the climate change, hunger, illiteracy, assaults on women’s rights and the general dignity of human beings, all issues in need to be urgently tackled by all nations, we’re once again diverting resources to yet a new front, which will only benefit those who profit from the business of war.
As for doomed efforts to restore the powers of diplomacy, it should be noted that nations stop talking to each other for some of the same reasons that people do: conflicting views, past grievances, debt, ethnic differences, unfair treatment, unrealistic expectations, inequalities perceived and/or real, and so on. Such issues do not resolve themselves by any other means but conversation, the search for a common ground, and acceptance.
It’s obvious that another million rounds of ammunition rained over mostly civilians won’t improve the misery in Syria, or bring about an end to the sprout of intolerant mass murderers. What’s even scarier is that this time no one, not President Obama, not even those who in the past declared, falsely, that another war would be a breeze (it never is), is saying much about when it’ll all end. And what’s to be accomplished.
No one should be surprised, though, that for the prospect of another costly adventure in the Middle East, Congress will spring into action to approve it, in the very bi-partisan, unified way that it didn’t when the issue was about minimum wage, affordable health care, end of dark money in politics, gun control, racial justice, women’s equal pay, and so many other demands that the majority of Americans were really invested in.
There’s still a slim chance that the war train stops in its tracks just before the wreck, at the last minute, as it actually happened last year about the same Syria that we’re now bombing away. In fact there’s an opportunity as good as any for Americans to show their discontent with the current state of politics in this country and what’s really being done with our taxes: it’s called the midterm elections and they happen on November 4.
Be it as it may, bought as it can be, voting is still available for those who want to have a saying in the country’s direction, but can’t afford taking time off to rally the streets (though they will come) and get arrested. If nothing else, at least visit a booth on that Tuesday and say that you won’t take it lying down. If you’re not a billionaire, strength is still in the numbers. Give peace (and your voting rights) a chance. And be good. WC