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December 9, 2015


My old World Politics professor in undergraduate school (the same one who insisted, perhaps correctly, on calling homo sapiens “homo saps”) asked us in his class “What is the purpose of war?” Hands shot up and many rationales were proposed in answer to this question, all of which he rejected. He then said that the purpose of a war is to get the other guy to do what you want him to do. This, of course, seemed simplistic coming out of the mouth of a distinguished professor but was uttered long ago and well before the advent of Cheney-Bush militarism, neocons, and other war hawks and war profiteers fanned the fires of hatred for “the other guys” that got us into a war in Iraq that is not over but rather has just started with no end in sight. By my old professor’s standard, we have lost and are continuing to lose the war the Cheney-Bush axis initiated with their WMD lies and misrepresentations. The “other guys” are not doing what we want them to do, and have instead started an intramural war for territory and oil under cover of religion while terrorizing both locals and those of us in the West.

Shorn of propaganda about freedom and Saddam’s impending atomic attack, I’ve forgotten what we gave as our reason for being there. The naked truth is that we were there, of course, to protect the West’s and Japan’s access to oil, which points up the danger of having a president and vice president who were “oil men” to do the dirty work for Big Oil by having an unnecessary war to protect Big Oil’s interests in an ultimate show of corporate welfare.

The war in Iraq is far from finished and it appears the lull is over. That war was and is the equivalent of the Viet Nam conflict in how it has impacted and continues to impact our country and the world, and may prove worse since I do not recall any terrorist attacks by the Viet Cong or others on Western and other cities during or after the Vietnamese conflict.

Part of our problem may be in analysis. Thus a military victory is only part of the “war” to be won. We still have to win the peace phase of the conflict by “making the other guy do what we want him to do,” as we once did after WW II. Germany and Japan and most of Europe are now functioning democracies after application of the Truman Doctrine, the formation of NATO, and perhaps most importantly, The Marshall Plan, which rebuilt our former enemies’ cities and infrastructure. We do not have such options in an ISIL environment. The Marshall Plan was carried out in a peaceful environment and we “won” the peace. We have clearly lost or are losing the “peace” in Iraq and thus, by some analyses, the war.

Yes, Saddam was bad, but compared with today’s ISIL, who is worse? How can we say we “won” a war that isn’t over, a war that is causing problems far beyond its current borders what with hundreds of thousands or even millions of refugees and deadly acts of terrorism? It is clear to me that we have not “made the other guy do what we want him to do,” not by any stretch of the imagination, and now we are told that we may have to go back in to finish the job, as though a military victory “wins” the war. I think that a military victory may set the stage for “winning a war,” but that my old professor’s insight rings true, i.e., you only “win” a war when you win the peace.

Maybe we should try a new tactic – diplomacy. Won’t work with terrorists? How do we know? We haven’t tried it. If we try it and fail, we haven’t lost anything, whereas if we try it and succeed, then we may have a chance to “win” the war with Marshall Plan-type programs and perhaps even have an opportunity to plant some democratic roots for self-governing by our former enemies, as we so successfully did in Nazi Germany and warlord Japan.

Diplomacy is not the wimps’ way out, as some would have you believe, but is rather an alternative Machiavellian means of winning a war by “making the other guy do what we want him to do,” which is why we went to war in the first place, so why not go for a bloodless winner with nothing to lose while retaining our options in case of failure? It makes sense to me. Perhaps John Kerry can “win” a war with a “victory” that has eluded our soldiers to date. Let’s try it.   GERALD    E


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