The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Tag: Iraq war

Osama Bin Laden: The First Great Man Of The 21st Century

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: Osama Bin Laden was not a good man.

Great is not a synonym for good. Genghis Khan was a great man. Hitler was a great man. FDR was a great man. Ivan the Terrible was a great man. Queen Elizabeth the first was a great woman. Of the five, only FDR was a good person.

Bin Laden didn’t quite win (though the jury is out), but he did accomplish much of what he wanted. His theory was simple: the US, the far enemy, was why when pious Muslims tried to reform their societies, they lost. The US supported the local governments or conservative/sell out forces, and with that support, the governments won.

This theory is a good one: it’s mostly true.

Bin Laden fought as one of the Mujahadeen against the USSR. He lead troops from the front. (He was a brave man, something most Americans refuse to admit.) He believed that the USSR broke up, in large part, because of their loss in Afghanistan. Pouring so many men and resources into the Afghan war put enough additional strain on the USSR to be decisive.

This theory is a good one: it has a lot of truth to it (though it’s only partially true.)

Osama also believed that the US military was fundamentally weak: they were good at battles and awful at prolonged combat. They were not tough: they could not win large-scale guerilla wars. Against tough warriors who wouldn’t give up, like the Vietnamese, they would eventually lose. This would destroy the myth of American military superiority.

So Osama’s plan was to suck the US into a war it couldn’t win, in Afghanistan. 9/11 was the method and it worked.

The US, under George W. Bush then also invaded Iraq, a self-inflicted wound.

And Osama was right, though more in Iraq than Afghanistan (which was fought more on the cheap.) The US won the initial battles, was bogged down and eventually forced out.

The cost was astronomical, and it did damage America, distracting America from its bleeding economic and social ulcers, and its real danger: China and the US. The money and men spent in Afghanistan and Iraq and in the endless “war on terror”; the attention paid to it, changed America in ways which made it weaker.

It didn’t, directly, cause the US collapse. America was stronger than the USSR had been in the 80s.

But Osama got much of what he wanted and planned: his wars; America defeated militarily, and America weakened. He found America’s trigger button and pushed it, and America acted as he wanted.

That he later died means nothing. His greatness was in making the greatest power of his time dance to his tune, and in so doing weaken itself.

The War on Terror was a great, essentially self-inflicted wound. Osama could never have damaged the US so much if America had not cooperated, but it did, because Bin Laden understood America enough to make it do what he wanted.

Bin Laden isn’t in the first tier of great men and women, but he qualifies for great: he made the world dance to his tune.

It’s important to recognize this. We can say of someone that they were evil and great. We can admit someone’s virtues if they are our enemies. If we can’t, we will underestimate them, and underestimating an enemy is sheerest stupidity, and a constant American vice.

You grant your enemies their greatness, or you are a fool.

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The Human Crop of War

There is little question that absent the Iraq war there would be no Syrian refugee crisis.  The line draws direct between the two.

Germany, today, is closing its borders to refugees after earning the world’s praise (for a change) for its compassionate acceptance of those who needed its shelter, and those whom it certainly can afford to shelter. As the richest European state, Germany can take more refugees, feed and house them and even find work for them.

Ethically, the countries who should be taking most of the Syrian refugees are those responsible for Iraq and who have directly fueled the flames of the Syrian conflict: Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, America, Britain and so on.

There is a deadly price for posturing that leads to war: be clear, Assad, however bad he was was not as bad as the Syrian civil war.  To be sure, there is often a case for ending the reign of tyrants, but one does need to check the price tag.

And, along with checking the price, one might want to to check the motivation. Wrong ends generally feed back to into wrong means: it is not credible, given their own records on human rights, that most of those who are trying to overthrow Assad actually are acting out of good motives.

This is power politics, not humanitarian action.

There is little more to say about this.  We could take care of the refugees if we wanted to, we have the resources, this is not in question.  In question is if we want to.  In a western world whose baseline policy is austerity—who do not even want to care for their own citizens, the answer tends to be no.

Jeremy Corbyn, who suggests (to mainstream laughter) that the solution to the Syrian crisis is not to bomb Syria more, is the beginning of the repudiation of the nonsense that doing more of what didn’t work in the past is the solution.  Let us hope he is Britain’s next Prime Minister, and the beginning of a wave of repudiation of the austerity and war.

Until then the weak will suffer what they must, and powerful will do as they will.  And then whine about the results of their actions.

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Is Comparing America to Germany Absurd?

Since I made the comparison between America and Germany today, I have been told that my argument is absurd. Here is my response.

Nuremburg chief prosecutor Ferencz said pre-emptive war against Iraq was a war crime, the same as that committed by the Germans in WWII.

If someone wants to make the case that America is better in kind, not just scale, make it.  (I guess one can say “we still haven’t tried to kill an entire racial group even if we did engage in pre-emptive war.”  Feel free to do so.)

  • Pre-emptive war: Check
  • Systematic Torture: Check
  • Genocide: Nope
  • Number of dead: Much less but still plenty, especially if you’re an Iraqi

But just trying to dismiss the comparison out of hand only tells me that some people aren’t looking hard enough in the mirror.  It is understandable, of course.  No one likes having the standards they apply to others applied to them.

However, I would find it intellectually honest if Americans were to apologize to those Germans they hung for pre-emptive war and other non-Holocaust crimes and say that those crimes, in retrospect, aren’t that big a deal, and that in any case, America after WWII should have been looking ahead, and not behind.  You can also apologize to the Japanese who were tried for waterboarding.

Go ahead and be the first.

News Flash for Fox News: Canada Doesn’t Need the US For Security

Royal Canadian Regiment In Afghanistan

Royal Canadian Regiment In Afghanistan

Canadian Lieutenant General Leslie Andrew Leslie recently noted that after Canada’s deployment in Afghanistan ends in 2011, Canada’s military may need a year to recover.  The reason, as Ellen points out, is because Canada has been suffering 4 times the casualty rate of American troops in Afghanistan, because Canada’s in one of the most dangerous provinces.

Of course, Fox panelist Benson then mocked Canadians:

“I didn’t even know that they were in the war,” Benson said, adding he thought Canada was where someone went to avoid fighting.

No, Fox and the Republican party is where people go who avoid fighting.  None of the panelists on the show appear to have ever served in the military.

Then Fox pundits made the suggestion that Canada leaches on the US for security:

“Would Canada be able to get away with this if they didn’t share a border with the most powerful country in the universe?”

Here’s a fact for Fox.  There is only one country in the world which threatens Canada’s security in any meaningful way.  Only one country in the world which might be able to successfully invade Canada: that’s the US.

Canada doesn’t need the US to save it from anyone but the US.  Sort of like protection money: “Such a nice country you have there.  Be a shame if anything any happened to it.”

Which is more or less what one panelist meant when he said:

“Isn’t this the perfect time to invade this ridiculous country?” Gutfeld asked panelist Doug Benson.

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