17 Jul 2008

What Constitutes a Good War?

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Dan Calabrese looks at the left’s good war/bad war distinction.

Democrats, as a general rule, don’t support American military action anywhere. But if political gamesmanship requires them to choose in a good-war-bad-war debate, it’s useful to see how they reveal, by their choice, what they really think about the use of American power.

Since no argument against the Iraq War is too disingenuous for them, Democrats have been arguing for some time that Iraq has distracted us from the “real” war on terror, which they insist is in Afghanistan. This theme has gotten some serious love from Barack Obama in recent days, particularly in a July 15 op-ed where he lays out this week’s Obama Global Vision, with heavy emphasis on the idea that we need to put more resources in Afghanistan to defeat Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

So how did Afghanistan become the Democrats’ Good War as opposed to the Bad War in Iraq? Much of it is political salability, but wrapped around that is the way Democrats view America’s strategic place in the world – and it’s not a good view.

Most fundamentally, Democrats embrace the action in Afghanistan because – although this is not precisely accurate – “that’s who attacked us on 9/11.” Of course, Afghan military forces under the command of the Taliban didn’t attack us at all. We were attacked by 19 terrorists under the command of an international terrorist network whose leaders were being harbored, financed and provided with training facilities by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

To the extent that Democrats accept this as justification for attacking Afghanistan, we can all thank George W. Bush, because it was he who declared in the days after 9/11 that the U.S. would make no distinction between terrorists and the regimes that harbor them. It’s good to see that the Bush Doctrine remains popular among Democrats.

But as a matter of core philosophy, Democrats believe the U.S. should not use its Armed Forces in any aggressive action unless against an enemy who attacked us first. This is the primary basis of the Afghanistan-Good-Iraq-Bad notion, going hand-in-hand with the oft-repeated mantra that “Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11!”

He’s right. The left’s viewpoint is that the US is only justified in taking military action in response to a direct attack, or for humanitarian goals, i.e. installing a socialist (Haiti) or stopping ethnic cleansing (Bosnia).

The left also incorporates in its foreign policy perspective an intrinsic animosity toward both the United States and Christian European Civilization, a point of view readily summarized as “no-enemies-to-the-left.” That perspective bars any effective preemptive action to prevent terrorist attacks or terrorist acquisition of WMD, since virtually all terrorists are on the left, and so are their state sponsors.

One Feedback on "What Constitutes a Good War?"


The Iraq war is, was and will be a pointless allocation of resources, though if you want to speak frankly about the left and the right, Islamic extremists are about as far to the right as it gets. How many billions of dollars in airplane graveyards, in missiles that will never need be fired, in technology will never need be used, that could be going towards useful solutions to America’s education crisis (No child left behind?), health care crisis (closely related to the education crisis, HMO’s, not doctors decide what care is best for patients and there kickback system is so inefficient that a whole host of countries not only spend far less per person, but also have better outcomes, it doesn’t pay to spend 90% of your health care costs on middle management, not to mention the increasing lack of research initiatives), or the very real threat of global warming and finding alternative-clean energy solutions, and not just clean in the the sense that they don’t put particulates into the air, but clean in the sense that they don’t put out carbon dioxide. Those dirty particulates were actually slowing down the rate of global warming so now what we have done, due to our insistence on having clean air (which we should have) and oil-based energy, we have actually sped up the process. There are potential solutions out there. Wind turbines running through the gigantic wind corridor of the mid-west (which all the right wing conservatives immediately poo-pooed because of oil magnate interests), a ban on incandescent bulbs in favor of flourescents, the electric car which works so efficiently that parts rarely need to be replaced, dean Kamen’s machine that produces energy from waste products and is efficient enough that a village can power itself for half a year off of its detritus and refuse, the self-sustaining homes of Michael Reynolds in New Mexico. There are solutions out there being generated by smart people to problems that most of the world refuses to recognize because they are scary. It’s the same reaction that many people have when they feel sick or in pain and refuse to go to the hospital or tell anyone about it.


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