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Home » Archives » February 2007 » Thoughts On The War

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02/04/2007: "Thoughts On The War"


The Community Theatre presented what was advertised as a discussion and comparison of the Cold War and today's war on terrorism. Two panel members simply ignored the format and spoke instead of (1) a personal animus against war under any circumstance and (2) the ALCU's opposition to perceived compromises of civil rights. and particularly those alleged as occurring at Guantanamo Bay.

Excepting these two panelists' participation, the discussion was informative and productive. At the end and following questions and comments from the audience there was a provocative comment to the effect of whether proponents of the war-on-terrorism were advocating a return to the concepts of the Roman Empire. This question prompts the below, which was written some months ago:

WHY OUR PRESENCE IS REQUIRED IN THE MIDDLE EAST

Total battle casualties of WWI and WWII exceeded 23,000,000 (including over 340,000 Americas)! Until the United States stationed forces there following WWII, Europe had experienced almost a millennia of the absence of peace. A good many Europeans fled to the Americas precisely because of the incessant wars. And it was quite natural that after failing to secure peace following the war to end all wars (WWI) that we left forces throughout Europe following WWII. Serendipitously, this occupation morphed from a force to keep peace in Europe to a front line force to face and contain communism.

The world is now faced with the prospect that the Middle East is in a period of continuing wars. Although pacifists and anti-war-nicks will cry that this is not our business, WWI and WWII instruct us otherwise. We are also faced with the fact that multi-lateral and United Nations sponsored peace efforts have failed and hold no likelihood of success.

As the world's ONLY significant force for peace, it is natural that America would be the agent to bring or enforce peace. From this perspective, our presence in Iraq has little to do with Saddam or weapons of mass destruction. Instead, it is a required presence, and Iraq is as good as any strategically logical place to start. The area will likely require something equivalent of our Marshall Plan for Europe and not so much to restore battle damaged economies, but to fix the effects of entrenched Islamic hostility to freedom, democracy and a global economy. Most important, we Americans need to understand that our presence in the Middle East will persist at least as long as we've stayed in Europe (and Japan and Korea).

Following a comparable period of incessant wars in the ancient Mediterranean region, the reign of Augustus commenced the Pax Romanum centuries of unprecedented peace. This peace was accompanied by the continuing deployment of 25 to 30 Roman legions, mostly along the northern and eastern border areas. Just after Augustus defeated Anthony to end the wars, Virgil presciently observed that among the attributes of the world's various peoples that
yours my Romans, is the gift of government,
That is your bent to impose upon the nations
The Code of peace; to be clement to the conquered,
But utterly to crush the instransient.

(The ANEID VI 847 Patrick Dickinson translation)

History both in ancient Rome and 20th century Europe instructs us that peace, in part, is a function of the post-war deployment of overwhelming force. The talk of pulling out or "ending the war" is simply foolish. We need to maintain forces sufficient to counter the threats. We might concurrently deliver massive foreign aid and other peaceful inducements; however, it is wishful thinking to believe that ultimate long term peace can be wrought without our soldiers on the ground.

Many of our decisions about Iraq have been less than ideal some even bad. However, our presence there is profoundly important. Perhaps the best that can be said about our actions to date is that we've been brought to the decision to be there with the loss of a few thousand lives and not the hundreds of thousands of Americans and millions of others that had to perish to prompt us following WWII (or the two to four million that were lost following our withdrawal from Southeast Asia).


Albert B. Hall
Friday Harbor



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