There is no more violent and destructive act humans can inflict upon themselves than war. History may argue that war is an inevitable consequence of human nature but to engage in war without profound deliberation and reticence is to commit a crime against all humankind.
What does it say about our culture and our people when politicians routinely call for war to raise their standing with the electorate? We will not have advanced as a nation until a call for peace elicits the same response.
Let us be honest about what we have achieved in a decade of war. Forget the costs. Forget that we have lost thousands of our soldiers. Forget the tens of thousands maimed. Forget the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghan lives we have taken or destroyed. Forget the four trillion dollars added to our national debt.
Forget all of this. Pretend for a moment it was without cost.
What have we gained? Are we better off now or were we better off then with a contained Saddam Hussein leading Iraq and the Taliban leading Afghanistan?
Strategically, there should be no question that we were far better off before the wars. Under their despotic leaders, Iraq and Afghanistan were at least functional. Now they are torn and fractured. Civil war is all but inevitable in Iraq and Afghanistan will inevitably revert to a tribal nation ruled by warlords from the moment we leave until the next foolish invader seeks to conquer them.
In Iraq, where once we had an uneasy alliance, we have helped to create a new nation that more and more will look to Iran for guidance and support.
In Afghanistan, where once the people despised the Russian invaders, now they despise us. Why wouldn’t they? We kill and destroy with impunity. We burn their holy book and inform them who is fit to rule and who is not.
Neither country is better off for our efforts and neither will miss us when we go. They will seek to exploit us as we have exploited them, choosing their nations as a battleground for the global war on terror.
To countless Iraqis and Afghans we are the terrorists and that shadow will not lift for generations to come.
The law of unintended consequences might have been conceived with war in mind. We did not intend to leverage Iranian power in the Middle East. We did not intend to trigger the acceleration of the Iranian nuclear weapon program. But that is exactly what we did with our war, our declaration of the axis of evil, and our occupation of Iraq.
Iran did not pose a threat to us or to Israel before the war and it does not pose a threat today. Despite the vitriol of Iran’s largely figurehead president, Iran is not an aggressive nation. Iran did not initiate war with Saddam’s Iraq (Saddam did) and Iran has not attacked any nation in the modern era.
All accusations of Iranian aggression rest on Iran’s relationship to Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon. That Iran supports the Palestinian people in their struggle for a homeland is unquestioned but whether that cause is aggressive is open to considerable deliberation.
The mainstream media push for war in Syria suffered a major but little noted setback when Hamas, an organization with both political and military branches, announced its support for the Syrian opposition.
Up to that point, CNN, Fox and the Neocons of the American Enterprise Institute were enthusiastic in their call for war against the government of Bashar al-Assad. After the declaration of support from Hamas, things have become ever more complicated with rumors and accusations. Both the Saudis and Al Qaeda are said to be arming and supporting the rebels while the Iranian Quds Force is bolstering the government.
How can we form an alliance with organizations we have declared terrorists?
Murphy’s Law (anything that can go wrong will) and the second law of thermodynamics (all systems tend toward disintegration) might have been conceived with Syria in mind. If you saw the movie Syriana and found yourself baffled and confused, don’t blame the film; blame the subject matter. If you’re look for an enigma wrapped in a mystery, welcome to Syria.
The Syrian opposition to the Assad regime is like a seven-headed beast. To side with the regime is to claim allegiance with a brutal dictator and war criminal but to side with the opposition is to form an alliance with Hamas and Al Qaeda. It is a gamble of epic proportions and one that could trigger blowback, civil war and atrocities on a scale we cannot yet imagine. The minority Christians and Alawites fear genocide if the Assad regime is toppled.
We cannot go to war in Syria because we have no clue as to whom the good, the bad and the worst parties are and we cannot predict the consequences.
We cannot go to war in Iran because we know what the consequences would be. With the first bomb or missile directed at Tehran’s nuclear facilities, the price of gasoline would shoot for the stars. If we engaged Iran in a military showdown the result would be quagmire and the national debt would explode.
You might recall that every Republican candidate for president not named Ron Paul has all but promised to wage war in both Syria and Iran, on the one hand, and to balance the national debt on the other. Now they are promising cheap gas.
They are not shooting straight. They are in fact creating an alternative reality where the laws of cause and effect are governed by what we wish.
That is not the world we live in.
Every Republican candidate not named Ron Paul has promised to stand behind Israel and its aggressive Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu under any and all circumstance. That would be unfortunate.
It is to the great shame of the Israeli people that they have placed in power a man of war at this critical time in history. Netanyahu is the Israeli equivalent of Senator John McCain, who never saw a war he didn’t like. He is like the village bully whose solution to every conflict is physical and whose idea of negotiations begins with F and ends with U.
Netanyahu has effectively obstructed and sabotaged negotiations with the Palestinians at every opportunity. One senses that he is all too eager to launch the strike on Iran.
He has taken the hard line by refusing the right of return, refusing the possibility of sharing Jerusalem, demanding unconditional recognition of Israel and demanding the demilitarization of the Palestinians.
What is left to negotiate when Netanyahu will not even acknowledge the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people? And the settlements move ahead, claiming mile after mile, neighborhood after neighborhood of Palestinian land. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad famously said he wanted to wipe Israel off the map but Netanyahu is effectively doing so to Palestine.
Are Hamas and Hezbollah terrorist organizations or are they simply a necessary response to Israeli aggression?
What is happening in Syria is horrific but we have no viable options.
The only policy that makes sense in Syria, Iran and throughout the region is negotiation and restraint but such a policy does not appear possible given the political realities of an election year. Our politicians take turns delivering a harder line than their opponents and we are bound to support Israel no matter how belligerent its policies and aggressive its actions.
Somehow this must change. We must grow an electorate that rejects the path of war and values the path of negotiated compromise. Given the ongoing disasters of Afghanistan and Iraq it should be a lesson learned but clearly it is not.
The greatest threat America now faces does not come from Iran or Pakistan or terrorists. The greatest threat is that Bibi Netanyahu will take matters into his own hands by launching a preemptive strike against Iran.
Should it happen, he will pass the baton to us and demand that we keep our word.