H/t to Jules Crittenden for examining this subject.
America is a unique Nation amongst all Nations in having a tradition of arguing about everything. Not only does our Constitution protect this, but the Declaration of Independence cites that we are humans born with all liberties and rights, and that we come together to make government to defend us. Some things we do come together on readily, like the question posed by the framers of the Constitution of the necessity of having armed forces to protect the Nation. That was supposed to be batted around every two years and seriously considered, but needing some military presence has required an ongoing commitment to it that is now never questioned. One of the most humorous things is to see 'conservatives' who argue for strict constructionalism and for abiding by the wishes of the founders never, not once, bringing up this little tidbit as it is so taken for granted that we need a military that we now never question the very threat to liberty and freedom that such armed forces pose. We have, indeed, seen many other societies over the past centuries succumb to military dictatorship and to armed forces ruling over society and government in many lands. Our single, strongest bulwark in our government is to argue that need every two years, right there in the US Constitution on the needing to re-authorize the military for every two years. In not addressing this very, basic question of representative democracy, we have turned military spending into a political football, and bat that about all around an area delimited by the personal and political whims of those we elect to High Office.
Luckily, I am not a 'conservative' nor a 'liberal' and while I do see the necessity of the armed forces, the need to actually hand strong definition to that need every two years in a 'hammer and tongs' way in Congress means that Congress gets to spend oodles of time arguing about things they don't get in the Constitution instead of sticking to those they do. So when the question of 'Defending the War in Iraq' comes up we, as a society, no longer have the basis to actually know what our armed forces are for, what they get committed to do and to ensure those same armed forces have the strictest possible oversight so as not to push society aside when decisions need to be made. Without that basis we have no common ground to see what the armed forces are put to, in the way of work, until, like a bolt out of the blue, they actually get committed to doing something by Congress or the President. Then the great American Tradition going back to the founding comes into play.
And what is the basis for that argument?
By not having a societal level agreement on the necessity for the armed forces, each and every person who argues about it decides to pick their own ground: by having no common ground they have no ability to compare nor contrast their starting position with the common position held by their fellow citizens on this topic. By being able to tailor-make what they think the basis for judgment is, they can then leave out anything they don't like, don't want to address or otherwise ignore, completely. Without that basis, the argument is pointless as no one will settle down to recognize the validity of some of their opponents framework for reasoning and offer constructive criticism on multiple points. The Left has turned this into mere finger pointing, shouting obscenities, deriding and belittling their fellow citizens, and often just calling those they disagree with 'dumb' or 'stupid' when an obscenity is not furnished. The Right, however, has an equally deep problem in not being able to recognize that the foundation that we have for government to control the armed forces is society, and that society must use the means of government to come to common agreement on some very basic principles to defend the Nation. The Left makes up principles as it goes along, discards them with equal ease and will not take any firm stance on any ground to allow themselves to be examined and question outside of tailor made frameworks for any given argument, and only that argument, and only for that brief period of time they hold those views. The Right ignores that society now has no common agreement, thinks it does and is absolutely, positively unwilling to state what their framework is, either. Thus multiple frameworks from the Right get trotted out and they are just as tailor made as on the Left.
There is a problem in this.
You aren't arguing about the same thing with common basis.
Thus we argue about the form of war, formula of war, the outcomes of war, and seek to build argumentative basis that is tailored to each of us.
We do not examine the other side of this, and we are now, horrifically, so at odds with each other, across the spectrum that we can no longer recognize that function and its basis to be.
To understand form, you must understand function.
To understand function, you must, unequivocally declare what the actual, real function of war is for our society, at the very least, and then recognize that all other societies have recourse to it.
We do not understand the actual basis for warfare or what it is as a society.
We cannot describe its function and what its use is as a society.
And people want to argue about its forms and outcome?
Lotsa luck on that, I tell ya.
Part of my purpose in writing in this space, in this blog, and in some few other places, is to trace out my reasoning for such things as warfare, peace, society, and individual responsibility. These are not separate venues at the level of the Nation State or even the State. It is a complete package that must be understood in parts to be understood in its entirety. Arguing about any single part, in absence of its place in both higher and lower level structures that we, as humans, create, is a pointless exercise.
I detest war.
I adore human liberty for myself and my fellow citizens and have this strange idea that we, as humans, can learn to exercise its positive aspects and create good things for ourselves and our fellow man. That is the positive aspect of liberty and rights: creation.
I detest war, the destruction of life, the devastation of property and the strange concept that our fellow man, either singly or in entire Nation States, want to kill me, kill you, kill our society and rule over all other humans on this planet. That is the negative side of liberty and rights: not only destruction but removal of life, liberty and rights from others.
As a citizen I must, first and foremost before any other thing, actually get to know what these positive and negative liberties are so that I know which ones to use and which ones not to use at any, given time. The basis for those rights and liberties is not the Nation State, not the State, not society, but the individual. These rights and liberties are mine, as a human, and yours, too, and is granted to all beings coming from Nature via the Law of Nature. This is a 'scale free' concept first encapsulated for our Nation at its Declaration of Independence which had to examine that spectrum from its very fine grained basis. That single document took hundreds of years of advanced understanding on the human condition, boiled it down, and gave a clear and distinct reason to rise up against a Mother Nation and remove its ability to govern over us as a sub-unit.
We forget what the other thing that the Declaration of Independence is.
It is a Declaration of War.
It clearly states the position of what a society is, what it does, what its purpose is and even that coming to common understanding between a Mother government and that of its sub-units is much better than waging war, and that waging war is only something taken up when the ills of government become unsufferable. The final two-thirds of the actual document, the part no one really bothers to read in the modern era, is an exacting statement of what these ills are, instances of these ills and ties each back to the basis for common society and government.
Further, it sets a foundation and basis of understanding that this applies, as all men are created equal, to all societies: it is a common standard and agreement. It represented the combined viewpoint of 10% of the population in 1776. At that point 15% supported the Crown. The war that would follow would force everyone to take sides, break families apart, kill about 10% of the population and see 15% flee the new Nation. From that Declaration the Articles of Confederation were made, Continental Congress presided and the Nation went heavily into debt to pay for the war.
The stated principles were in the Declaration.
The function of war was in the Continental Congress under the Articles.
The form of war was all-volunteer, low pay (when you could get any), short on supplies, short on training and, unfortunately, long. It had a horrific death toll to it percentage wise, and left the new Nation crippled. That Nation *failed*: the Articles were so impoverishing poor farmers and imprisoning them via the State governments assuming their portion of the debt that insurrection was in the air. America needed to re-start so that she could pay off her debts.
We had good understanding of the basis for war.
We had a pretty good ability to give function to war.
We were piss poor at the form of war, and it showed.
Today when I hear 'arguments' about the War in Iraq, I must ask: what is your foundational understanding of the human condition?
Do you conceive of the human condition of having all liberties and rights invested in YOU or do you put forward that GOVERNEMENT gets those and administers them TO YOU?
You cannot argue about war, any war, until this is examined and understood within yourself.
If you can't believe that war is something you have within you, that Private War is something you are handed as an individual by being derived from the Laws of Nature, then you cannot put forward that war is either bad nor good because you have nothing to compare it to within yourself. That is not being civilized: it is barbaric to think that such a thing is only handed to those things we create because that is a child-like belief in the immaterial being given substance by naifs in the woods.
I have studied warfare about as well as I can do as a private citizen, and the idea that we don't get war until we create society, State and Nation is not only foolish, not only child-like, but goes against all evidence before our eyes and all scientific evidence that clearly shows only the most isolate, most tiny and most remote human populations ever lose the capability for war. And they still suffer predators, defend themselves and understand what war is as fighting for one's life against a creature that will end it must also recognize that your fellow humans can return to the state of nature and become willful predators upon you.
There is no metaphysical bestowal to government to do these things: we grant those things to government so that we can put aside our negative liberties so that we can come to agreement on what is necessary to defend our society, our State and our Nation. When you say this is 'not in your name' then you have a problem in this representative democracy: it damned well IS done in your name by OUR common agreement. To disavow that is to ask to be a subject of government, not a participant in it for the common good. You may disagree with the OUTCOME, but you can not say that for yourself or your fellow citizen this is NOT done in your name, my name and in the names of all of those in our society.
To think otherwise is to set yourself above your fellow citizens and it smacks of despotism and authoritarianism to think that all of society should follow your wishes. That is why we have civil government - to hold it accountable to us, as a society, and to put forth reason as a basis of understanding. Once the civil discussion is over, we may talk about if our representatives got the issues and their basis right: and because we have a bunch of ne'er-do-wells elected to High Office, chances are they screwed it up.
The answer is NOT to take to the streets and 'protest'.
It is to get those twits and asshats in High Office out of there to better represent YOU.
Because those elected representatives are ruining YOUR GOOD NAME.
When you attack your fellow citizens verbally, besmirch their honor, and rant that they are childish, ignorant, and really aren't as enlightened as you are, may I suggest that you find a mirror and see the lack of your own halo?
If you want to change society, then just what sort of Totalitarian Government sponsoring individual are YOU?
Yeah, that goes for the 'Left' and the 'Right' for those that take up to 'change society' by the means of government.
I am more than willing to examine the War in Iraq, its aftermath and what is going on there. I have been doing so for years, but my rationale is, apparently, different than those trying to argue about the FORM of war and if it was EFFECTIVE.
Effective? To what ends? Care to cite something on that?
I cite the Congressional actions that put the Nation to war and ask the pertinent question: When does Iraq end?
The startling conclusion is that Iraq does NOT end when the fighting stops and a peaceful government gets put down, our absolutely insane representatives Upon the Hill want us to help these folks learn about democracy and get a representative democracy going. What idealogues, no? To think that human beings, because they ARE human beings and have all positive and negative liberties bestowed upon them that they might, just might, be able to govern themselves?
Heck, we have a problem with that!
Who are these angels upon the Earth who had been oppressed for so long that THEY can learn this while WE can't?
What sort of ignoramuses did we elect, anyways?
Still, I do grant that they actually got most of the functional questions properly stated and put down, even if, as I am sure, they don't know what the basis for those various functions actually are. As I have pointed out before, in our lovely authoritarian mode of thinking about schooling, we just don't teach the basics of what government is, what its overall form is, and why its form is guided by its deriving from individuals, society and the State. If they don't teach it, how can you forget it?
So, can the Iraq War be defended? Yup.
I do so in The Worst Wars of All, and quite clearly point out the functional necessities of the War in Iraq.
I do not bother to see if the war is 'good' on its own, I do examine what 'just' means within the framework of Nations, and also what the actual powers of Nations are and their restrictions in warfare. I take a view that, surprisingly, no one wants to take up because it is a bare-bones examination of wars conducted by Nations. Somewhere, in this vast and flabby expanse of the thing we call the Federal Government, there is still a skeleton floating around in the tons of lard. The thing has gotten a bit disconnected from the skin and vital organs in a few places, to tell the truth, and has numerous cancers in it. People don't want to read that stuff as it is basic and uses reason to approach the question... so much better to argue about outcomes than to ask if there is reasoning behind a war!
No, my position that I take, did take, still take, is that this war is something far worse than its outcomes: it was a necessary war.
Ye God how I hate necessary wars!
Still, it is not the worst type of war, not by any means, but that does not make it in any way, shape or form 'good'. You can work damned hard to get some good from it, and I thank with the deepest gratitude I can express our fellow Citizen Soldiers who have done, are doing and continue to do that. We were handed a carton of broken eggs and told them to get a chicken from it... it doesn't have to be a beautiful chicken...
My hatred for warfare does not influence my viewpoint on the necessity of the war: I understand it, accept that we have had incompetent government since 1991, and that we, as a society, just wanted Saddam to crawl back under his rock and go away. I'm none too pleased with my society nor my fellow citizens on that score. Our gutless wonder, Bush (41), and then Clinton and the intervening years of Congresses were true marvels of barbarism, being unable to decide if civilized means to get rid of a despicable world leader who had wronged all he touched was worth doing.
You folks have got a lot to answer for on not only not doing your duty to your fellow citizens, recognizing the awful burden nature has placed on you within society, but you have also been encouraging Cold War, Long War and Barbaric War by the way our representatives have been encouraged by you to act against our interests as a Nation, a State and a society. As I must accept that, no matter how vile, this has been the considered judgment of our society via its representative government, I do as I say others should do and speak up against the basis for such reasoning.
I do not parade around, make fun or belittle anyone, and consider the equality of all our rights and liberties and that they must be upheld by my actions first and foremost. Because I do recognize that placement of all rights and liberties, I also make it very and substantially clear that International lawlessness begins at home with you. As individuals we agree to be held accountable to these higher constructs made to serve and protect everyone in a form of civil government that culminates in something known as 'civilization'. Now if we could only get folks interested in being civil to each other, again...
I have a relatively high bar when talking about war: if you can't understand where it comes from or how we try to control it, you really can't say all that much about it, other than 'god, its awful'.
Want to talk about outcomes?
You are expecting something good from having the negative liberty of aggressive war utilized?
The best you can get from it, if you work really, really hard, is the ability to argue about it afterwards.
You can, also, demonstrate the advanced civilized trait of mercy towards those you defeat and who fight honorably in war against you, and then help them, afterwards, to build something just a tad bit better so they don't have to fight *more* and *worse* wars in the future. If you think the cost of doing that is 'high', just wait until you see what happens when you don't. World War II taught us that lesson, but no one wants to learn it, apparently. Nor did Vietnam, and we should have known better by then.
Getting some positive outcomes is hard, hard work. It can, and often is, harder than actually fighting a war, this cleaning up and helping others to stand up and defend themselves business. Usually not in lives, though, so it is immeasurably cheaper than fighting a new war, later, because you were such a cheapskate and thug that you just walked away after the fighting stopped. That is rank cowardice and being a bully.
Strange that I heard a few voices on the Left advocating doing just that when most of the fighting was over... aren't these supposed to be the 'building' people of hope and bridges between societies and paying off others to do the hard work sort?
That said if expecting 'good' from the negative liberty of aggressive war is asinine, then saying that the positive liberty of defensive war is 'bad' or 'threatening' is just plain awful. Positive, defensive war can get you one, immediate and most excellent benefit: you survive! That is a hell of a lot better than the alternative, which is why I support that for my fellow citizens and myself.
So where do I stand on the Iraq War?
Behind our soldiers and supporting them, giving to the USO, Soldiers Angels and contributing to Vietnam Vets organizations. These are, to me at least, the best people on the planet.
The war itself?
Justified and necessary, because of our own inaction.
Do you see all those in High Office in DC?
Tar and feathering them and riding them out of town on a rail is too good for them. They might *like it*, and that is worse.
My real worry?
Because if you can't figure out what your rights and liberties are, what you have to do to protect them and can't be bothered with actually doing those things, then you soon won't have your rights and liberties.
Then its 1776 all over again... 10% dead.... 15% fled... what a failure that was!
Still, we got a second chance, if we can keep it.