Shocked and Persuaded

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Separating Fact From Fiction

Win or Lose Less?

Ever since former long-time US intelligence officer and more recently UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter visited us here in Burlington, Vermont for a lecture at the UU Church and later at St. Michael’s college his words have haunted me “This country isn’t against the war in Iraq because their against war or even one in Iraq. Their against it because we’re losing and Americans hate losing!” This coming from a man who while raucous and sometimes over the top is pragmatic and knows of what he speaks. I was left to wonder what does winning really mean? I guess it is easily quantifiable with respect to sports, but beyond that isn’t it really just a qualitative and highly biased measure of success? I mean ask the folks of Tijuana if Felipe Calderón’s war on drugs is working? How bout the war on AIDS? Are these winnable ventures or simply rallying cries geared at coalescing folks around an elusive goal? Many would argue that the War on Terror is winnable. Is that right? How? By pounding into submission fundamentalists? Or wait I know why don’t we just integrate them like the Canadian and US government did with native Americans and the Australians with aborigines? Yeah that’s it just wash them of their profligate ways imposing our culture so forcefully that they suffocate with consumptive glee. Or in the words of Henry Kissinger with Charlie Rose (December 16, 2008)
I know the view that you start by converting the whole world to our political philosophy. I don’t think that can be done in one or two terms of an administration. That’s a historic process…
OR Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee on December 12, 2008 during the debate about what to do with the “Big Three” in Detroit “Crisis is when goods things happen. You know when you can make people do things.
I would note these people we are trying to cleanse see all the angles and aren’t having it. Their convictions run to their marrow and beyond. If that wasn’t the case Alexander the Great or the Russians before us would have conquered the tribal regions of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and all the other “Stans”. They didn’t and we won’t because our definitions of winning couldn’t be more disparate from theirs. We’re impatient their not. Our convictions are fiscal and hegemonic in nature theirs are nationalistic. We paint broad regional character brushes, while prior to the war in Afghanistan and the occupation of Iraq, they were able to separate government from people. Unfortunately by most accounts the latter is no longer true, which is in large part due to the crimes of Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and Bagram Air Base.
Getting back to what it means to win a war. Are all the lives lost in the respective pursuit of eliminating cocaine and marijuana trade with Columbia and Mexico worth the countless lives lost? These on top of the lives lost in this country from addiction, which if given the money these wars were allotted would be a lot further along today.
It comes down to the simple fact that sans the Super Bowl or World Cup winning is not real it is not something that ever really happens, rather it is perception framed by the media or government or both working in concert so as to not worsen morale. When the latter happens and it has happened quite often recently this country is a dangerous place, a place where answers are hard to come, where secrets, redacted transcripts, and decisions by a few that affect the masses are commonplace. This was the case in the days of the robber barons and their overwhelming influence on Washington, specifically the Rockefellers, Carnegies, Vanderbilts, etc. Wait that doesn’t happen anymore does it? What would you call Exxon, Dow, Pfizer, General Electric? We are moving beyond those days because consolidation of wealth is at an all time high and this phrase we all have come to know and love “Too big to fail” threatens the fabric of this democracy, while phrases such as “Too big to exist” are shrugged off as socialist jargon, even though plenty of very centrist economists espouse the latter including former chief IMF economist (http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200905/imf-advice). What about “Too Important to fail”? If we forget about the importance of the 3rd estate, K-12 education (and beyond!), and our civil liberties for the sake of “Homeland Security” what are we?

Category: Geopolitics

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