Tuesday, September 6, 2011

America's Longest War ... Really?

Having studied logic during my days in college, it breaks my heart when someone attempts to reach a correct conclusion from a false premise. Under the 'Infinite Monkey Theorem', such things are bound to happen, but they often defy the odds.  Oddly enough, Lewis Diuguid actually manages to get to some truth in his piece, "America's Longest War is 10 Years Old And Raging", but his premise that the wars in the Middle East are our longest conflict is in fact a false one.

The longest War that America has been fighting should more accurately be considered to be Korea. Begun on 6/25/1950, it was the first of the US 'undeclared wars' (though some point far earlier to Panama). Though an armistice was signed on 7/27/1953 US troops are never the less still defending South Korean borders, a military budget is expended on their behalf. and shots have been fired (artillery shells, in fact) as recently as last year.

Next on the list of Wars we are still fighting, is that announced on 1/8/1964, LBJ's 'War on Poverty'. This undeclared war was the beginning of the 'Great Society' and is one we have been pouring billions of dollars into for some 47 years with no victory on the horizon and no end in sight. If anything, the goal may be further from achievement now than when begun.

Such things being bi-partisan, the next of the wars we are still fighting was the 'War on Drugs' declared on 6/17/1971 by President Richard Nixon. Nixon even managed to enlist Elvis Presley into government service a second time and awarded him a badge from the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs; which seems rather ironic, since the subsequent deterioration of Presley's health was largely contributed to by years of drug abuse. The influx of drugs and the number of casualties in this war are far too well documented for me to need to go into (so I won't). Still, this makes the War on Drugs over 40 years old, and in spite of the billions spent, likewise no closer to victory.

Skipping ahead 30 years to 9/11/2001, ostensibly the point of Mr Diuguid's piece, the history of wars might be allowed to begin again (at least for him). Of course, the facts of history become rather confused here. Most would in fact tell you that the war in Iraq was the response of the US to the terrorist-flown airplanes in NYC, Washington, and Pennsylvania; but they would be wrong. In fact the US, in its next undeclared war, began fighting in Afghanistan on 10/7/11 in response to Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. We didn't begin fighting in an undeclared war in Iraq against Saddam Hussein until 3/20/2003.

Most recently, we could jump forward to 2/15/2011 and our support of the mission in Libya. Another undeclared conflict and another expenditure of treasure by a nation that now has little or none to spare. And while actual fighting appears to be drawing down, we have as yet no idea what the final cost of this effort will be. 

At least now though, we can talk about the impact of the impending anniversary of 9/11 and a display that is being set up by the Kansas City Interfaith Council. To quote Ira Harritt, its program coordinator: "There is the realization that we cannot afford the wars anymore. People are realizing that $800 billion a year for the military and these wars is not worth the price tag." 

While this is a sentiment with which I would tend to agree; strangely enough, I find it strange that these groups do not find such selective history contradictory or that they can ignore events before 9/11 or outside of Iraq and Afghanistan. No one protests the nature or the budget of the Libyan campaign, or seeks to keep us out of the growing number of 'Arab Spring' uprisings in Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain among others. Discounting the rest of the Middle East, they likewise ignore the failure in the strategies of social programs that have been going on far longer and wasting even more time and treasure.  

"We recognize the sacrifice the armed forces made in pursuing the war on terror. We want to remind the public there are alternatives to the challenges we face," Harritt said. "The more we invest in military solutions, the more we are perpetuating the problems we face. I think 10 years has shown us that doesn't work." And Diuguid ends it with, "It's past time for peace to dominate."  

Cheers to Mr Diuguid for managing not to plagiarize John Lennon (and for having a last name that's a palindrome). I fear that his thinking and Mr Harritt's may in fact be too narrow however. While on the right track, they may wish to broaden their perspective to understand that government solutions to problems, military or otherwise, seldom come to a successful conclusion in the wars they fight. If 10 years is too much, what would over 40 be?  If the failure of a military campaign to produce the desired result is reason enough for ending it, how then the failure of social programs?  

Perhaps its time check the facts of history and to declare peace in wars that have been going on far longer.

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