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Challenges Section

Editorial: The religious/political War and US War Mongers
Challenges for Democracy

Copyright © 2014 Dorian Scott Cole

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What is a war monger, and what motivates them? Twenty years after the Vietnam war era, puzzled as everyone over what that war was about, I looked back and realized that war was a US holy war. Holy war often has nothing to do with religion, it's just couched in religious garb to justify itself and draw others into the battle. What it is really about is a way of life. It's a common ploy used by religious people - not that being religious is bad.

The Vietnam war, for the US, was about bringing or preserving freedom and democracy to South Vietnam, as opposed to Communism. The war began earlier as resistance against French colonialism, and then developed, as suspected it would, into a communist movement that wanted do dominate both North and South Vietnam.

Communism was being exported from the Soviet Union and other countries under the guise of revolution, particularly in third world countries with wide income disparities between rich and poor. Coming out of the economic hardship in all countries of the 18th. and early 19th. Century, many people around the world sympathized and gave Communism some slack. The US was an exception to both the suffering and the sympathy, and took the place of the French in Vietnam, and the movement then became against the US.

Opponents to Communism subscribed to the domino theory that one by one nations would fall and communists would take over the world. Communism eventually caved in on itself, and little is left but a whimper. Twenty years removed from World War II, some in the Greatest Generation, many of who were in politics, felt that resistance and a holding action. Vietnam was never classified as a war, and war was never declared by the Congress. It was believed that this limited action would prevent the domino effect from happening, creating a line similar to that between North and South Korea, and not risk conflict with the Soviet Union and China. But inherent in the thought of many was that the US holds the lamp of freedom and democracy high for the world to see, and the greatest nation was empowered by God to bring liberty to everyone. Thus, holy war.

In the mind of holy warriors, armed conflict is justified, and the way to enforce your will is with the hammer and cycle. You beat and maim the opponent into submission, and then believe he will endorse and love democracy. That's the war monger. That's who I believe Dick Cheney is, and public opinion forced him out of power while he was in the White House. One thing that we can say for certain after 70 years of revolutions since 1945, is that if the US gets involved, it is a tremendous drain on our economy, lives, and there is no clear gain.

Al Qaida is just another face of the revolutions, dressed in religious garb, that sprouts in third world countries that are oppressive and have wide income disparities between rich and poor. The propaganda is that you can live in a different way and it will be better for all. The people who buy this are often illiterate and living in poverty. They hold onto a promise that is bankrupt, but it's the only hope they can find. In most of those countries, even if they are democracies, privileged circles trade with each other, and the average citizen gets left out. In certain countries, rebel movements run benevolent organizations that benefit the poor, and gain favor, even though they don't have a recipe to benefit the larger economy.

These movements use the West as straw men around which to build ideologies of hate, in order to motivate people to join them. When they inflict harm on the US, it makes them look big and powerful in the eyes of the people they want to impress, and helps keep them in power. When the news and politicians talk about how fearful these people are, it's a publicity bananza for them, and we play right into their hands. But it is also a political bonanza for the US politicians for funding their pet military projects and elections. Dictators have used the same technique from the dawn of history. More recently, Castro, Saddam Hussein, Hugo Chávez, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong-il, and Muammar Gaddafi, have all used this playbook. Portraying the US as a big evil monster is a big part of how they stay in power.

US leaders like Dick Cheney use the same playbook. They create enemies in the mind of the public. Al Qaida is the giant world eating monster that we all live in fear of and have to run out on the battlefield to engage. The more it's in the news, the bigger the monster grows, then the more fearful people become, and the more they support investing money and sending troops. I personally think Cheney believes his propaganda.

The reality is that the Middle East is a festering boil, and it has been for thousands of years. The various religious and political groups there hate each other, and have blow by blow histories going back centuries. There is no easy solution. They are unlikely to come together and live peacefully. The best thing that can happen for them is that something keeps a lid on their violence long enough for them to start forgetting.

How to keep a lid on them is very difficult. Most politicians know that there is no military solution. Political solutions are very difficult to arrange and treacherously difficult to maintain, as each side maneuvers for advantage. US military force, while it can temporarily quell the violence, angers as many as it pacifies. It is always seen as taking sides and is an otherwise unwelcome presence in their affairs. Force always comes with collateral damage, which causes long-lasting anger.

While there are always calls from political and rebel groups, to the US and Western World for assistance, no one knows for sure what outcome that assistance will have. The US supported the Shah of Iran to maintain stability in the region. Strong leaders are typically what is required to keep these areas stable and free of conflict. The result was that the revolution in Iran slapped the US in the face and became an enemy of Western influence. No matter who the US supports, it will be taken the wrong way. This is something Senator John McCain and others overlook when they call for US intervention. If the US intervenes, that doesn't mean the side we support will win, or be better leaders, or stay in power after it wins. It does mean that the US will be blamed and hated by some for taking sides and interfering.

We pulled out of Vietnam, where we had drawn great animosity, and the horribly feared domino event never happened. Communism disintegrated on its own. We stabilized Iraq and handed it a democracy at great cost in US dollars and lives. Peace never happened. But those injured by US action there came storming back with a vengeance to retake the country and mold it in their image.

Our actions in the Middle East rarely work. The grand experiments in democratic nation building have proven they don't work. Democratic holy war is less than useless. In many ways it would be better for Iraq to split into three nations and let people be who they are so that they stop being dominated by one group or forced to work together as enemies and disintegrating into chaos. Sometimes it's more important just to let people be who they are. And if they want freedom and democracy, then let them adopt it themselves. The value of democracy speaks for itself.

The best policy we can have is "hands off," and do what we can to keep a lid on their violence. Let these people work out their own 2000+ year old problems - that's the only way they will have it. They haven't yet crawled out of the 9th Century, and that's something they have to do themselves. If they attack us to make a statement, hit them back so hard it destroys all illusion of their "victory," so they understand, "Don't do that unless you want hell on earth." That's an appropriate military response.

- Scott

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