Do The Freakin Math

Liberals and conservatives alike frequently rely on limited evidence, personal experience, religious beliefs or gut emotions to determine solutions for complex problems. From immigration to global warming - taxes to terrorism - or health care to free trade - analytical study is rare. Science based policy making isn’t the way of Washington. And the consequences are catastrophic. Change is urgently needed. Just do the freakin’ math.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Iraq and Afganistan wars officially over. Unofficially we lost both

Jan. 4, 2015:  Book review: “Why We Lost,” a general’s account of two wars, by Daniel Bolger.  Washington Post, 1-4-15

We start this new year with two of our nation’s longest wars officially over.  And, according to retired three star Lt. General Bolger who served two years in Iraq and two years in Afghanistan, “we lost” both.  

His new 500 page book “Why we lost” is a long read.  But the answer to that question is quite simple.  We lost the wars because we fought them.  Not because we stopped fighting too late.  We waged war against a tactic that could never be defeated militarily.  President Obama and other military analysts admit this last fact.  But what will it take for all generals and policy makers to finally realize that military power is ineffective and inappropriate for defeating ununiformed ideologically driven mass murderers?

What could work seems self-evident.  Defeat the ideology.  A criminal ideology that justifies the killing of innocent people.  Unfortunately, war is also an ideology that accepts the killing of innocent people. We call it collateral damage and accept it as a cost of waging war.  We justify this raw injustice simply because we try hard to avoid it.  But to those on the receiving end of terrorism or war…that’s a distinction without a difference. 

Fortunately, there is an ideology that does not accept the murder of innocent people.  In the US we call it law enforcement.  Our ideal is to investigate every murder, intentional or unintentional. Evidence and a jury will determine if they will be convicted and held accountable. Most of the time justice is served and peace maintained.  Waging war is rarely just. I doesn’t allow for investigations or trials.  The loss of innocent life is a given.  And rarely results in peace.  More often, just a calm before the next war.  A calm most often used for reloading.

US soldiers adopted less lethal ideology in Iraq in 2007 combined with ‘the Surge’.  Many believe it was the surge in Iraq that turned the war to our favor in 2007.  But, a strong case can be made that it was our change to less lethal tactics that made the difference.  Our troops made the killing of suspected terrorists a much lower priority and protecting innocent Iraqi lives much higher.  It won Sunni tribe leaders over to our side as the ‘Anbar awakening’ and the tide of war turned.

We need a tactic to dishonor terrorism.  Like making the murder of any innocent person a crime.  But that must be applied to ourselves if we are serious about reducing the number new terrorist recruits. We will also need to address other conditions that foster terrorism recruitment like torture, illiteracy, injustice, or repression.   Protecting the life, liberty and dignity of every person must become the highest priority of any use of force.  A helpful police tactic enforcing ‘the rule of law’ often called ‘keeping the peace’.

After the horrors of the attacks on September 11, 2001, the desire to wage war against those who had already declared war against us and then cleverly hit us, was understandable.  It was also exactly what they wanted.  They craved to be defined as the holy warriors instead of the sociopathic mass murderers they actually were.  Our waging war against them validated their self-image.  And the more war we waged, accepting the inevitable collateral damage, the more they feel justified in murdering us. 

We now have a choice between waging a seemingly hopeless campaign for world law against mass murderers.  Or, we can waging an endless war against terrorism with the predictable loss of our own privacy and freedoms…and an unpredictable but increasingly likely catastrophic consequence to our economy and/or our nation.  If you doubt this, remember the exponential advancements in the power of technologies.  And, their increasing affordability, accessibility and anonymous nature.  Technologies destructive power grows every day in every way and is increasingly available to every living person.  Destruction is far easier than construction. And our increasingly complex society and infrastructures is increasingly vulnerable to natural, accidental or intentional events. Resilience is found in redundancy and cooperation. These appear to be shrinking.

World law may not work.  But an endless world war on terrorism can never be won.  And continuing to wage it ultimately suicidal.

Woody Allen once said, “civilization is at a cross road.  One road leads to utter hopelessness and despair.  The other, to complete annihilation.  He hoped we had the wisdom to choose the right path.”  From reading most media sources, it doesn’t look like we are even talking about it.

FYI:  Yesterday I found an Oct 2nd, 2001 WFA Staff briefing/brainstorming paper written with the intent of looking ahead to an effective WFA response in a post 9-11 world:  It’s still relevant today…if anyone is interested in reading it.


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