This is about justifying war.
Three days before leaving office, President Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered one the greatest speeches in the annals of American presidential oratory. Included within, he offered these profound words: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex.”
I don’t think many folks caught its true meaning. Looking back on the last fifty years, it would not appear that way.
Since Eisenhower left office, the U.S. has been involved in four major wars, presided over by five presidents from both parties, not to mention other skirmishes such as Bosnia, Panama, and Grenada. Were they vital to our country? Or were the American people duped by a more sinister ploy in order to rev up the military industrial complex which stimulates the production of war materials, and thus, the economy.
Meanwhile, the administration institutes a powerful marketing campaign to draw patriotic support from the populace. And, like all good Americans, the populace accomodates. Sure makes the incumbent look good.
It got us out of a deep hole in the early 1940s. FDR is often credited with digging the nation out of an eight-year depression, but he has Hitler and Hirohito to thank for much of that. No sane American questioned the legitimacy of those conflicts. But it did teach our politicos one surefire method to get an economy on its feet: Sell a war.
Considerable dissent by the American people has haunted the government concerning two of the post-Eisenhower wars; Viet Nam and Iraq. Nagging questions have never been satisfied. Were these wars truly in defense of our nation, or the defense of allies? Were they of absolute necessity?
Regarding Iraq, Meet The Press anchor, Tim Russert once asked George W. Bush, “Is this a war of necessity or a war of choice?”
The president hemmed and hawed before stumbling on the only acceptable answer, “It was a war of necessity.” Six years later, the question lingers.
In August of 1964, the false report of an American destroyer’s engagement with a North Vietnamese torpedo boat in the Gulf of Tonkin resulted in a resolution which was used to justify an full scale war in that country. The conflict lasted eleven years and cost 58,000 American combat deaths, not to mention thousands more in non-combat deaths and casualties. American soldiers were nothing less than heroes. But, were the politicians heroes?
Enter 2009. Anti-war president, Barack Obama, campaigned on a platform of getting our troops out of Iraq. Meanwhile, he is deploying 21,000 more troops to Afghanistan in an effort to curtail international terror. Questions abound. Is that feasible? Is our country really in peril from Afghans? Terrorist cells exist in many countries of the world, not just Afghanistan.
Afghan rebels have been engaged in wars for twenty years and still going strong. We’ve been there for eight, and they are killing more of us today than they were in 2003. On August 10, 2009, Stanley McChrystal, the newly appointed U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said that the Taliban has gained the upper hand and that we are not winning in the 8 year-old war. So much for 810 Americans killed, plus 537 coalition forces, thousands of civilians, plus the expenditure of $172 billion of taxpayer’s dollars.
Virtually every major poll is showing rapid loss of support by Americans for the conflict in Afghanistan.
One might ask? What will determine the end of that war? A surrender upon a pacific warship? Doubtful. If so, who will do the surrendering? Taliban? Radical Islamists?
Are we dreaming?
I consider myself a strong patriot with a great love of country. But my police career taught me the value of skepticism. Thus, Eisenhower’s warning rings ominously and begs the question: Is there another reason to escalate this war?