Ramblings, opinions, and perspective from the Gulf
OK, I'm late weighing in, but hey, I'm in a different time zone plus I'm kind of busy right now - I'm sure y'all will understand. I'm going to comment from a certain perspective here, because the pro- anti- stuff has pretty much been said, so I won't dwell on those things. I'm going to focus on what my unique position and perspective can bring to the party.
I have, and continue to be, opposed to the war as it is currently being played out. I was not opposed to the first war. I guess I have just become more cynical about motives in my old age. In the first war, I knew it was all about oil and stability, but I still supported it because I felt we had an obligation to help out Kuwait. Yes, many other oppressed people have been ignored or merit protection more than Kuwait - that disn't change the fact, for me, that liberating them was an honourable thing to do. This war is different - we are still being lied to, although it is harder to discern what the lie is. Opinions vary on this, but I don't think it really matters. We are now embarking on extreme violence and I don't think the threat justifies this massive amount of extreme violence, especially since it is not UN-sanctioned.
This brings me to the issue of the UN. I believe in it - warts and all. Yes, they are ineffective, top-heavy, unresponsive to the needs of soldiers and units in the field while operations are ongoing, hell, they still run operations with a 9-to-5 staff! How can you run an operation without a 24-hour ops cell? I digress. But it is what we have. Most like democracy, despite its imperfections. Well, I like the UN, despite its imperfections. It makes us a global community - absolutely necessary in today's environment where agricultural policies in Kalimantan can influence tiger economies and respiratory health in Malaysia. What I despise most about what is going in Iraq is the utter disdain in which the US holds the UN, and by extension, the rest of the world. I believe this signifies a turning point in history, which I will try to explain.
Despite trying to sell its plan to the world, and being turned down, the US has decided to go it alone. They have made themselves the world's policeman. This has been a worry for many for quite some time; we've seen this tendency for a while within NATO, and were wondering when it was going to start. Now that the US has made this jump, I believe they are sure to continue. I do not think it all unreasonable that, once Iraq is done, they will move on to other regimes. Iran, Syria, select African countries, and dare I say it, North Korea, all come to mind. This is my great fear, that once that line has been crossed, it becomes easier and easier to keep crossing it. And as we know, for as much good as the US does, it also does great harm, in spite of itself.
But why the world's policeman? It is not simply about freedom, or even just about oil. It is linked to the global economy and the US' perceived need to run it to ensure their continued good economic fortunes. Foreign policy is all about supporting domestic policy, and this case is no different. This is global colonialism. We all remember colonialism - mother nations colonized lesser nations, establishing infrastructure and many good works to be sure. But all those good works were designed to ensure the continued flow of whatever natural resource that lesser country enjoyed. Roads, rail...they were established to support getting the shit out of the country - they were not established to support growth and expansion. So the infrastructure that everybody points to as being a good thing actually delayed growth in those nations. Many have been unable to escape the downward spiral that accompanies 2 and 3 resource economies. Some have energed, many fight just to remain third world, and many, many spiral into the new classification of fourth world country. The push to liberlaize and democratize these nations is all about continuing that cycle. Inserting democracy lessens instability, allowing corporations less risk and greater profit margins. Yes, the lesser instability reduces costs. This is translated into reduced costs at home, which allows companies to diversify, expand, and grow. But this is great for the US and other global powers, it doesn't do much for the colonized, because the growth and diversification is happening at home, not in the fourth world country. Too much value leaves those countries - what they need for growth is to diversify themselves, which requires that the profits and gains remain in circulation there. Certainly there is spinoff value, and those countries do gain from globalization. But it is less than that of the colonizers, so the income and QOL gap keeps widening. Once you bring democracy, access to information, etc to these places, their expectations are going to rise, and they aren't going to be happy with "hey you lived in a mud hut yesterday, today you have a stone hut, what's the problem?" They are going to want more than that. Here is the danger in the US starting to control the world - it's goals are driven by domestic policy and a need to keep the economic growth machine rolling; it has very little to do with a desire to free anyone.
Nonetheless, despite being opposed to the war, I am still hopeful some good can come of it. Whatever the driving factor for doing it, if the US can improve freedom in Iraq, this will be a good thing. I just hope they don't kill too many doing it.
As many of you know, I am a navy guy, and I'm over here right now. Yes, I am Canadian. Yes, we are not in the coalition. But I know many Americans over here and have certain insights that I hope can provide some perspective for y'all. I would say that in Canadian ships, the pro/anti factor is probably about 40% pro. Now, my ship is due to leave for hoime in about 9 days, so I'm not sure how representative that figure is. Many don't want a war because it introduces the possibility of a delay in departing. I would say that the pro/anti factor in the Americans over here is about 80-90% pro. But there is a difference. The Americans I know feel so insulated, they feel so safe, that there is a certain amount of 'laissez-faire' attitude. I've heard people say words to the effect of "ahhh, so what if we go....it's not like many of us will die." So I would guess the true figure for the pro camp is probably closer to about 60-70%. Notwithstanding the large numbers opposed over here in theatre, one thing is certain, though. Pretty much everybody would do their best regardless of their personal feelings. It is about duty and honour to one's country...when the day comes that one cannot follow that general rule, it is time to get out.
My inner conflict in all of this is determining whether what I perceive as my duty and honour towards the world overrides my duty and honour towards my country. I've been wrestling with this for a while as the Iraq conflict loomed. This has become easier for me since my country, although maintaining its current role in the war against terrorism, has opted out of the Iraq attack. So I don't have to decide. Many of you may think this a copout, but this is ritual that all servicepeople go through, whether they are aware of it or not. It is a fact of service life.
But I've also had people on these pages chastise me for not being sure, as if my role as a navy man meant I had to go along with things. Well, I'm here to tell those people that not only do I have the right to independent thought, but as a senior officer I encourage this in my sailors. We don't need dumber, less introspective sailors in this rapidly changing world; we need more objective and deep thinking folks. Those who don't or refuse to understand that one can separate things like support for Bush from support for the war from support for service folk, and then flame me for saying of course one can, do not have the first hand perspective to understand why these things are possible. When you demand blind obedience in subordinates you end up developing blind leaders. I'd rather be backed by a group of thinkers than rote doctrine-followers.
Rambling? Perhaps. I don't have the time to check it over and edit it. I just thought I'd add some of my own perspective to the meeting. And I didn't even get into my feelings on what all of the domestic lawmaking means for our future in a Brave New World. But others have done that much better than I can. I'll only say I agree with them for the most part, and leave it at that.
Cheers from the Gulf of Oman,