Saturday, July 17, 2010

War, Good for, and What?

I found a towel on the bench. It was sweaty and place-marked at the top of bench where the head rests. This is a warning, the way Chicagoans reserve their parking spots with lawn chairs in the snow-banked winter, whoever was previously pressing here left their sweaty towel to say, "Hey, don't park your body here. I'm coming right back."

But, after five minutes in an ultra-busy fitness center, time's up. I kicked the towel to the floor, wiped up the moistness, and continued to take down the old weights to put up my significantly less-weighty weights. After I completed my 1,000 reps of grandma bench presses, I get up and a guy comes up to me and I nod that it's cool, I'm all done, just gotta clean up my glistening sweat. He says, to me, "Can you pick up that towel and put it over there? See, that towel is mine and it was right there and you moved it."

If you've ever seen Hi Fidelity or "Scrubs," you're familiar with the imaginary scenario moment right, where the guy dreams all these dreams of what should happen, but doesn't. A ninja-quick kick to his bald head, me yelling at him to pick up his own sweaty crap, me putting him in place about his lack of modesty, standards, hygiene, timeliness, and share-care.

But the truth is that not only did I do none of these things, I didn't even consider them. Before you could bat an eye, I said, "OK," sprayed and wiped the bench, picked up the towel as if it were a dirty, sweaty, foreign towel and dropped it in the dirty, sweaty, foreign towel bin on my way to take a much-needed shower. And I didn't even snap the towel on the creep. And I did it all reflexively because I'm generally a pretty nice guy. In person. (In the webz, maybe not so much...)

My niceness is tied to passivity. I generally try to avoid conflicts. And I know that this is not always the right thing to do. Sometimes there needs to be change, and sometimes there needs to be a conflict or a crisis to bring about the change. To seek what's best for humanity, indeed, to be Godly, means to sometimes bring things to a head. But it also means knowing that sometimes heading headfirst into conflict is irresponsible and dangerous.

When Weapons of Mass Destruction were supposedly hidden under Saddam's beard, I mistakenly believed (as did many Americans) that our options were:
1) Be afraid, be very afraid like those acquiescing surrender-monkeys in France.
2) Ninja-strike force straight to the gonads.

Of course, it wasn't Saddam's gonads that suffered the most (although the Marie Antoinette treatment was a bit... nasty), but as of July 16, 2010 (one day before my sweet daughter's third birthday):
  • Nearly 4,500 US soldiers have died
  • Nearly 32,000 US soldiers have been officially reported as wounded (unofficially, 150,000 Iraq vets are receiving disability benefits from the VA back in the US)
  • 338 journalists have died
  • 437 academics have been killed
  • Nearly 1500 contractors have been killed
  • Fatal Iraqi casualties are estimated to be, however, to be at 1,366,350.
  • This does not include basic structural tolls that knocking out an infrastructure would entail (running water, clean water, electricity, refrigeration, food, gas...)
Add up a trillion dollars and what do ya get? Was the cost worth it, in the long or short run?

Iraq, for me (at least now), is an easy target in a sense. Right now I'm beginning to question the veracity of any war. One could argue that the US's involvement in WWII was just and called for. But then was Hiroshima just? Fire-bombing millions upon millions of citizens in Japan and Europe? Better yet, could the whole war been avoided in the first place?

Not, mind you, neglected. Not ignored. Could there have a way to address the problems in Iraq, in Germany, in Afghanistan, in Japan before they escalated to all-out brazen attacks? A third way to address the problems rather than acquiescence (turning the other way while the problems continue or escalate) or the Bush Doctrine (striking at the 'nards before the 'nards strike back). There are viable alternatives to war.

There are several alternatives to war (some ideas taken from here and this here):
  • International coalitions to put on international pressure
  • Tribunals
  • International Criminal Courts
  • Arbitration and International Courts between the two states
  • Weapons sanctions
  • Allow the oppressed people to topple their own dictator through grassroots and nonviolent civil unrest
  • NOT food embargoes (that only starves the innocent and turns the ill-will against those who are blocking the food)
  • NOT restricting access to necessary, daily supplies (especially under the guise of weapon sanctions)

1. Require the leaders who promote and support war to personally participate in the hostilities – like medieval kings had to. This would provide a critical threshold of personal commitment to war by requiring some actual personal sacrifice of leaders.

2. Show the faces and tell the stories of the children of the ‘enemy’ until we can feel the pain of their deaths as though they were the deaths of our own children. It is much more difficult to slaughter an enemy who one recognises as being part of the human family.

3. Give full support to the establishment of the International Criminal Court, so that national leaders can be tried for all war crimes at the end of any hostilities. All leaders who commit horrendous crimes must be held to account under international law as they were at Nuremberg, and they must be aware of this from the outset.

4. Impeach any elected leaders who support illegal, preventative war – described at the Nuremberg Trials as ‘aggressive’ war. It is the responsibility of the citizens in a democracy to exercise control over their leaders who threaten to commit crimes under international law, and impeachment provides an important tool to achieve this control.

5. Rise up as a people and demand that one’s government follows its constitution. Cut off funding for war and find a way to peace. For any challenge to the legitimacy of war is the most powerful force for change to be found in history.

You know the myth that when you hit a man hard in his privates, you could affect his children? It's very true in the international sense. Too true.

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