Sunday, June 6, 2004

War - is it good for?

As you might know, I'm not the most "political" person. (I have to qualify even that mundane confession with the truth that, as Aristotle observed and as our being created in the image of the Triune God dictates, all human beings are political by nature. Politics is the balance of hypostases [ie., individuals] and substantial unity [ie., the common good], and not one of us is exempt from nudging that balance. But I digress, as usual.) However, I did find this article by John Keegan very interesting. Keegan speaks well enough for himself below, so I'll spare you my cipher's synopsis. Whether he knows it or not, and whether we like it or not, Keegan reminds us of the plain, biblical fact of where we are: we are in a fallen world. And in a fallen world, war is sometimes a toxic necessity. I don't deny there is such a thing as a just war, but I do deny the USA/Britian met the extremely demanding criteria of a "just war" in the attack on Iraq.

More than that, I wish President Bush had not played so long to the UN crowd when he meant the whole time to storm in without or without any other country. The most compelling argument against the timing, not the goal, of the "war" on Iraq is that the USA was and is not prepared, morally or logistically, to occupy and rehabilitate Iraq. At this point, paradoxically, perhaps the best thing is for the USA just to withdraw and let the Iraqis learn to rule their own country. If the goal of the "war" was truly to overthrow Saddam Hussein, then the war is over and the USA's task is done. The goal certainly was not to usurp Hussein with a US wetnurse government.

At any rate, here's Keegan's article (slightly edited by me). (Digge the coole British sppelinge Keegan uses.)

History tells us that most conflicts end in chaos

By John Keegan

(The Daily Telegraph; filed: 01/06/2004)

History is useful. That, at any rate, is the theme of Alan Bennett's new play, The History Boys. History gets you into a good university. History gets you a good job. History is a key to cracking the secret of life.

Or is it? I have been a dedicated history boy for 50 years but these past few months I have begun to wonder if history is any use at all. Britain and the United States have got into a difficult situation in Iraq and the entire Western media are reacting as if an unprecedented disaster is about to overwhelm their armed forces and governments.

...The British and American media retail with evident satisfaction every scrap of information that implicates its service people in wrongdoing, casts doubt on their operational efficiency and undermines any expectation by readers and viewers of a successful outcome to the Iraqi involvement.

The media's message is clear: Iraq is a mess that should never have been allowed to happen. Yet media people are precisely the sort who know perfectly well that wars usually end in a mess. ...

Because we in the Atlantic region remember 1945 as the year of victory over our deadliest enemies, we usually forget that the Second World War did not end neatly in other parts of the world. In Greece, the guerrilla war against the Germans became a civil war which lasted until 1949 and killed 150,000 people. Peace never really came to Japanese-occupied Asia. In China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Burma, the Second World War became several wars of national liberation, lasting years and killing hundreds of thousands. In Burma, the civil war persists.

The aftermath of the First World War was worse. On Armistice night, Lloyd George, leaving the House of Commons with Winston Churchill, remarked: "The war of the giants is over. The war of the pygmies is about to begin." The pygmies, in civil wars in Germany, Hungary, Poland, the Baltic states, Finland and above all Russia, went on fighting for years, killing or starving to death millions. A full-blown war of conquest by Greece against Turkey ended in a Greek humiliation but also 300,000 deaths.

And there was, of course, a war in Iraq, caused by Britain's attempt to enforce the mandate to rule granted by the League of Nations. Britain eventually prevailed, but at the cost of 6,000 Iraqi deaths and 500 in its own forces. British casualties in this war scarcely exceed 100. Then, as now, the occupiers complained that "every Iraqi has a rifle". ...

In the second case [i.e., of the current snafu in Iraq -- EBB], the war has not done much harm but has broken the power of the state and encouraged the dispossessed and the irresponsible to grab what they can before order is fully restored. ...

What monopolises the headlines and prime time television at the moment is news from Iraq on the activity of small, localised minorities struggling to entrench themselves before full peace is imposed and an effective state structure is restored. The news is, in fact, very repetitive: disorder in Najaf and Fallujah, misbehaviour by a tiny handful of US Army reservists - not properly trained regular soldiers - in one prison. There is nothing from Iraq's other 8,000 towns and villages, nothing from Kurdistan, where complete peace prevails, very little from Basra, where British forces are on good terms with the residents. ...

It is a regrettable but not wholly to be unexpected outcome of a campaign to overthrow a dangerous Third World dictator. If those who show themselves so eager to denounce the American President and the British Prime Minister feel strongly enough on the issue, please will they explain their reasons for wishing that Saddam Hussein should still be in power in Baghdad.

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