During the Bush administration, I wrote an article that commented on the US response to atrocities committed by terrorists. I think much of what I said then still applies today. I said that I opposed our violation of Geneva Convention in treatment of prisoners. In the comments I received, several people disagreed with my position. Here is one comment:
“But, so far as torture goes, I am wholly for it. War is meant to be terrible to avoid getting used to it. My main complaint against our government with respect to torturing those who fight against us is that too much of it is done in secret. We should torture publicly and regularly; we should establish firm parameters regarding responses to torture, such as, you behead an innocent, we torture and behead ten of yours which we hold. Being kind will never win a war, and I want to be on the winning side in any armed international conflicts.”
I sympathize with…and share the anger…of the writer of that comment. But I think that anger can lead us as a nation to do things which are not in our best interests. I think we need to control our anger, and think about how to not only get even, but to win the war against terrorism.
Here was my response:
“I think you and I would agree that we are at war. The survival of our nation is threatened by the terrorists. Whenever I think about the fact that they have essentially unlimited money, and we know they are actively trying to buy and/or build nuclear weapons, I break out in a cold sweat. Sooner or later they are going to be successful, and they are going to find a way to sneak a nuclear device into this country. Maybe more than one.
I think we both agree that we must win this war if our nation is to survive. Our only argument is…how do we do that? I would argue that this war is different from any past war. Those wars were won by military might. This war is a political war. What do I mean by that? All the fancy weapons and the best-trained army the world has ever seen will not win this war. To win the terrorist war, we must have the cooperation of nearly every nation on the face of the earth. I don’t mean just the governments of those nations. I mean the people. As long as there are havens for terrorists to hide and train, and funding to support them, we will never exterminate them, and that is what we need to do.
We need to show the world that the terrorists threaten us all, and that we are the good guys. We simply cannot win this war alone. If we alienate other countries, we are defeating ourselves.
We must hold the moral high ground and show the world that we are the good guys, so that they will want to help us. If we’re going to torture terrorists, at least we need to keep it hidden from public view, and the openness of our society makes that difficult. I don’t give a damn about the terrorists. I’d kill some myself if I could. I don’t think we’re going to win this war if we continue on the present path. We may pull out of Iraq and declare victory, but the terrorists have gained tremendous ground since we started that war, arguably because we started that war. We need to get serious about the political war. Bullying and intimidating other nations…telling them “you’re either with us or you’re against us” is not going to get us there. It’s time for our nation to start acting like the leader of the free world and stop acting like a thug.”
I have thought a lot more about this since I wrote that, and I need to clarify, modify and correct what I said.
First, I will reiterate that this is indeed a political war, and we need to fight it the way we fight our internal political “wars”…otherwise known as political campaigns. We spend billions of dollars on local, state and national campaigns to influence our citizens to elect our public officials. We need to do the same thing internationally to convince the people of the world that we are the “good guys.”
Of course, words alone won’t do it. We need to take actions that will show them that we do not seek to dominate the world economically or militarily. At present, I think a majority of people in the world fear and distrust us. Even some of our traditional friends are having their doubts. If not the governments, the people surely are. Frankly, I have my own doubts about our current government. What are their goals, anyway? I don’t want our nation to dominate the earth. I think we should be a good citizen nation, promoting peace, liberty and economic prosperity for everybody. The key word here is ‘promoting.’ Not ‘imposing.’
If this ‘campaign’ is to be successful, we will have to follow up our words with deeds to convince the world of our good intentions. What should we do? Here’s a starter list:
1. We should stop trying to bully and intimidate other nations into supporting our policies.
2. We should not undertake wars or aggressive acts against other nations without consulting with and following the direction of the UN. Even then, this should be an absolute last resort, and we need to make it clear to the people of all nations that we believe that.
3. We should withdraw most of our military forces from foreign bases…particularly Europe (why do we still have troops in Europe?), Saudi Arabia and South Korea.
We need to convince the rest of the world…the governments, but especially the people of the world…that they can trust our motives. They must believe that we are really trying to do what is best for all the people on earth. If they trust our motives, they will give us a lot of latitude in our methods.
Anti-Americanism is at an all-time high in the world right now. That makes our task of enlisting the help of everyone doubly difficult. But a long voyage starts with the first step, and it is time to get started. I just hope it isn’t too late.