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Lessons of the Persian Gulf War
As the Persian Gulf War draws down to an apparently quick conclusion, America is in a state of euphoric bliss. Our weapons technology has proven vastly superior to that of Iraq, which received most of its weaponry from the Soviet Union. Americans quite justly take pride in this accomplishment. The war was short, our casualty list as well. The demonized Saddam Hussein has been embarrassed, beaten, and humiliated. Many Iraqi soldiers have welcomed the opportunity to surrender to the coalition forces.
I must admit that I had thought the war would take much longer and cost many more human lives in the process than it did. Most "experts" also believed it would be a long ground war. And as of this time, there still is a possibility that the more fanatical of Hussein's army will be able to take to the Iraqi mountains and regroup to fight another day--probably in a more terrorist fashion.
But the total victory for the (mostly) American troops is beyond question. What is the main difference between Hussein's army and that of the Americans? It's not the numbers; in fact, the Iraqi Army had the slight advantage on that score. Control of the air was certainly on the side of the coalition, yet that didn't stop the Viet Cong fighting ferociously and effectively in the Viet Nam War even though the United States obliterated the country side with carpet bombs and napalm. The jungle terrain was different in Viet Nam than the desert of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. However, the Iraqi soldiers were entrenched in fortified concrete bunkers with intricate tunnels that could withstand a nuclear attack.
The main difference between the two armies was one of morale, as Marine Brig. General Neal has said. A major portion of the Iraqi army (or what is left of it) was conscripted. Many men were summarily hauled off the street and put into uniform. They had no desire to fight a war; they were forced to do so.
Here in America we have learned from our mistakes. In Viet Nam, most American soldiers were conscripted, fighting half way around the world in a civil war for no good purpose. Despite a huge technological advantage, America lost the war. But now our soldiers are volunteers, professionals who want to be there, who take pride in what they do, with a singleness of purpose in what they are doing--a comradeship that only can develop from a system that lets people be free to choose whether or not military service is right for them. The victory of the Persian Gulf War is a victory for voluntarism (or freedom), the highest of American principles.
However, some of the other much vaunted gains from this war are illusory. The most often touted nonsense is that this victory is a triumph for democracy. By what stretch of the imagination? Can anybody name one Arab country involved in the coalition that can honestly be considered democratic? Certainly not the monarchies of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Assad's Syria? Six months ago Syria and Assad were America's arch enemy. Assad is still a thug--in the same class as Saddam Hussein. How about Khadafi's Lybia? Right... Egypt does have elections, but it can hardly be considered to possess real American democratic principles. Is the United States going to force feed American-style democracy to the entire Middle East--including socialistic Israel?
Despite the war's success (and for some Arabs--because of it), to the extent that America intervenes in the complex, historical problems of biblical proportions in the Middle East, we are going to increase resentment against the West thereby fostering even more fundamentalist dictatorships than already exist. More trade wars will result. And these developments could lead to an even greater war in the Middle East. We might not have the majority of Arab nations on our side in that one.
As Arab resentment increases, one can be sure that terrorism will also increase. And we can expect this terrorism to happen domestically this time. If the fanatics can't win a conventional war, they certainly will resort to even more terrorism. To combat this terrorism, we can fully expect the U.S. Government to react by further eroding basic individual rights. We will declare a "War on Terrorism." Just like the domestic "wars" before, the "War on Poverty" and the "War on Drugs," we will also lose the ˇ°War on Terrorismˇ± and our Constitutional rights in the process.
One of the worst ramifications of this war, is what I term shallow machismo. Easy victories in war breed more war, more hate, more prejudice, more us-vs.-them attitude, more "might makes right." Diminished are the values of cooperation, friendly competition, reasoned discourse, grey shadings, and tolerance. Real machismo involves being strong enough to be tolerant of others, to listen as well as preach, to cooperate as well as compete, to back down from a fight of a lesser adversary--being confident enough of one's strength to not have to flaunt it.
The act of war by government half way across the globe is an act of legitimizing violence. It is not an act of self-defense. This process of legitimizing violence begets violence in the streets. Might makes right makes might makes right makes might...
The most dismal ramification of the war is that the individual American citizen is one more quantum leap away from sovereignty. At the birth of our nation, the individual reigned supreme. He was sovereign. That is what the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation were all about, protecting individual sovereign rights. The United States Constitution changed the focus of sovereignty from the individual to the states. The Civil War further eroded sovereignty, establishing the federal government as sovereign instead of the states. Now the "new world order" is coming. National Sovereignty is being replace with international sovereignty. Each step in this process has been a quantum leap away from individual rights/individual sovereignty (and the other side of the coin, individual responsibility).
Does man live for himself or does he live for the state, the country, or some multi-national order? For me, the essence of life is self-directing. The antithesis of life is a slow, robotized, mind-numbing death that can only be anesthetized by silly sitcoms, meaningless sports events, and world-destructing wars that vitalizes only the base instincts of man. These are the soma of our day. The Roman circuses of our time.
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