Sunday, November 16, 2008

On bringing the troops home

I'm not going to discuss the left wing anti-war movement as a whole in this post, I just wanted to explore a small part of their campaign and provide my thoughts on the matter.

As we all know, the liberal minded community is against war as a whole, be that the ongoing war in Afghanistan, or the effort in Iraq. (And certainly against Israel defending itself from Palestinian terrorists.) They desperately want peace, and want their troops out these war zones post haste. The American and British anti-war sentiment is particularly vocal, having sent in large numbers of troops into far flung corners of the world in an attempt to restore order and create an environment more conducive to the different Muslim sects co-existing.

Although I do not agree with their arguments, I can understand the claim that these wars are not ones that the West should have gotten involved with. What I cannot fathom is that the anti-war movement continues to blather on about "bringing our troops home." History has shown us that America repeatedly attempts to remedy the worlds ill by force, is partially successful, and then ruins the whole venture by pulling out early. I watched the film "Charlie Wilson's War" last month, and one exchange particularly struck a chord. The film's protagonist, Charlie Wilson is speaking with a board of government or CIA officials, trying to secure funding for a school in Afghanistan:

Official 1: I was in the Roosevelt room with the President last week. You know what he said? He said, "Afghanistan? Is that still going on?"

CW: "Well it is. Half the population of that country is under the age of fourteen. Half the population is under the age of fourteen, now think how f***ing dangerous that is. They're gonna come home and find their families are dead, their villages have been napalmed.

Official 2: And we helped kill the guys who did it!

CW: Yeah, but they don't know that Bob, cos they don't get home delivery of the New York times. And even if they did, it was covert, remember? This is what we always do, we go in with our ideals and we change the world. And then we leave. We always leave. But that ball though, it keeps on bouncing.

Official 2: What?

CW: The ball keeps on bouncing.

Official 2 (distractedly): Yeah, we're a little busy right now, re-organising Eastern Europe, don't you think?

CW: We've spent billions, let's spend a million on H0118, and rebuild a school.

Official 2: Charlie, nobody gives a s*** about a school in Pakistan.

CW (mutters firmly): Afghanistan.

The point is clear, once the threat is neutralised the job is only half-done. To make sure that America doesn't have to go back to Iraq in 15 years' time, they must spend time and money now to reinforce to safety and comparative calm that has been brought to cities like Baghdad and Kabul. If the Nato troops were to leave now, the Muslim extremists will step into the breach and claim the hearts and minds of their compatriots as if the war had never happened.

Apparently there's a Chassidic saying that illustrates our point precisely that goes something like, "Don't jump on to a lion's back!" All fair and well, you might think. But the saying continues, "But if you're on a lion's back, don't jump off!" The parallel is crystal-clear. If the anti-war movement are genuinely liberal-minded, and are genuinely compassionate and caring human beings, then they must understand this vital point. If they honestly value life, then they will see that it would be counterproductive to pull out American and British troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. Any attempt to extricate our armies from the Middle East before the right time would have disastrous effect, yet again.

Nobody wants these wars to continue any longer, but pulling out now would leave a vacuum of power and influence. Approximately twelve years after American cash flows stopped reaching Afghanistan, the American army was once again halfway across the world trying to fix a problem that could have been avoided if a few million had been spent on education.

I'm sure that a good many left-wingers could read this and dismiss it as a right-winger trying to play on the conscience of good honest people, but wouldn't that be making the same mistake all over again? Has the anti-war movement has got so caught up in it's mantras and slogans that it has forgotten its true raison d'être?

If saving lives is important, then we must take a long-term perspective. I appreciate that it is far from pleasant for a western mother to know that her son is at risk, involved in a conflict that really hasn't all that much to do with her or her son, yet what about all the people who would die if America and the European coalition were to pull out over the next two years? Are we so racist as to say that an American or British soldier's life is worth more than 100 Iraqi or Afghani lives? For if we excuse ourselves from the hassle that is the clean-up operation after the war, we can be sure that Iraq and Afghanistan will once again turn into a festering breeding ground for hatred, the perfect fodder for Al Qaeda and the like.

1 comment:

  1. I appreciate the point, but how much is too much? How responsible are we, as opposed to how responsible we've made ourselves to be? The gemara brings up a point: If there's a river that flows from one town to the next and the first and second town both need it for drinking water, the first town precedes. If they both need it for livestock and laundry, the first still precedes. But what if the first needs it for laundry, and the second needs it to drink from? We do not abstain from doing laundry in order to give to others. In the same vain we are not allowed to give more than 20% of our income to tzedakah. When lives are being lost, progress has been made but is continually slowing, and it is hurting us to be in the war, it's time to pull out. I'm not saying that time has or has not come, I'm just saying the question must be asked, and answered.