Monday, August 19, 2013

Disinterested in Diplomacy and Foreign Relations, America never seems to lose its Fascination with War

Do any poll you choose and Diplomacy, that ‘stuff that happens overseas’ comes in dead last. Yet for a nation that gives lip-service to promoting peace and prosperity throughout the world, we certainly have a blood-lust. Maybe it’s all those cool fireball movies Hollywood keeps making or the popularity of war games to buy our entertainment-satiated kids. Who knows, it might even be a holdover from the John Wayne days of our youth and the image of a lone gunfighter taking on the odds. Lots of beautiful shots of black-powder six-guns roaring and agreeably little of the result. The gunned-down die gracefully. No bodies blown in half.

Blown in half is the real world, pieces of the friend you spent last night playing cards and bunking with scattered in hunks. Combat buddies charred beyond recognition. It’s not pretty and I won’t dwell on it. Trust me, you wouldn’t want to actually see the result of what’s going on in Egypt. Egyptians don’t either, but haven’t the luxury of an ocean on either side of their country.

So, we crank it up and never question the true cost in schools, highways and broken cities like Detroit that’s paid for by having a military budget twice the size of all other military spending in the world. Twice. Man, what John Wayne could have done with that.

But America has done amazingly little with its wars. Korea was prescient, a military disaster that sucked over 36,000 American troop deaths from our families and left us precious little besides the MASH television series and we watched that as comedy. A domino-theory with no dominoes. Vietnam sent home another 58,000 dead, until we left with our tails between our legs, the tragic ‘left behind’ dripping off our helicopter skids. Those across the world, who are not our friends, began to see chinks in the armor of this American juggernaut. Now we have a War on Terror, without boundaries or a definable enemy, costing another 7,000 kids’ lives--the longest and most expensive war ever fought.

Arguably, America has not only lost its way, but its luster. A globe that once trusted and admired everything we stood for is now uneasy in our company. We’ve grown from the big, friendly kid down the block to a sinister presence, with questionable motives, and the neighbors now lock doors they once left open.

Talk about Egypt and people’s eyes glaze over. We don’t nationally give a damn about Syria—and I’m not saying we should. My personal feeling is America should ease off the throttle. The world is unsolvable, even our own troubled country seems unsolvable. We can’t control the corporations that stride like John Wayne through our tumbleweeds, can’t give our kids an affordable education or jobs when they get one and many of us are even unable to keep a secure grip on our homes. 40% of American families are a single job-loss or health issue away from bankruptcy. How can we possibly understand or speak logically about what to do with the turmoil in the Middle East that threatens to drive us into further endless wars?

Pundits forever throw solutions at us and it’s easy for them—easy for me—we have no skin in the game, other than our private interest and the endless quest for a name that’s recognized, possibly a guest-shot on FOX News or John Stewart. But I will give you mine, knowing neither is at risk:

We need to slowly withdraw from the position of being the world’s most powerful and ineffective influence. It’s been sixty years since Korea, thirty-eight since Vietnam and twelve since our ill-conceived and fated War on Terror. Surely we can invest the next twenty on coiling ourselves back inside the viper’s-nest that has become our foreign policy. Our own national history has been fraught with genocide, civil war, economic and social inequity and the struggle to craft ourselves as a nation. Surely others who choose to put their lives and futures on the line to achieve something worthwhile to their values can be afforded the same opportunity. They will fail, then likely fail again before they succeed, as we did. We cannot bring to them what we have at the barrel of a gun, for many reasons, but primarily because they are not us. The hopes and ambitions for which they lay down their lives are not our hopes and ambitions.

Every president among the last dozen has been afraid of being tagged as ‘militarily weak,’ with the exception of one: Dwight Eisenhower. “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”  

But of course, he was Commander in Chief of the European Theater in World War II and had seen war close up. Another quote of his comes to mind as directly on-subject: “I think that people want peace so much that one of these days government had better get out of their way and let them have it.”

Indeed, perhaps the time has come when American government had better get out of their way and let them have it.

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