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You Are Mud Pie

You’re the perfect combo of flavor and depth
Those who like you give into their impulses
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Letters to a Liberal

This is part of an ongoing series. These letters are addressed to a liberal reader named “Timmy.” The hope is that these letters try in some way to bridge the gap between liberals and conservatives. In them I hope to express my respect for the liberal worldview, while clearly explaining why I place myself on the opposite side of the ideological spectrum. I should note here Peter Swanson’s Boxing Day Truce as not inspiration, but fraternity.

Dear Tim,

I figured our last exchange was a little dry. I’m not trying to add controversies for the sake of controversy. We just can’t ignore these issues either, as they are important. Let’s just hope we can remove a little of the emotion behind the issue of this letter.

Oh yeah, the subject of the letter. I thought we should talk about the war in Iraq, noting the overall war on terrorism. I also wanted to touch on the philosophies of pacifism and isolationism.

First, I wanted to say that peace is an ideal we both share. Conservatives and liberals alike both want a peaceful world in which we can live our lives outside of fear of violence. Where we differ is the way we think we can get there. To conservatives, the best way to get peace is by having a large, well trained, well equipped professional military. This costs a lot of money, but to us this pays for itself. The cost of war is extremely high, both in lives and economic losses. Spending money on a military makes war too costly for anyone who might oppose us, for whatever reason.

This isn’t a philosophy built out of unchecked testosterone either. History is littered with the remains of great civilizations that perished from foreign invaders. Even in the western world, the last century has seen countless confrontations between nations. It happens, and unless you’re prepared you go the way of the 1939 Poland, unprepared, valiant and dead. The military’s function is most important during times of peace. It’s a guarantee against the darkness of human history.

Yet our kickass military didn’t prevent 9-11. We were caught unprepared. The reason was failures at numerous levels of law enforcement. Why weren’t they deterred by our men of arms? There’s a number of reason, but I see two important ones. First, we’re not dealing with slightly eccentric or generally mad leaders of nation states. We’re dealing with religious fanatics, fundamentalists of a religion that has thirteen references in their holy book, the Koran, ordering their followers to convert or kill. The New Testament has no such directives, but the Old Testament does have passages similar in message. Most Judeo-Christian thinkers take such passages in context to the age and situation in which they were written, the same with your average Muslim. Fundamentalists do no such thing, there is no context, therefore there is no limit to what they believe they are allowed to do to infidels.

This makes for a really scary enemy. Suicidal, committed, maniacal, they are not bound by any rationality that you and I share. They are not intimidated by our military. It’s fairly clear to me, as it should be to you, that such an enemy needs to be eliminated. What makes this difficult is the fact that there is no nation state of terrorists. They are supported, in varying degrees, by nation states. This is maybe where we split. As far as I’m concerned, those who support terrorism with shelter, resources or training are just as guilty as the terrorists themselves. This is why I feel the invasion of Afghanistan was justified. It is also part of the reason I feel the invasion of Iraq is justified. The one thing we know Saddam Hussein did was support the families of suicide bombers in Israel, thus encouraging more suicide bombers.

Ah, Iraq, let us focus a bit on Iraq. To begin with, I want to say that I don’t care about whether or not Saddam Hussein had WMD. There have been some interesting theories about Saddam’s WMD. He could have hid it in Syria during the 18 months the U.S. spent sending Colin Powell around trying to convince people Saddam needed to be late term aborted. There has also been talk about Saddam’s “virtual” WMD program; computers and knowledge being researched and maintained, just without a stone and brick front. Whatever. If Al Queda can be dangerous with boxcutters, then Saddam could be dangerous with all the stuff he had in his spider hole, let alone everything else he had in his military’s storehouses.

What Saddam Hussein had was money, motivation and an unchecked hatred for the western world. He also had a long history of violence, war and genocide. His police state killed and tortured innocent civilians and their families. He was not a nice guy. Worse, he was rich and had a flair for rattling his sabers at the UN and backing down only at the breaking point. After a dozen or so UN resolutions and many years of evil, he received a lifetime achievement award from the U.S. military and is now a shell of what he once was.

I also don’t care if Saddam was an “imminent threat” to the United States or not. I don’t think Hitler was ever an “imminent threat” to the United States and by the time Hitler was an imminent threat to France, Poland was already under his rule. I’m not interested in waiting around to see who wins in the race to be an “imminent threat” to the United States. Let’s catch them early. (I wrote what I believe to be a excellent column on this for the Minnesota Daily last year.)

The Iraqis are now on their way to a parliamentary democracy, their progress has been faster than any other fledgling democracy in history. It’s always a rocky road, but I think America has done a great service to the world. You might differ on this point. Many on the left think this war has increased the number of terrorists in the world. I have a hard time believing this idea, mainly because our troops have killed an estimated 50,000 enemy combatants and terrorism hasn’t touched the United States since 9-11.

It must be hard to imagine that right-wingers have been the peacemakers of the last quarter-century. Ronald Reagan set in motion the end of the Cold War. Ariel Sharon is set to create a Palestinian state, a huge step toward peace in Israel. Bush has liberated two nations from dictatorships and replaced them with democracies.

I’m not saying left-wingers can’t accomplish such things, but left-wing dominated governments have taken a backseat in the world today. The clearest offenders being France and Germany.

There’s an underlying failure in the left-wing philosophy towards military conflict. It stems from the cynicism towards the “military industrial complex” during the Vietnam War. There’s a lot of issues we could get into here, but I want to tackle a few of the prevalent ones. First, the idea of military intervention today is a form of imperialism. Imperialism is economically detrimental to nations who promote it, and I doubt an “American Empire” is going to be created by setting up democratic societies.

Then there’s the idea that we’re never supposed to return violence with violence. Pacifism is a ridiculous idea perpetrated on the world by the memory of Mohatma Ghandi. During WWII Ghandi threatened to support Hitler if the British didn’t promise India independence. This is what Ghandi said of Hitler: “I do not consider Hitler to be as bad as he is depicted. He is showing an ability that is amazing and seems to be gaining his victories without much bloodshed” (In 1940). Later, in 1946 he had this to say about the holocaust: “Hitler killed five million [sic] Jews. It is the greatest crime of our time. But the Jews should have offered themselves to the butcher’s knife. They should have thrown themselves into the sea from cliffs.”

It is funny to me that Gandhi believed suicide a victory over murder. I do not. If you find yourself siding with Ghandi rather than on the side of those of us who believe we should have gone to war with Hitler rather than surrender and jump off cliffs, this conversation will be done. Pacifism is flawed, it leads to death at the hands of evil people like Hitler, Hussein, Stalin, Pol Pot, etc etc etc.

Isolationism is a little different. It is the idea that if you leave people alone, they will leave you alone. It doesn’t work when you’re trying to avoid getting mugged at the bus stop, it doesn’t work at the nation-state level either.

I can’t possibly address every issue in foreign policy and the use of force. I can’t discuss every issue when it comes to the war in Iraq. What I can ask is that you look upon the military actions of the last 4 years with the eyes of an idealist. Look to the good in Iraq, millions of people have voted for the first time in their lives and will finally be given the opportunity to choose their own destiny. Americans are continuing to repay the debt we ourselves owe. We received military assistance from a foreign power in our fight for self determination. How can we not help others when we can? We finally have an opportunity to do some good while increasing our national security. Our security is now directly related to the well being of people in other nations and we can’t avoid it anymore.

It’s a chance to better the world. Can’t we agree that despite the questions about the reasons for the war, something good happened with the liberation of the Iraqi people?