It is not a very a productive use of energy to debate what we should or should not have done sometime back. And yet history is perhaps our best teacher. Actions have consequences. I suppose all of us occasionally reflect on actions taken in the past which are having enormous contemporary consequences. An old prayer says, “Lord, I don’t know how to get out of what I don’t know how I got into.” But what if we do know how we got into a tragic situation, and just don’t want to face it?
Despite what President Obama says, the United States is involved in yet another bloody war in the near east. While a majority of the American people seem to support what the President has outlined, an even greater majority do not see it as a path to stability. We will use air power and rely on the Iraqi army and a collection of yet unidentified and uncommitted allies to supply the necessary “boots on the ground.” But that force is more a product of wishful thinking than military reality. The Iraqi army seems totally inept, and no allies have as yet come forward. And even the military brass thinks we are just at the beginning of a drastic escalation, and might recommend it. So the President and the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff are not on the same page. So much for a civilian lead government. Some very bright people have told us repeatedly that we should never enter a conflict for which we had no exit strategy. And nobody thinks we now have one here.
One summer I worked on an Oklahoma ranch. One of the steers had developed a twisted horn which continued to grow back around until it was pointed an inch from the creature’s eye. Had it not been removed, it would have finally penetrated the animal’s brain. A twisted foreign policy which first established military bases in Saudi Arabia, and then lied to the American people, and subsequently instigated an obscene war against Iraq, have produced this twisted horn, and it continues to grow dangerously close to America’s vital core. Remember it was Saudis, not Iraqis, in the planes that hit the Twin Towers.
There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and the war based on that fallacious bit of propaganda has generated enemies all across the world. The latest force to get our attention is an undefined group called Isis. Even if we get enough international help to kill off that current epidemic of hatred, another one will pop up. The seeds of anger at the way we have dealt with that part of the world in our quest for oil, if for no other reason, continue to sprout. It is called “blowback.”
There is no way we can go back a dozen years and undo what we have done. Our duplicity is bearing bitter fruit — fruit which will be watered with more and more blood. We can pull out the weeds as they break through the soil, but there seems no way to get at the roots.
President Obama, who is clear about his distrust of violence and his hatred of war, has outlined a distasteful and perhaps a futile plan to engage in increased air attacks and trust somebody else to supply the troops on the ground. Even if it is just another meal in which we eat the bitter fruit from seeds we have planted, it will probably involve us in a series of futile wars which will drive the nation farther into debt and which my great-grandchildren will pay for with their lives.
In the meantime America’s twisted horn continues to point ever closer to America’s brain — and nobody knows how to saw it off.