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Springer Journal: Some Random Thoughts...

Posted November 26, 2003

— My unscientific reading of America's interests would indicate most Americans are tuned in to the ongoing worldwide war on terrorism … with much of their focus on Iraq. However, I worry sometimes that the typical American understanding of this international conflict is conditioned almost exclusively about what they see, read, or hear from the media. It may only be the "soundbite" that resonates, rather than a more well developed understanding of the issue.

If I pick up a weekly news magazine and turn to page 23 (for example), I may find an article on national defense issues or a particular service, such as the Air Force. I read the article carefully and critically and know, from my experiences, that some of it is simply wrong or intentionally biased. I turn to page 43 and read an article on health matters or education for example. I also read it carefully, but I am unable to read it critically. I don't have the experience or the academic discipline to fully appreciate the details or the nuances of the article. Ergo, I generally accept what is written without challenging the facts or message therein. Most Americans are equally handicapped when reading about "things military."

Let me put a few random thoughts in perspective.

Daily we hear of the casualties in Iraq. As one who has passed the American flag to grieving widows, I fully appreciate the total impact on the family of a fallen warrior. But we are at war! There will be casualties. The number now from Iraq alone is around 400 over an eight month period. Last year in America, there were over 40,000 deaths on our highways. Where is the outrage at this number of senseless killings? Killings where no known enemy or terrorist is involved.

I wrote previously about the highly controversial $87.5 billion request for Iraq and Afghanistan. But how often did we read or hear that three-fourths of those dollars were intended for our armed forces rather than reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan? Most of the now authorized money will be spent for our uniformed members specials pay and allowances, personal armor, tank tracks, etc. Interestingly, much of that money will benefit our domestic economy. That is not what the politicized criticism of the $87.5 billion would have had us believe.

We should all look past the bumper sticker slogan of America only wants Iraq's oil. Our history is replete with restoring the peace with our defeated wartime enemies. Our history also records that we have not confiscated the natural or economic resources from our enemies. I will simply site Germany and Japan as excellent examples.

There has been much criticism of the Defense Department's failure to develop and secure a peace plan in Iraq. Clearly things have not gone well there. I suspect no one had a solid understanding of how the situation would evolve into guerilla style and terrorist tactics such as those we witness daily. The coalition forces must adapt to these frequent and devastating attacks. We should however understand that much has gone right in the past six months.

Electricity now exceeds pre-war levels … 1500 schools have been rebuilt … all 22 universities have reopened … 240 hospitals have reopened … oil is flowing …over 100,000 Iraqi police, military and civil defense forces are providing security … over 150 newspapers have sprung up … small businesses are thriving. I wish we would hear or read more about these successes.

Back to the securing the peace plan. It is easy to criticize the administration's and the coalition's plan to bring democracy, sovereignty and human rights to the Iraqi people. It is not an easy task to basically build or rebuild a nation ravaged by a dictator for over three decades. Neither is it easy to provide alternatives. Listen carefully to the pundits, the politicos, the presidential wannabes, and the folks in the anti-war movement. They do not share with us any specific and foolproof plans for a successful withdrawal and a secure Iraq. It is generally "solutions" such as bring the troops home … let the UN do it … or other catchy soundbites. There are no specifics as to how to do it, nor are there specifics as to what the ultimate outcome would be.

Is Iraq and Afghanistan worth it? It is not only Iraq and Afghanistan, but any other geographical location around the globe where terrorists can train, plan and mobilize for terror attacks against those who appreciate freedom. Terrorists can strike in small numbers and function with a limited budget. Yet they can inflict horrendous death and destruction in a few moments. Think … Bali, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and New York, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.

As the world's only remaining superpower, we simply have no choice. Terrorism must be defeated. America, acting alone or with other national forces, must accept the responsibility and lead the effort.

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