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Springer Journal: Preemptive War...

Posted June 23, 2004

— Let me share a few thoughts about initiating wars.

There seems to be a pre-occupation among many that Operation Iraqi Freedom was the first conflict where America pre-emptively attacked another nation that bore no immediate threat to our national security. Further, there are the claims that this Republican administration used false pretenses, such as the threat of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), to initiate the war. The Bush administration's insistence that Iraq possessed WMD did little to help us think otherwise.

There is less credence given to the need to rid the Iraqi people, their neighboring nations, the region and the world from a dictator who had tortured and murdered his own people as well as his neighbors. Hardly anyone argues that Saddam Hussein should not have been deposed and removed from power. I would submit this rationale for invading Iraq should have received a greater level of importance. We may not have been absolutely certain about the Weapons of Mass Destruction … we were absolutely certain about the brutal acts of Saddam Hussein. America, as the world's sole superpower was doing the right and moral thing by taking action to remove Saddam.

While Saddam Hussein may have had no direct involvement in the 9/11 attacks on our country, there was a long history of aberrant behavior and refusal to comply with United Nations Resolutions that validated his removal from power. We will never know for certain what other atrocities and how many other Iraqis we have saved from torture or murder had America and the coalition forces not intervened.

What does history tell us about other wars and other pretenses for initiating a full scale conflict against other enemies? Since I spent a year in Vietnam in the 1960s, I have a personal interest in what led to the major buildup of U.S. forces (over a half a million at any one time) during that period.

In the early 60s we had a token force of advisors assisting the South Vietnam armed forces who were fighting against a North Vietnam assisted insurgency. America was also taking some covert military actions on its own against the North.

In the summer of 1964, a Democrat administration presided over by Lyndon B. Johnson, used an incident in the

Tonkin Gulf

to obtain a congressional resolution approving the use of force to repel any armed attack against U.S. forces and to prevent further aggression. Interestingly, even though there had been a skirmish a day earlier, the cited incident, a supposed unprovoked attack on a U.S. Navy destroyer, did not take place. Although reports to Washington from a Navy Captain on scene doubted the cited attack on the destroyer Maddox, President Johnson ordered U. S aircraft to bomb targets in North Vietnam as a retaliatory measure. The escalation was on!

The conflict in South East Asia continued for nearly a decade with over 58,000 U.S. service men and women fatally wounded. In hindsight it is easy to challenge the provocation for war. Even President Johnson a year later when challenged about the Navy responding to North Vietnam's aggressive attacks in the Tonkin Gulf would remark that "For all I know, our Navy was shooting at whales out there."

Clearly, North Vietnam did not present an immediate threat to our national security here at home. A communist North Vietnam invading, defeating and controlling many countries in the region was a threat to stability in that part of the world … especially when considering we were in a Cold War with a struggle for survival against the Soviet Union and their proxy nations around the world. On a global scale, America was doing the right thing to prevent the worldwide spread of communism. And we ultimately prevailed when the Soviet Union collapsed and the Berlin Wall was toppled.

Reflecting on the great war of the last century,WWII, I could argue that America and its key allies were derelict and partly responsible for the deaths of millions of Jews by not trying to rid the European continent of Germany's Adolph Hitler and his quest for ethnic purity among his other despicable ambitions. Hitler's rebuff of the League of Nations and the sanctions placed against Germany following WW I were not adequately challenged during the 1930's. There were significant attempts to appease Hitler so as to avoid war on the continent. Appeasement didn't work. Hitler continued to attack, defeat and occupy countries throughout Europe. He also continued his ethnic cleansing of the Jews by sending them to their death in the gas chambers and concentration camps.

Germany declared war on the United States on Dec. 11, 1941, and we in turn, declared a state of war with Germany the following day. And frankly, we did not have a standing military force capable of taking aggressive or preemptive actions against Germany even if we felt it to be in our national interest. America had suffered through the 1930's from the Great Depression and had allowed the armed forces to atrophy. Again, in hindsight, it is easy to observe what America and its European allies should have done to corral Hitler and his forces before they could enslave much of Europe.

There are reports of upwards of 12 million Jews put to death by the Nazis during the 1930's and 1940's. America lost 400,000 killed in WWII, albeit many of those were killed in the Pacific theater in a war started by Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor.

We might argue whether Japan would have been as willing to strike America's naval forces at Pearl Harbor if they had seen a strong U. S. and allies' stance against Germany in the years immediately preceding their Dec. 7 attack. Should we have been waiting for Germany to be an imminent threat to our soil before we took action to stop the immoral and destructive actions of Adolph Hitler? Was a lack of American military power and willingness to use it a decisive factor in Japan's surprise attack? Should we have acted sooner in Europe to prevent the atrocities we witnessed in the 1940s, and maybe have lessened the likelihood of Japan embarking on its military endeavors?

We could review other conflicts in places like Korea and Kosovo. What would we find? Again neither of these nations posed an imminent threat to our soil. They did provide a regional threat which could do irreparable harm if left unchecked. And so as a responsible super power, and bound by some international agreements we entered into conflicts. We are still in Korea a half century later. Even though promised by President Clinton we would be out of Kosovo within a year, we are still there nine years later.

We are now in a very significant and major war. It is a war likely to last for decades. It is a war against terrorists around the globe. We can not, we should not, wait for them to strike again on our soil. As we witnessed on 9/11 in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia, these terrorists have no respect for non-combatants. They strike and kill innocent men, women and children. Their goal is to intimidate. Their weapon of choice is beheading. They hope their intimidation will lead to appeasement which will lead to their domination … and our loss of freedom.

It is time to realize we are at war. There will be casualties. There must be sacrifices. Who among us would surrender our cherished freedoms?

Happy Independence Day.

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