July 21, 2006

World War Which?

"We’re in the early stages of what I would describe as the third World War"
--Newt Gingrich, "Meet the Press," July 16, 2006

"This ain't no party, this ain't no disco, this ain't no fooling around.
This ain't no Mudd Club, or C. B. G. B., I ain't got time for that now."
--Talking Heads, Life During Wartime"

Newt Gingrich says the United States is involved in World War III. I don't disagree, but if we are in a World War, why aren't we acting like it?

If I am counting correctly, it's actually World War IV. World War III was the Cold War, in which the U.S. and its allies fought Russia and China and their allies, usually via proxy countries such as Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan. World War III can be traced back to about 1945, when the World War II alliance between the U.S., Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union ended and we became rivals with the Soviet Union and its client states in Eastern Europe for world domination. World War IV, which Newt says involves dictatorships such as Iran, Syria, Iraq under Saddam Hussein and North Korea acting as terrorist states and/or harboring terrorists, mostly of Islamic persuasion, to threaten Western powers such as the U.S., Western Europe and U.S.-backed Israel, is just a few years younger. Gingrich traces this war back to 1948, the year that Israel was created by the Western Powers, after which Israel's Arab neighbors immediately attacked the new nation.

So, World War III and World War IV have been going on almost simultaneously. President Bush acknowledged that the U.S. is fighting World War III in a May 6, 2006 interview on CNBC when referring to the 9/11 attack and the "counter-strike" aboard UAL Flight 93. Along with the media, Bush also uses the term "War on Terror" to describe the current state of affairs. Bush routinely says that "we're at war" and calls himself a "war President." What I would like to know, therefore, is why Bush's U.S. government does not act as though we are at war.

Here are some examples of what the U.S. does when it is at war:

1. Conserve and ration resources that are crucial to the war effort, such as fuel, metals, tires and certain types of food (World War II).

2. Institute a military draft so that we have enough troops to do the job, and to spread the sacrifice in order that it not be carried completely by those at the bottom of the economic ladder (War of 1812, Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korean War, Cold War [between Korean War and Vietnam War], Vietnam War).

3. Issue War Bonds and raise taxes rather than cutting them (Civil War, World War II), or at least keep them the same while we've bankrupted our Treasury spending $8 billion a week in Iraq.

4. Galvanize the country toward a great goal, such as the U.S. did in beating the Russians in the space race to put a man on the moon (Cold War). For example, a logical undertaking of Apollo Space Program-like proportions today would be a massive Energy program to wean the U.S. off of fossil fuels and the unstable, undemocratic dictatorships that produce them, which in turn could remove the U.S. from Middle East conflict and the current World War.

5. Focus our energies on fighting the actual enemy that attacked us (War of 1812, Revolutionary War, World War II).

6. Call for civilians to volunteer in civilian defense forces, factories and elsewhere (World War II).

7. Protect our borders and our ports.

Why is it that the U.S. is supposedly at war, even a World War, but we aren't doing any of the things that this country has always done in its efforts to win wars? Other than the brave and often poor and minority soldiers sacrificing their lives, limbs, livelihoods and families, why are the rest of us being asked to do nothing at all, except give up our civil rights and our First Amendment right to dissent, be subject to surveillance from our own government, increase our deficit, get tax cuts for driving massive SUVs and pay more to the oil companies for gasoline?


At 8:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent points and analogies. I agree with most of what you say about actions that should be taken while we are at war. Especially focusing on other energy sources.

But I strongly disagree with the concept of a draft. It's bad enough that we get pulled into wars that often the majority of the population is against, I can't imagine being in a position where we are forced to fight in it. Is it accurate that those that choose military life are usually poor or minorities?

And asking for volunteers in civilian defense forces, factories etc...Is that a contradiction? Force the boys to fight and then ask for factory volunteers? Who would volunteer for that? Would the middle/upper class white collar folk volunteer? Not so sure.

And lastly- I definitely agree with the idea of going after the people that actually attacked us. Of course I hear this point a lot. But I am stuck- I haven't really heard anyone suggest how we do that? Any thoughts?

At 10:22 AM, Blogger Matt said...

Thanks. Your comments on the draft and volunteering hit upon the lack of leadership from Bush. FDR was able successfully to lead the U.S. to fight Germany and Japan in WWII with not only a draft, but massive voluntary enlistment among all economic classes, as well as massive volunteerism at home. Apparently Bush is afraid of offending the middle and upper classes by asking them to sacrifice anything for their country. The draft isn't symbolic -- the whole world knows that virtually all U.S. military divisions are bogged down in Iraq, or are rotating in or out of there. U.S. has no troops to take on Iran, N. Korea, Syria or any other threat, and those countries are acting accordingly. For instance, Iran is increasing its influence in Iraq, and Syria backs Hezbollah. As for attacking those who attacked us, the U.S. did that when they invaded Afghanistan and went after the Taliban and Al Quaeda. Then, instead of finishing the job, Bush started his folly in Iraq. If the 130,000+ troops in Iraq were instead going after Al Quaeda in their nests in Afghanistan and border areas of Pakistan instead of the mere 20,000 troops doing that now, with the Taliban gaining strength again, that's how you go after the people who attacked us.

At 1:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well- I'm not sure my comments on the draft are indicative of Bush's leadership. While I agree he is a terrible leader, I'm not sure that any other recent President would be able to get this country to support a draft and volunteerism. I think our issues run a little deeper than that. I also don't think that beefing up our military is the answer. Better allocation of the troops we do have would be a help- in the way you suggest.

At 1:38 PM, Blogger Matt said...

My point isn't that we should have a draft. It's that, if this were really World War III, as Bush said, or if he was fighting a real war on terror, as he also says, then we'd need a draft or a much better effort to massively increase troop strength to fight it, as well as taking additional steps. Recent presidents did not preside over the country when it was attacked. The picking and choosing of some aspects of war, such as saying one is a "war president," grabbing power from other branches of government and trying to crush honest disagreement, yet not doing or asking one's country to do the tough things required in a true war, is astoundingly hypocritical.

At 4:08 PM, Blogger Ghetufool said...

this is not a worldwar. that's too far stretching your imagination matt. beating up weaker guys and boasting of world war doesn't win the case.
maybe that's another "america saved the world"

when i was small, i used to think america is sort of a fairy land...my fascination with america is still very strong. and i strongly believe americans are indeed nice people. very cordial, very lively. i have got a bunch of expat american friends here in bangalore. i find americans more jovial and friendlier than a european. i just cannot figure out why the political leadership of your country has such a bullying attitude. maybe because they are the highest donor. maybe because they love to see themselves as the "savior of the world". quite strange!

At 4:57 PM, Blogger Matt said...

I think an argument can be made that we are in a world war. This is not a war simply involving America and its response to the Al Quaeda attacks in the U.S. on September 11, 2001. Islamic terrorists/militants/radicals, have been attacking Western or Western-backed interests at least since the 1948 establishment of Israel, through the 1980s and the present with attacks in Rome, Athens, Israel, London, Madrid, Beirut, Bali, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, and, if I'm not mistaken, your home of India as well. World Wars have begun with matters as simple as the assassination of an Austria-Hungarian Archduke by Serbian nationalists, or the invasion of Poland by Germany. When other countries are drawn in to the conflict, it's a world war. But if we are in a world war, then we should be taking steps that we take whenever we are in a world war or even a more limited war. If, on the other hand, this is not a world war, but rather, some criminal or security problem with Muslim terrorists/militants/radicals, then Bush should be taking specific steps to fight them and should not be using war rhetoric as a sneaky means to grab power, overthrow foreign governments and take our rights away at home.


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