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December 19, 2006

So how did we get here?

How did we get to a place where major politicians are clashing about whether or not we should have a war?

I'm amazed by how easy it is for me and for others to think that this is normal. For some reason we think that war is just another political issue that can be endlessly hashed and rehashed, bandied back and forth across the aisle, put in countless political mailings, the war's popularity the subject of every blog and newscaster. (Now that I've got this post up, mine included.)

It wasn't always this way. Once upon a time everyone believed that "politics stops at the water's edge." That sort of thing is one of the foundations of our democracy. Nobody would make a treaty with us if they knew that next election might bring a new party to power who wouldn't honor it.

War is an especially grave undertaking, literally. It means that people will die, and not always the bad guys. Sometimes the good guys will die. There will be some people who die who will be innocent, some who will be not so innocent, and some who were maybe sorta bad and sorta good. It's not called the fog of war for nothing.

Opposing war may sound good. It may seem nice and caring to oppose the death of people. Unfortunately, what actually ends up occurring is that we look like bickering children and a divided House of Representatives. A divided house, you may recall, according to Abraham Lincoln, architects, and God, will not stand.

For one of the first times (possibly the first in our democracy?) we're beginning to believe that a new party coming to power will mean a change in our foreign policy. If that does come to pass, everyone in the world will come to trust us less and respect us less. I don't care how much we love the U.N. or listen to the concerns of other nations- if we back down now, other people will always know that we can't be relied on. Our friends will dismiss us, and our enemies will pick at us. Whether or not America's image in the world has been tarnished, and anti-Americanism has risen because of the war in Iraq, it can only fall further if we change our political cast, shuffle our political cards, and say to the world, "Just kidding!" The world may be a stage, but it isn't a comedy hall. When the terrorists are shouting death chants and running towards their victims, nobody can hear a two-faced joker.

Now I'd like to issue a rebuttal to an argument I heard the other day against the war. It says that we cannot claim that we are fighting for the freedom and self-government of Iraq. Why? We aren't fighting for the freedom of people in the remaining two members of the nouveau Axis of Evil, Iran and North Korea. Neither are we defending helpless villagers from their own countrymen in the Sudan.

Therefore, the argument concludes, since we aren't fighting wars for the freedom in those places, we must not really be fighting for freedom in Iraq.

It seemed like an odd argument to me. If one were to respond to the argument by actually invading Iran, the other side would come back with "What about North Korea?" If we invaded North Korea as well, the other side would say, "What about the Sudan?" This is just a guess, but if we were to invade the Sudan as well, the other side would say, "We've overextended our military!" I don't know if by that point we actually would have overextended our military or not, but it is a logical concern.

What then is the solution? Should we attempt to invade the whole world simultaneously to set right its wrongs?

Should we do nothing but buy stuff for ourselves and create massive spending government spending programs so we can lie in bed all day?

I think it's clear that neither solution is moral, nor are they particularly good ideas either. Not every wrong is best righted by invasion. And if we lie about in ease, someday someone's going to beat us up and take all of our stuff, or steal large portions of it when we're sleeping.

The only logical solution left is to start someplace and try to fix it. I think we've forgotten that our strong and decisive action in Iraq convinced Libya to give up its nuclear weapons program. Iran hasn't been that generous, but at least we know now where we stand, and are no longer in a fog (largely self-induced) about its intentions.

So why not start in Iraq? We're already there no matter what you think of the war. It's scary and dangerous to stay, and it's hard to bear the thought of families without parents, of terror and death during holidays.

It would, however, be much more frightening to run home with our tails between our legs. We could use all sorts of pretty words to dress it up, but that would be the result. If we did that, then our enemies would understand that all they have to do is cause us pain and we'll do whatever they want. That's not a good idea when the terrorists' stated objective is to take over the world. Death and cruelty spreading across the globe is a horrifying prospect.

Perhaps we haven't been able to prevent much of that spread of terrorism (although we're probably doing better than we may ever know.) We're just humans, and we don't know the perfect way to stop all of the evil occurring around the world today. I'd still rather muddle through, making mistakes, but giving my best shot to stopping the spread of evil, than declare that because I can't do something right, I should do nothing at all. If the free world does nothing and buys a few more years of luxury, then the whole world's going to pay dearly. No one will escape an enemy willing to kill us anywhere on the globe.

If my fingers had any decency (and any sense of drama,) they'd be trembling on the keyboard right now. It's one thing to have these political opinions and convictions. It's another thing to ask other people to place themselves in harm's way, and to die, for these ideas.

May the soldiers and families whose sacrifices allow me to type these opinions in safety and comfort be protected by the Most High, and may all the world have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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