Tuesday, September 10, 2013

When Will It End?

Tomorrow is September 11, and for twelve years now just hearing “9/11” has evoked horrifying memories of the terrorist attacks on the U.S. Those dastardly attacks triggered the War on Terror by the U.S., a “war” that continues to this day.
President Bush first used the words “war on terror” on Sept. 20, 2001, and that war officially began 17 days later, on Oct. 7, with the invasion of Afghanistan. Now called “Operation Enduring Freedom,” the war in Afghanistan continues and is now the longest war in U.S. history.
In his State of the Union address in February of this year, President Obama declared that “by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over.” While that plan seems to have strong support in the citizenry and pulling U.S. troops out of Afghanistan will likely take place as scheduled, that won’t mean an end to the War on Terror.
The burning question is: when will it end?
After seeing the movie “Dirty Wars” this summer, I had the sick feeling that there would most likely not be an end to the War on Terror during my lifetime (which I am expecting to be at least another 15 years).
Back in May, the President declared that the War on Terror “must end.” But several Republican Senators, as well as a majority of U.S. citizens, disagreed with him.
Sen. John McCain, for example, blasted the President’s declaration that the war on terror must end as premature and foolhardy, saying that a desire to bring the war “to a compete closure contradicts the reality of the facts on the ground” and declaring that “al Qaeda will be with us for a long time.”
June has often said to me that the military actions of the U.S. in Afghanistan in 2001, in Iraq in 2003, and then in many small-scale actions, such as drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen, have been like hitting hornets’ nests. Retaliatory strikes have stirred up more and more hatred toward the U.S. (This is depicted well in this recent cartoon in The Economist.)
 And now there is Syria. Even though point it does not seem to be a part of the war on terror as such, President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry are urging military action against Syria mainly because of its alleged use of chemical weapons.
A recent Pew Research Center poll, though, indicated that only 29% of the American adults surveyed favor a U.S. airstrike on Syria and 48% oppose such a strike. (The others were undecided.)
Nearly three-quarters (74%) of those polled think that U.S. airstrikes would likely create a backlash (stir up more hornets) against the United States and its allies in the region.
Nevertheless, last week the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, by a 10-7 vote, passed a resolution approving a military strike against Syria. It also set a 60-day deadline for the use of force in Syria, with an option for an additional 30 days.
This week the President is making strong appeals to Congress and to the American people, encouraging support for military force against the Assad regime in Syria.
But even if approved by Congress (which may not happen), or even if a strike is launched without congressional approval (which might happen), would such military action end within 90 days? Perhaps, but quite possibly not.
Let us pray that some good alternative to a missile strike, which now seems somewhat possible, will be implemented.


  1. Local Thinking Friend Eric Dollard sent the following comments (and his permission to post them here):

    "Thanks for your comments about the war on terror. Much of this goes back to 1953, when the Iranian government under Mohammed Mosaddegh, tried to nationalize the oil industry.

    "As is now well known, British Petroleum was able to get M16 and the CIA to overthrow Mosaddegh and reinstall the Shah. This action was an outrageous violation of Iran's sovereignty. Doesn't the oil in Iran belong to the Iranian people? As for the Shah, he was no blessing for the Iranian people.

    "Then there is the Israeli-Palestinian issue. The Likud party currently controls the government and its intention is to gradually chip away at Palestinian land until all of Palestine is part of Israel with most Palestinians excluded. We have blindly supported Israel while Israel engages in illegal land seizures, ill-treatment of Palestinians, and violations of UN resolutions.

    "We have supplied military aid and training to corrupt Arab governments including the Mubarak regime in Egypt, the Saudi royal family in Saudi Arabia, along with other governments in the area. We have been lobbing drone missiles into Pakistan and Yemen and we periodically kill innocent civilians in Afghanistan. We abused prisoners in Iraq and ran secret prisons in other lands. And yet we speak of "democracy" and respect for international law.

    "So why are we involved in a war on terror? Would any of this have happened if the Middle East had no oil? Go figure."

  2. An esteemed Thinking Friend in Kentucky sent the following much appreciated comments:

    "The prospect of Syria surrendering all of its chemical weapons is encouraging. I pray it may happen.

    "Retaliation is not a Christian virtue. It stands in direct conflict with the teaching of Jesus."


  3. Interest cartoon. Thanks for sharing it.
    Local Thinking Friend (and fellow church member) Bob Carlson sent the following comments (with permission to post):

    "Yes, 'when will it end?' Probably not in my lifetime, either.

    "At least today it looks like there might be an 'alternative' to a missile strike on Syria.

    "Will the International Community be able to collaborate? And could the US "submit" to a joint plan with Russia?

    "We certainly are at an interesting place as we face 9/11!"

  4. National boundaries are the residue of history, not rational divisions. In Africa and the Middle East these accidents were mostly the results of former colonial powers, who drew administrative lines that make little sense today as international borders. The civil war in Syria is puny compared to the much older one in Sudan, which is also a far more deadly affair. In Sudan, this is gradually resulting in more rational borders, as break-away countries are being born.

    In an ideal world, a Middle East peace conference would work out a plan to create new, rational borders. New countries like Kurdistan would appear. Old countries like Iraq and Syria would disappear. Other countries, like Turkey, would shrink (see Kurdistan above). To begin to list the likely results is also to highlight how unlikely this is. Yet, in Sudan, this is slowly and painfully happening. Joe Biden years ago said partition was the only solution to the Iraq War, and a de facto partition has in fact existed there ever since. Perhaps, if things get desperate enough, a real re-alignment will be tried. It might not solve the other "Middle East Problem," but even israel and Palestine might try real negotiations eventually.

    Similar border problems have happened in other places. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the Russians realized to their horror that a large slice of Russia was in the Ukraine, because years before Stalin had ceded it to the Ukraine as a then meaningless publicity gesture. In India, existing states get re-arranged from time to time in a effort to reduce ethnic strife, most recently resulting in a 29th state, Telagana, being put on the drawing board. Then there is the good old United States. From Texas to Arizona and California, there is a great uproar about all these Mexicans. Who do these Mexicans think they are? Who do they think won the battle of the Alamo? It is so much more fun solving problems on the other side of the world!

    Personally, I suspect Kerry's "gaffe" offer to waive the bombing of Syria if Syria's WMD were neutralized was not a gaffe at all, but rather a clever gambit, maybe even a pre-arranged signal to the Russians, who could then look good taking advantage of the "gaffe," even as they did exactly what they had agreed to do in those intense talks recently with the Americans. Call me cynical, but . . .

    1. Craig, thanks for your rather lengthy and quite meaty comments.

      What was your reaction to the President's speech about Syria last night?

      I thought it was not bad, considering the circumstances, but I was surprised at how critical some of the commentators were.

  5. I once asked in a paper: If human beings had nothing to fight over, would they stop fighting? There is some evidence that where affluence and stable and quasi-just social organization are the rule, peopl stop fighting--Western Europe, North America... We can imagine a world in which fundamental needs are met, relatively satisfactory borders are settled and accepted, and, to add some realism, where law enforcement renders severely deviant ambition not worth the effort or risk. Maybe then th war on terrorism can cease.

    1. Thanks for writing Anton. But if that is what it is going to take for the war on terror to end, that is going to be a long, long time from now, I'm afraid.