Browsing the archives for the war tag.

Testify. (Miliband and the “War on Terror”)

European Politics, International Politics, Politics

David Miliband, British Foreign Secretary and mini-Blair, is a bit of a twat. But today he published an op-ed in the Guardian (via Kevin Drum), which is eloquent in staking out long-lost grounds of sanity and humanity when it comes to the “War on Terror”.

It’s called, simply: ‘War on terror’ was wrong.


The idea of a “war on terror” gave the impression of a unified, transnational enemy, embodied in the figure of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida. The reality is that the motivations and identities of terrorist groups are disparate. Lashkar-e-Taiba has roots in Pakistan and says its cause is Kashmir. Hezbollah says it stands for resistance to occupation of the Golan Heights. The Shia and Sunni insurgent groups in Iraq have myriad demands. They are as diverse as the 1970s European movements of the IRA, Baader-Meinhof, and Eta. All used terrorism and sometimes they supported each other, but their causes were not unified and their cooperation was opportunistic. So it is today.

The more we lump terrorist groups together and draw the battle lines as a simple binary struggle between moderates and extremists, or good and evil, the more we play into the hands of those seeking to unify groups with little in common. [..]

The “war on terror” also implied that the correct response was primarily military. But as General Petraeus said to me and others in Iraq, the coalition there could not kill its way out of the problems of insurgency and civil strife. [..]

We must respond to terrorism by championing the rule of law, not subordinating it, for it is the cornerstone of the democratic society. We must uphold our commitments to human rights and civil liberties at home and abroad. That is surely the lesson of Guantánamo and it is why we welcome President-elect Obama’s commitment to close it.

Bold words, even now. Yeah, if he and his New Labour peers had spoken up sooner, it would have saved lives. But it’s still a message that deserves to be repeated over and again, because there are still far too many people who will not hear.

It also suggests the Brits are really, really glad to see Bush and his administration go…

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Americans: Willing to Make a Sacrifice, as Long as it’s Not Too Much Trouble

Politics, US Politics
Damned Hitler, doesnt pay his share for the gas, plays around with the radio, always wants to take the long way through the Sudetenland...

"That damned Hitler, doesn't pay his share for the gas, plays around with the radio, always wants to take the long way through the Sudetenland..."

My 93-year-old father, along with all of the other veterans at his assisted living facility, were honored yesterday for their service to the country. He is, I suppose, a member of what Tom Brokaw called the “greatest generation.” He volunteered for military duty the day after Pearl Harbor, but was rejected for bad eyesight. About a year later, the army, having become far less picky in the interim, drafted my dad and put him in a clerical position with a unit that would later be attached to 1st Army headquarters. He helped liberate Europe mostly by tabulating AWOL reports on primitive card punch machines and playing softball, but he did his duty along with millions of other servicemen and women. My mother and her sisters, meanwhile, did their part by participating in scrap metal drives, saving grease, and buying war bonds. Necessities were rationed, ordinary items became luxuries, and if anyone complained they’d be met with the same sarcastic reply: “don’t you know that there’s a war on?”

Fast forward to the present, where the Bush administration is up to its elbows in the Global War on Terror™. That war, the president has assured us, is the equivalent to the war waged against Nazi Germany and imperialist Japan. If that’s the case, however, we must ask: where’s the sacrifice? During the Second World War, it wasn’t just the troops in the field and their families who gave up something for the war effort. It was also the civilians on the home front who gave up silk stockings, new cars, pleated skirts, quality baseball, and, above all, their money in the form of taxes. By 1945, the top marginal income tax rate was 94 percent on incomes over $200,000.

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Good questions on Afghanistan

International Politics, Politics, US Politics

Over time, the place which the Afghanistan war retains in the American political conversation has become reduced to a marginal subject with an overwhelmingly symbolic role. As debate raged over the rightness or wrongness of the Iraq invasion, Afghanistan became more of an abstraction: the blank screen upon which the opponents projected the contrast and comparison they needed for their argument.

Image used under a CC license from Flickr user vendrán mañana

Image used under a CC license from Flickr user vendrán mañana

For Republicans, Afghanistan was Iraq’s little brother, mostly ignored but useful as illustration for the case that we’re fighting a global, interconnected War on Terror. For most Democrats and Obama supporters, meanwhile, Afghanistan has become “the good war”, the other war, the war you do support. The waning fortunes of the allied troops in Afghanistan appear most only as useful demonstration for the argument that Bush dropped the ball on Al-Qaeda and that Iraq was a ‘distraction’.

Either way, the answer seems almost unanimous: we need to stay in Afghanistan. And finish the job. The Republicans think it’s important – they’re totally about the War on Terror. Hey, it was their idea! The Democrats, too, want to invest more resources in Afghanistan; their very urge to do so is the proof of their military toughness bona fides, the deflection of any accusation of pacifism.

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