10 March 2008

Strange Sunday Ramble on Iraq 5 Years Later

Generation-X scholar and OYE contributor, Wek, has tipped me off to an AP article discussing the lives of Americans involved in the Iraq war 5 years after the invasion. It’s an excellent read for a Sunday, and the Tanker Brothers have already offered their insightful observations on it. Perhaps, it’s time I offer up my own modest opinions on war and the current paradigm of our American society. Not trying to be pompous, just my opinion from where I’m sitting…

Progress of civilization
For centuries, human civilization has struggled for the freedom from tyranny. Whether it be the despotism of monarchs, the atrocities of communist leaders, or even institutionalized practices which targeted specific aspects of mankind for extermination. While not perfect, American ideals defined in the constitution and by our forefathers have recognized these threats to humanity from centralized power structures and sought to create a society where the very institutions to govern were held in check. The concept of individuals each bringing their expertise to society free from discrimination has brought about the best in humanity. The American way of life, in general, cherishes the rights of the individual and allows them the means to overcome the brute struggle for survival to innovate and overcome the harsh conditions of nature that oppose human civilization. This innovation has led to more advanced agriculture, modern industrial efficiency, the combating of pestilence once rampant in urban centers, etc. Of course, mankind could not have overcome these factors without struggle. Truly, struggle and triumph is what distinguishes mankind from the animal kingdom, in which one person’s gumption and hard-work can have the effect of benefiting our entire society. In my opinion, I see the purpose of mankind’s existence to further our civilization through a combination of technological and cultural advancements, while maintaining humanity and a respect for all life itself on a sustainable course.


War can be necessary
War is a powerful method of affecting socio-political change in various parts of the world and has been employed throughout history. Our own nation was created by means of war, and that’s a reality we must understand. War is sometimes necessary. However, it should be the last method employed, due to the inevitable loss of life, waste of resources, destruction of property and the environment, and so on. I joined the military back in 2002, because I understood that our country would have to go about a war to combat the threat of Islamic extremism. I never considered myself the “military type”, but one must be willing to contribute to the common good for such an urgent situation that threatens, not just our own country, but the fabric of civilization as a whole. I did not agree with the reasons to launch an invasion into Iraq, but I volunteered to perform my small duty in Iraq in order to assist in ensuring a bad situation didn’t get worse. While a military response to nefarious elements existing in Iraq prior to the invasion are questionable, it is now necessary to ensure the viral infection of Islamic-brand terrorism is finished off in Iraq. My interest in American politics and policy stems from a desire to ensure the best leaders are democratically elected to combat this world-wide threat. To effectively destroy this threat, the international community must have comprehension of what that threat entails and what the consequences are.
A modern culture of self-destruction

My biggest fear is that people in America have chosen to neglect the reality of the task at hand in order to suit their own self-interests. The dominant trend amongst Americans involves a hopeless self-obsession with activities of mass distraction. Celebrity-gossip type news dominates the American tabloids and people are more concerned with Yoga and getting in time at the gym than the status of their armed forces. People treat their pets as though they are more important than life itself, and they are willing to consume resources endlessly regardless of consequence. This solipsist outlook is detrimental to the progress of our society. Our generation has failed to understand that defeating threats requires the collective will of a nation, and apathy in such an endeavor can be devastating. I see a lot of parallels with the Roman Empire and America as people tend to turn wealth into self-satisfying opulence, while the state provides entertainment for the uninformed masses (the analogy today would be tax-funded sports arenas). The citizens of America are more interested in what they can get from their government and corporate surrogates through the democratic process, rather than what they can provide to their fellow man. Our slavery stems from an acceptance of buying into a consumer-driven culture, where life-long debt is a reality, and all-powerful politicians are elected on the promise that they redistribute wealth in the form of government subsidies to ensure obedience. I for one was tired of feeling like a pathetic consumer, and I’m glad I’m involved myself in an organization that transcends mere selfish comforts to cause a beneficial effect on society. Certainly, there are other places than the US military to be part of something “larger than yourself”, but the military seemed the most important at the time. US forces in Iraq live with fear. Fear of IEDs, fear of getting shot, fear of being mortared (some more likely to be in harm’s way than others, obviously). While this fear is rational, I think many fear that they will return to an American society that will not understand or know how to re-incorporate them into the mainstream (which the AP article touched on). I for one fear that I will be completely disturbed by the reality that America is so out of touch with the ideals of a sustainable civilization. Is everything being done just a big waste of time in preparation for a huge economic and societal collapse? My outlook remains bleak.

15 comments:

Sisu said...

Nice post LT. It reminded me of when I read about Steve Ballmer (Microsoft CEO) and other investors committing to pledge $150million to keep the Sonics in Seattle. Nifty, huh? With wars on two fronts, a strapped military, health care crisis for civilians and vets, and on and on, we are more concerned with overpaid atheletes taking their balls and going home (or in this case, OK City) because the Key Arena isn't nice enough. We just continue to prove we are civilization's punk teenagers!

Wek said...

Scholar? You're giving me way too much credit, LT. I think you must have meant "shredder".

Great post. One of the most candid and inciteful I've read by anyone who's been in Iraq. Plus it's refreshing to read ANYTHING in this day and age that doesn't have an agenda attached to it.

Anonymous said...

While your outlook may remain bleak, again, I think it's where you look, what you're exposed to, and how you interpret it.

You're right, the waste is everywhere and the constant "I have a better video game system than you" attitude prevails. These people may not be thinking about the war and those of you in the war.

But are you looking at what comes after the war or are you only worried about yourself -- what will you do when you come home, what services will be available, who will give you a job, who will sit and listen to you expound on your thoughts about the war -- if not for this blog?

Will you involve yourself in local politics in order to make a difference or will you go out and buy a video game system??

I'm involved in crime every day and if I totally immersed myself in it, I would never leave my house and there would be bars on all the windows. It's my choice not to be a blind Susy Sunshine, but to weigh both sides and know what I can do, what I will do.
K.

LT Nixon said...

Sisu/Wek,

Thanks for the words of encouragement. I think I blacked out while I wrote it, haha. I think it made sense...uh maybe.

Anonymous said...

Ironically, it's the anti-war activist "hippies" (scourge of milbloggers everywhere) that are trying to get involved in something larger than themselves.

I think it's hard to give up the "me-first" lifestyle unless you make the issues really clear in your mind (war=bad, no matter what. You don't see a lot of bumper stickers or rally signs that say "War is usually not the answer, except when you are left with no other choice, in which case we should try to win, but behave honorably while doing so!"

So who "gets involved?" Anti-war hippies, and nationalists who want to make a difference by doing stuff like joining the military. (An lots of people in between.) People who join the military usually end up learning many more actual facts about the conflict than those who populate the anti-war echo chamber.

A-ro

David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 03/10/2008 News and Personal dispatches from the front lines.

LT Nixon said...

K,

You got me there, I haven't really thought about the future, haha, let me make it out of here first, then I'll worry about the future.

A-Ro,

I think a lot of elements in the "anti-war" caucus who carry signs and throw paint at recruiting stations operate with a certain self-righteous impunity. This does not lend to understanding or listening to differing opinions.

Caroline said...

The general population of America has no investment in the war. They have not been called upon to sacrifice anything on behalf of the fight. I think that is why they are so easily swayed to withdraw before the mission is complete. Every week my friends and I work the gate getting the soldiers any last minute items they need before they go back to complete their deployment. They leave out of a regular commercial airport terminal amongst everyday travelers. There are hundreds of soldiers standing around in their uniforms with their packs; it’s quite a sight. Between the emotional families and the Army officer's firm directions on how they will be loading the plane there is no mistake that these soldiers are headed someplace overseas. Yet not ten feet away at the next gate the passengers awaiting their flight to another major city can barely be bothered to look up from their magazine. I know not everyone shares my views, but I feel like they should at least share my respect for these service members. That is what has made me the most disappointed in my fellow Americans lately.

Raeseen K. said...

LT your argument about the reasons behind past wars and what America represents is undeniably inspiring however, I personally disagree with your assumption that it is necessary for America to finish off terrorism in Iraq. I disagree with this statement because I do not believe that America is or needs to try being the World Police. We already invaded their country based on insignificant information that was given the best thing we can now do for ourselves and the Iraqis is to get up out their country and leave them alone.

LT Nixon said...

Caroline,

Which airport do you work at? Maybe I'll bump into you some day. Thanks for the comment. There isn't any investment by the American public in the Iraq war, because it is paid for on credit and it only directly involves a small percentage of the population (military, and to a smaller extent State dept. and civilian contractors). That's the reality. The folks involved are usually insulated from the public mind. Why do you think I started this blog thing, haha.

Raeseen,

Your comment certainly deserves some discussion and I appreciate you dropping in. The false pretenses I will not dispute as I try to avoid cognitive dissonance, but humanitarian crisis in the region will most likely worsen with a hasty withdrawal. Al-Qaeda in Iraq remains a detrimental and brutal element in the country, which can possess the capability to escalate violence in a fragile state with poor infrastructure like Iraq. Although, I do agree that plans should be drawn up to exit in a responsible fashion, and this long-term security agreement that is pending disturbs me somewhat.

Caroline said...

I agree, however it doesn't make this nation’s common lack of patriotism any less disheartening.

I volunteer at the USO at the Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport. We would love to have you any time!

Anonymous said...

Caroline,
But what is it that you want people to do -- you just said, they're having tearful farewells with their families, they're also being given direction by a commander, and then you and your people are also there trying to help. So a busy, personal, but open activity is going on.

So, I should go wend my way through that crowd shaking hands and giving pats on the back, interrupting the last few minutes a wife has with her husband?
There's nothing wrong with me doing that, but I think it's as much people don't know what to say or how to approach it -- if they have not ever been directly involved. It's hard.

It's so easy to say no one does anything and you're probably right, but what is it then that you want people to do???

LT Nixon said...

Hi Caroline,

I went through ATL for R&R. Maybe when I come back I'll go through Dallas. Take care, thanks for all you do.

Caroline said...

Anonymous,

I think it might be that you have to see the dynamic of the group at the gate to understand what is appropriate. I agree, I would never disrupt the last few minutes a family has together.
I've been working that Send Off shift for just over 2 years now; in the past it was very common for other passengers to stop and stand as they were loading the plane, sometimes someone would just start clapping then before you knew it the whole terminal would be clapping.
In the past few months there seems to have been a change where the travelers sitting beside them don’t even look up at what’s happening right next to them. It might just be the way I was raised, but I was always taught to appreciate our service members, when you see them whether it’s in a parade or at the grocery store a thank you for your service is the least we can do for the amount of sacrifice that they give.

Anonymous said...

Caroline,
Thank you for answering. What you say sounds nice -- being at an airport and seeing the guys, I could stand, I could clap. That would not be so intrusive and would still show appreciation. Thanks for the tip. That helps.
K.