Friday, November 10, 2006

The War on Terror: Part One

On September 20, 2001 President George Bush stood before a joint session of Congress and the American people and made an official declaration announcing the intentions of the United States to wage "war on terror". The President's remarks were met with bipartisan applause and affirmation as Americans all over the country could still smell the lingering stench of smoldering ruins from the ashes of the Twin Towers. The Bush Administration clearly defined the enemy as Al-Qaeda, the Taliban regime in Afghanistan harboring Osama bin Laden and likeminded Islamic extremists, and any other county of the world that openly endorsed and harbored known terrorists. His announcement and our intentions to eradicate terrorism and bring down any government that harbored terrorists seems so clear on that night. However, more than 5 years later, 700, 893 people have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, including 3043 U.S. soldiers. 1, 345, 821 individuals have been seriously wounded, including 42,845 U.S. soldiers. These numbers are staggering, but there is always a significant body count in war. We shouldn't be surprised that people are dying. But what is haunting is that our unilateral military response to 9/11, as justified as it appeared to be on September 20, has not ultimately made us safer, nor has it detracted terrorist efforts. Today we are still vulnerable to attacks on our soil (and we will always be). 9/11 only made us aware we aren't invincible. The instability in the Middle East has only emboldened terrorist organizations and there appears to be no end in sight in regards to the American presence and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. And sadly, there also appears to be no clear solution to what our foreign policy should be concerning Iraq and Afghanistan in the foreseable future.

There are many questions about whether or not the United States was justified in Her actions in the Middle East. We can blame many politicians and point finger at the Bush Administration. In fact, this is precisely what the American public did on November 7 and Americans voted to give the Democrats control of the House and Senate. Sweeping changes are inevitable as the Bush Adminstration scrambles to keep Bush from becoming a lame-duck President, and we are seeing the ripple effects of change with the resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfield, a resignation that many believe was long overdue.

Politically and geographically, the United States is in a proverbial quagmire in the Middle East. Progress has been slow in Iraq and the country is more unstable now than it was under the reign of Saddam Hussein. And while Hussein was an evil man who deservesd to be brought to justice, particulary for the crimes committed against his own people, it hardly seems that targeting his regime was the right thing to do - at this time - when it was clear than the primary culprits for the attack on American soil were in the bordering Afghanistan, and we have yet to sufficiently deal with them. There may have been a time to deal with the evil in Iraq, but hindsight clearly tells us that we overestimated how we would be received in toppling Hussein's power structure. This miscalculation is not solely the fault of Bush's Adminstration. The whole foreign policy in Iraq was approved by Congress. The blame lies, not at Bush's feet alone, but in the lap of Congress as well. But Americans have short memories and the Democrats did an outstanding job laying the blame for the problems in Iraq squarely on Bush's shoulders.

There are no clear solutions to the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan. Removing our troops will send the wrong message, a message of weakness and defeat, to those who are determined to bring down Western culture and society, and yet, the longer we remain, particularly in Iraq, the more people will die. Untold thousands of men, women and children who happened to have been providentially placed in this region of the world by God's sovereign hand will give their lives at the hands armies - both of whom think they are fighting for liberation.

Seeing as how I am no politician, I am left to wonder less about how our government should respond next - though I am clearly concerned about our foreign policy - and more about how the Church - the extension of Jesus' hands and feet in the world - has been called to respond to the chaos in the Middle East. Think about that. I am, and I'll write more on that later...


At 11:19 AM , Anonymous Nick M. said...

I have sources claiming the estimated death toll in Iraq is closer to 1,000,000 than the 700,000 you gave. It's a very sad thing, especially due to the fact that many are non-combatants. The fact is we as a nation must look forward instead of playing the blame game. There will be plenty of time for that later. I can assure you that the intelligence community is doing great things in the middle east. Our problem in Iraq lies in the fact that our hands are tied in getting the job done. War is a bloody and brutal game. The American public doesn't have the stomach to continually be bombarded by the news everyday that more troops died (even though from a historical standpoint, this has been one of the most efficiently fought wars in history in terms of troop fatalities).

As for if we are safer now, I think I tend to disagree slightly. What we've done is thrown a rock at the bee hive. We are more of a target now because we finally drew a line in the sand, but at least we now acknowledge (to an extent) the seriousness of the issue and are beginning to address it.

History is a good indicator of the future. It is true that it repeats itself. Rome fell, America will fall as well at some point... I assure you though, I'm doing everything I can make sure its not on my watch.

At 1:50 PM , Blogger Aaron said...

Nick, you're the man. Good stuff. You should definately post more often. It's obvious this post is right up your alley.


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