Everywhere everyday, Americans, except those lucky enough to have spent the past eight years on another planet, are bludgeoned in the dominant media with two questions: How do we withdraw undefeated from Iraq? And how do we achieve victory in Afghanistan? Not one person with access to audiences beyond family and friends has failed to answer these questions mostly in the form of advice to our new president and no two answers are compatible, much less concurring.
But, like a line encompassing a multitude of dots, those multifarious answers are united by a false assumption, bound together, as it were, by a twisted rope of culpable ignorance. All answers I’m aware of assume that intramural ends can be solved by extramural means. In other words, they take it for granted that political, ethnic and religious divisiveness in the Middle East can be homogenized—neoconservatives say democratized—by our superb military forces, thus enabling a joyous withdrawal from Iraq and cries of “victory” in Afghanistan. More specifically, we can succeed in those benighted countries because our military is the best in the world and our civilian leadership is the most altruistic.
This is not only nonsense, it is delusional and hallucinatory. It’s as if our government leaders learned nothing from the ignominious British failure after World War I; as if Korea and Vietnam never happened; as if the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan (1970s) was irrelevant. Have the minds of policy makers been so drugged that they cannot remember our past and therefore must repeat it?
Oceans of blood flowed in India and the United States to demonstrate the simple truth preached by Gandhi and Martin Luther King: Violence begets only violence. We succumbed to madness, ignored the lessons of history and like fools rushed in, invading Iraq on false pretenses, rolling with shock and awe to a sort of climax at the end of 2004 with the annihilation of Fallujah and now we’re as tightly stuck as the proverbial Br’er Rabbit to the Tar-Baby. It would be comic were it not so tragic. Our most recent example of ineptitude occurred when we feigned detachment and stood silent as Israel’s awesome military invaded the Gaza enclosure and, intending to annihilate hostile Hamas, destroyed buildings and killed more women and children than militants.
You don’t need the brains of a brain surgeon to know that you can’t cut wood with a hammer or that you can’t make a horse drink. You do need objectivity to see that brutality produces brutality, that perpetrators of savagery will be its recipients.
In matters of such overwhelming barbarity folk-wisdom and mundane metaphors may seem frivolous, irrelevant or weird but actually they are no weirder than trying to solve internal problems with external force. What stupendous death-dealing folly—to sow havoc and reap more havoc.
Marvin Chachere is a San Pablo resident.