Sunday, August 21, 2005

Clash of Civilisations

Carthage and Rome were both budding Mediterranean powers who rose at the same time. The conflicts between them became known as the Punic Wars. In this we saw clashes of navy and land warfare. Perhaps the best known being Hannibal's march through Iberia, across the Pyrenees, then across the Alps, and down the Italian peninsula; by the way only one elephant survived to make it to Italy itself. Rome faced total destruction on several occasions, but under good generals willing to fight they held back the Carthaginian forces. Eventually under Scipio Africanus they took the battle to Carthage itself. The Roman victory resulted in the complete destruction of Carthage as a power, not a stone stood atop another stone and the land was salted where the city stood so nothing could ever grow again.

This month the United States is marking the 60th anniversary conclusion of another clash of civilisations. Brutal warfare that had erupted in 1932 when extremely nationalistic military forces seized part of China was finally ended in 1945 when Emperor Hirohito told his subjects that hard times were ahead but they would endure. What separated those thirteen years was littered with shattered lives, much blood, and atrocities committed by Japanese forces. Not to mention the brilliant attack on Pearl Harbor to immobilize the American Pacific Fleet and the devastating American answer to Japanese fanaticism: Little Boy and Fat Man. But America was not like Rome in one major respect, Japan still exists as a vibrant culture, an ally, and an economic powerhouse that is part of the G8.

We are in the middle of another clash of civilisations. The road to this current iteration of a long simmering conflict has many tributaries. One started with naive good intentions when President Carter convinced the Shah of Iran to abdicate. What arose was an Islamic Republic in which the Iranian people traded a secular dictator for a gaggle of religious dictators and gave these dictators a nation state to promulgate their intolerant views. Another was the European colonial powers like France and England arbitrarily creating countries after World War I which gave rise to secular dictators like Saddam Hussein and Asad. While the Saud family converted oil revenues into funding the teaching of a very fundamentalist strain of Islam called Wahhabism. And running strongly through it all was Israel and the ancient enmity between Arabs and Israelis.

September 11th, 2001, we are approaching the 4th anniversary of this attack, is the modern war's Pearl Harbor. Like Nanking and USS Panay there were warnings of the storm approaching. But American administrations thought there were more important things to worry about like Soviet tanks of the 3rd Shock Army rolling through the Fulda Gap to conquer Western Europe during Reagan's time. GHW Bush had to deal with a soft economy and Saddam Hussein invading Kuwait, a conventional conflict. Clinton accelerated the weakening of American military strength while waging peace in such far-flung countries as the former collection of countries known as Yugoslavia and Haiti. All the while American inaction or inept action after Desert One, Beirut, Mogadishu, Khobar, Kenya/Tanzania, and USS Cole convinced fanatical killers such as Saddam Hussein and Osama bint Laden that the US was cowardly.

Now after knocking over Afghanistan, who gave Osama sanctuary, and Iraq, who donated $25,000 to each Arab family who's child blew themselves up killing Israelis while harboring the mastermind of the Achille Lauro hijacking; where do we go from here? The hysterical left, amidst their mantras of Bush lied, torture at Gitmo, and Bush stole elections, wants America to run away before completing the rebuilding of these two countries. They want America to go back to ignoring the threat posed by people who harbor malicious ill will to everything American stands for and it is not for noble purposes they do this, but instead it is because George Bush is leading the fight. During the Dayton Peace Accords that decided the fate of Kosovo, I do not recall any of these people yelling how it was very imperialistic of President Clinton to impose that solution. Kosovo never attacked the US but the US and its allies spent nine years occupying Kosovo in an attempt to pacify it. The US and its allies forced that peace on Kosovo because there was nothing else that could be done, all other avenues had proven fruitless and that bubbling cauldron of ethnic hatred threatened to reignite the whole region again, the birthplace of World War I.

We can not flee from either country, we have a moral responsibility to stay and help those countries since we were the ones who toppled their totalitarian governments. As for the mantra that the US helped Saddam, then we have an even greater moral responsibility to make things right in that country. And unlike Rome or the Soviets in Afghanistan, when we do leave these two countries they wont be scorched earth barren moonscapes; just look at Japan and Germany. Until the far left starts to offer constructive alternatives to how President Bush, his cabinet, and the American military is conducting operations they are full of sound and fury signifying nothing and hence are to be ignored.

Then we have political opportunists. I present Senator Chuck Hagel[R] on ABC's 'This Week.' I have the story AP and Reuters are carrying. The writers mention Senator Hagel's Presidential aspirations for the Republican nomination in 2008 and his service in VietNam along with two Purple Hearts. "We're past that stage now because now we are locked into a bogged-down problem not unsimilar, dissimilar to where we were in Vietnam," Hagel said. "The longer we stay, the more problems we're going to have." This story already has spread to Al-Jazeera. I hope someone lets Senator Hagel know because I am pretty sure he will not like words he probably intended for national consumption encouraging those who want to kill current members of the military Hagel served in.

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