Twofish's Blog

July 15, 2006

What are we fighting for?

Filed under: long war — twofish @ 4:13 pm

I’m getting increasing annoyed at people like Charles Krauthammer that argue that people who talk about civil liberties don’t understand that we are at war.   I think that it is the people that want to remove civil liberties that don’t understand that we are at war and what the implications are.

War is about sacrifice.  War is about pain.  War is about suffering.  War, to quote General Sherman, is cruelty, but this cruelty is directed not only at the enemy but out ourselves.  We are at war, and we will likely be for the rest of my life.  The Long War is not going to end next year, or the year after.  We are still going to be fighting it twenty or maybe fifty or a hundred years from now, and the faster people start thinking about 2080 rather than 2008, the better off we will be.  Our adversaries are willing to fight for hundreds of years to achieve their goals.  We better have to have the same commitment in order to win.

War is about ideas and ideals.  In order to get a society to endure the costs and pain associated with a war, it is necessary to invoke some higher ideal.  Without a reason to fight, a society is going to be unwilling to undertake the sacrifices necessary for victory.  We are going to need 100,000 troops in Iraq for at least the next decade, and there is going to be this constant trickle of casualties coming in for decades.  The fact that the political leadership of the United States is unwilling to even publicly discuss this, shows how lacking in ideals this war is.

Arguments based on “comfort” and “security” won’t work, since our adversaries can set up a situation where it is more comfortable to stay home than to fight.  There has to be a cause and an ideal that it is so vital that people are willing to fight, die, and suffer for it.

And the sad part is that the obvious ideal that this war could be able is being undermined by the actions of the US government.  The United States system of constitutional government is one of the most spectacular achievements of mankind, and this war should be about establishing law, order, and constitutional government through out the war.  People have fought and died to protect the US Constitution before, and it is only by invoking the ideals of constitutional government and rule of law that people endure the pain and sacrifice of a war.

So if the war is to be about “rule of law” and “democracy” then what the hell are we doing holding people up in Guantanamo.  The thing that the United States should do is to give them defense lawyers, fair trials, and show the world what American justice looks like.  If we aren’t fighting for this, then what are we fighting for?
It’s not surprising that the military are the strongest proponents of fair courts.  A military is all about “lawful orders” and without law, a military just degenerates into an armed mob.

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