Again and again: Is Iraq Vietnam?

This is happening.

We have presidential candidates arguing over whether or not to make extralegal incursions into a nation bordering a hot conflict in order to search out sympathizers who may aid and abet our (faceless) enemy. If that sentence reads garbled, it is because the thinking it represents is a garbled translation from our past.

I have argued against the Vietnam analogy to describe our current situation, and I maintain that premise. [1] Nonetheless, recent talk surrounding Pakistan goes to show that those in power continue to think in the Cold War mindset. This is the Cambodian moment: these conflicts are spilling over borders, and we who have pushed them over now want to track them down. [2] The fronts are converging. Soon, we may seen an entire swath of battlefield stretching from Iraq, through Iran, through Afghanistan, to Pakistan. All this while murmurings continue around the world, from Georgia to Venezuela.

This is madness! Where is the anti-war voice in American politics? The current economic crisis does not pardon our blindness to the global reality. We cannot allow our military to be used as an energy corporation's private mercenary army. What are US soldiers giving their lives to defend? Freeways? The internal combustion engine? What if we dedicated the entirety of the next supplementary spending bill to developing global networks of renewable energy? [3] Would $124 billion suffice? [4]

When will we begin to public reconsider our responsibilities as global citizens?

We must say NO! No more! No more preemptive war. No more federal assaults on civil liberties. No more occupations. No more silencing the voices of dissent. If we are content with merely saying no, however, we will still be History's farce. Nor can the affirmation that follows be empty. Yes we can...but what? If we want to seize history, we must proclaim: these global problems can only be confronted by a united globe. We must admit that our current path is not a sustainable model to follow. [5] We must collaborate with others to find the correct path. We must categorically accept diplomacy over preemptive force. We must unite in a way never seen before: not under empire, but under true democracy.

[1] When we make analogies with Cold War conflicts, we already cede too much. We enter a logic of comparison that sets the Cold War outlook--one that embraced mutual assured destruction as an operational hypothesis--as the baseline world view. It must be said: that logic is mad.
[2] We already had our Gulf of Tonkin moment. Several, in fact. To name the first that comes to mind: the conflation of Sadamm Hussein with the terrorist cell headed by Osama Bin Laden. Of course, there are other historical events that should be on our mind as well. In a word: all of the colonial occupations of the twentieth century. From Algeria to Afghanistan itself, from Rhosesia to Korea.
[3] Better yet: why doesn't Congress force President of the United States to include funding for wars and foreign occupations in the federal budget?
[4] $124 billion was the amount of the proposed Supplementary Iraq Budget that George W. Bush vetoed in April 2007 because it set conditions for US troop withdraw. But while we're at it: why not arrange a federal "bailout" of the uninsured? The price of universal coverage is far lower--according to a 2004 by Hadley and Holahan published in Health Affairs, a journal funded by Project HOPE--than one year of funding the occupation. And, needless to say, it would be but a sliver of the trillion dollar bailout being arranged for the financial sector.
[5] This does not mean we forfit our ability to critique other alternatives. Neoliberalism may be awakening to its discredited nature, but that does not let authoritarian capitalism or charismatic populism off the hook.


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