Fast fact: for the cost of those 100 cruise missiles we lobbed at Colonel Gaddafi, we could have provided safe drinking water to the entire population of Congo. (HT) This depressed me so much that I went out and bought a Megamillions ticket. Given the waste, fraud and abuse at the highest levels of the federal government, somebody needs to be throwing some serious cash at some seriously important priorities.
I'll have to pay half of the $300 million in taxes. $70 million for water and sewer in Congo. That leaves $75 million. I'll keep enough to take the family to Iona every summer, and the rest I figure I'll give to some peace oriented think tank to convince the American people that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Because we are a well-intentioned people. We saved the world from Hitler, didn't we? (Well, with an assist from the Brits who stood in the gap, along with 30 million dead Russians.)
True, true, true.
But good intentions are more than made up for by the awful misery of war. Ever since World War II, we well-intentioned people with a ginormous military have been running around the world like a bull in a china shop. "The Good War" blinds us to an unpleasant truth: we have little to show for all the wars since then. Consider:
- Korea: Technically, the war's not over yet. Check back in 5 or 50 years.
- Vietnam: We lost the war. We lost 57,000 lives. Only the Civil War split the country worse. We still aren't over it.
- Lebanon: disaster.
- Grenada: victory!
- Libya: I don't know that bombing Gaddafi in the '80s accomplished anything, but it felt good at the time, didn't it?
- Gulf War: Won the war. Lost the peace.
- Haiti: we invade them periodically. Can't tell that it makes much of a difference.
- Somolia: a fiasco. Read all about it in Black Hawk Down.
- Kosovo: this appears to have been a success.
- Afghanistan. How much blood and treasure does it take to eliminate some guys armed with box cutters living in caves? How many generals would Lincoln have fired by now? This deference to military brass who clearly don't know how to prosecute this war is an unfortunate legacy of Vietnam.
- Iraq: FUBAR.
- Libya: stay tuned.
Madeleine Albright famously asked Colin Powell, "What's the point of having this superb military you're always talking about if you can't use it?" But doesn't our track record belie the seemingly obvious implication of her question? Our most successful postwar deployment--to Europe as part of NATO--was in a purely defensive posture.
Long story short: we really need to stop starting wars.
And even when the others guys start it, we do have choices about how to respond. I remember right after 9/11 Jacques Chirac was paying a visit to Washington, and a reporter asked him about "The War on Terror," and he declined to characterize the effort against Al Qaeda as a "war." That struck me as strange at the time, but Stanley Hauerwas has made the point repeatedly that the term "war" properly describes a conflict between states, and when you talk about a "War on Terror," you aren't signaling your awesome determination so much as you are granting a state-like dignity to a rabble of religious fanatics. And you ought not do that.
It makes you wonder: what if we hadn't gone to war against Al Qaeda in 2001? What if we responded in a purely law enforcement mode? Has the war really made any difference in terms of our security, or could we have stopped the use of airplanes as projectiles simply with stopping the flow of money to Al Qaeda and stopping known terrorists from boarding planes?
I will spent the other $70 million raising these questions in public.
And No. I will not give you any money. You have clean drinking water. Your kids don't die from diarrhea. You don't have problems. Talk to the hand.