* A Rare Political Post

Ten percent of troops in Iraq may have tours of duty extended by four months.

Today, the Pentagon announced that 15,000 of the 145,000 troops currently stationed in Iraq may have their tours of duty extended by 120 days. In a losing war, this is bad news for all involved parties.

I generally avoid issues relating to controversial subjection such as sex, politics, and religion, both in this blog and in my personal life. I vote in elections but avoid public meetings on issues. If I am on the opposite side of a political issue than some of my friends or family, then I’d rather not know than risk the relationships. I have never joined a political party – and have spread my votes among several parties – simply because no one party reflects my beliefs. I prefer to be an independent thinker, an independent voter.

That said, I have always been opposed to the war in Iraq, for various reasons. When our biggest ally in the region, Israel, is absent and silent on the issues of the day; when our friends and former friends in the United Nations are consulted only as a mater of convenience, not consulted, or consulted and ignored; when we try to pick sides in a civil war between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, who dislike each other, dislike the United States (probably more than each other), and dislike our biggest ally in the Middle East (more than all); when our President ignores the will of the people, the Congress, and arguably the courts; when we put short-term issues ahead of long-term policy; then we have a recipe for disaster, one that won’t be remedied by troop “surges” or extensions of tours of duty.

I feel genuine pain for the kids (they are mostly kids) and their families who are desperately waiting for them to come home, hoping against hope they their loved ones won’t be counted among the increasing numbers of American casualties. When I was young and idealistic, I joined the military, serving on active duty in the Air Force. I know what it means to love your country, to want to serve out of a true sense of patriotism, and to have one’s patriotic ideals shattered by the illogical realities of war and politics.

Does anyone remember how the current crisis in Iraq started? And by “current,” I mean “in my lifetime,” since conflict in the Middle East goes back thousands of years. It all started with reflagging Kuwaiti ships in the late 1980s. I recall vividly, because I was in the Air Force on active duty when the First Gulf War started. I was an AFROTC cadet at MIT when that war was brewing. On 12/09/87, when I was 21 and a student at MIT, I wrote a paper (somewhat ironically for an Air Force ROTC class) called “Crescendo To Panic,” which I’ve republished today (under its original date) and which I quote from below:

“If the issue is simply whether or not to escort Kuwaiti tankers, then it is clear that there is no need for our presence. The assumptions that the US needs the oil and that we are the only ones who can ensure its safe passage are both erroneous. The issue is much larger than that. In a geopolitical sense, the world is seeing yet another departure from East/West preconceived notions of normalcy. These notions grew out of the rubble of WWII. The only difference is that the latest wave of revolutions in the so-called ‘Arc of Crisis’ was neither instigated by nor can it be dictated by either Superpower. Given the lessons of Iran and Egypt, the whole notion of power projection is defunct. Our presence in the Gulf, therefore, is unwarranted. The Soviets seem to have learned their lesson [from Afghanistan]. The US hasn’t. To date we have been fairly lucky, but unless the US disappears from the Gulf, we will experience escalation, a crescendo to irrational unnecessary panic, and finally, our luck will disappear.”

Now keep in mind that the above was written in 1987 by a 21-year-old student (with political aspirations) whose only foreign policy experience were trips to Finland as a child. So it’s not exactly a doctoral dissertation. The author does, however, make convincing arguments based on logic and gets his facts straight. Which is more than you can say for the current U.S. administration.

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