By Matthew Hoh, Senior Fellow, Center for International Policy; Iraq War Veteran
Whenever I sit down to write something about war, particularly about the lust for war so often found in the halls of Congress, I have to stop myself from utilizing phrases such as “hard to believe” or using words like “inconceivable.” As the United States has not waged a successful military campaign of greater than a few weeks in almost 60 years, I continue to choke on these thoughts, but, time and again, military force, with all its attendant death, loss and ineffectiveness, is promulgated by members of both political parties as a remedy for overseas ills, real or imagined. The repetition of Washington’s call to arms manifests as a form of black comedy: it is funny until you realize its horror.
Iran, and its civilian nuclear program, is a continuing target for the self-stylized warrior-diplomats of this Capitol Hill farce. The folly and uselessness, let alone the blood, cost and counter-productivity, of recent U.S. military campaigns in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, plus the seemingly endless U.S. targeted assassination campaign, primarily through a fleet of drones that kill far more innocents than actual terrorists, have obviously had little effect on the reason or intellect of the war-crazy in both the House and Senate.
Several times a year, various members of Congress, prompted by the consistent and substantial donations of the Israeli lobby, rise to denounce a non-existent Iranian nuclear military program, offering pieces of legislation that would bind the hands of American negotiators and ultimately force us into military confrontation with Iran’s nearly eighty million people. Senators Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and Bob Menendez’s (D-NJ) latest letter to President Obama, occurring as our professional diplomats negotiating with Iran are reaching an important point, signal Senators Graham and Menendez’s willingness for war and rejection of any sane or intelligent attempts at peace.
Now the Iranian people are cursed with a regime that is oppressive and authoritarian. Iran must reform, but it also must be brought back into the community of nations. Likewise, Israel has a right to exist in peace, absent of fear. These conditions are not contradictory in peace, but are impossible to attain in war. A war with Iran would unleash circumstances within the Middle East that would greatly threaten Israel’s well being, eliminate opportunity for democratic development in Iran, cost countless American lives, and engender global economic collapse. Attacking Iran would set into motion events beyond our control. War is a breeding ground of unintended consequences; please see Afghanistan and Iraq if you have any doubt.
Such desire for war in our nation’s capital is rooted in the pursuit of power, wealth, resources and because many in Washington, DC believe in the romantic fairy tale of war: a modern myth of smart war conducted with precision missiles and bombs, governed by all knowing intelligence systems and led by camera friendly generals with PhDs. Of course, war, albeit only initially, polls very well with voters, and there are no greater attacks against a political opponent than to insinuate he or she does not support the troops or that he or she is somehow weak-kneed and unable to measure up to America’s frontier, John Wayne, tough guy persona.
Needless to say, many of the most vocal in the push for war have never been to war or, if they have, have been billeted in such outposts as military law offices. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), with actual combat experience, is one of the few exceptions to this Capitol roost of chicken hawks. But to understand Senator McCain’s passionate and personalized fever for the imaginary glory of war, I must fall back on the all too discerning, simple and perfect final words of David Lean’s Academy Award winning war epic, The Bridge Over the River Kwai: “Madness.”
However, as we saw last year, when the Sunday morning talks shows fought with one another to host one politician louder than the next arguing for American entry into the Syrian civil war, public opposition, in the way of phone calls, emails and letters to members of Congress, stopped American bombers from taking off towards Syria, Marines wading ashore its beaches, and American paratroopers from landing among Syria’s multitude of fighting factions. War, as much as politicians want it, is by no means a certainty.
The daftness that blankets members of Congress and their war junky enablers residing in the media, in think tanks and in industry, does not extend to the American people. You do not need to have served in Afghanistan and Iraq to know those wars were worthless, and to say so, nor do you need to possess any special title or degree to know a war with Iran would be ruinous.
After you read this, do as you did with Syria, step forward and tell Washington, DC, we are not going to war with Iran. Peace and prosperity lie in negotiations and diplomacy and not in the black comedy of Senators Graham and Menendez. Call your members of Congress and tell them today: Enough. No to war.