Thursday, October 23, 2008

How Do You Win A War?

"Just once I'd like to hear Barack Obama say he wants to win the war in Iraq." - Governor Sarah Palin, October 2008

We hear a lot of talk about winning the war in Iraq and in Afghanistan. But I find myself wondering, how do you actually win a war? I was not raised a pacifist, nor do I consider myself one now, though I may aspire to be one someday. I was raised by “god-fearing, Christian” parents who believed in right and wrong. Everyone who was not on the side of the god-blessed United States of America was wrong. Many in our family have served in the armed forces defending our rights and freedoms. I, myself served in the United States Army many years ago, though I was in school the entire time and far from any combat. So to come to these musings is not a product of upbringing as much as a middle-aged person whose ideas of what is right and wrong have matured into actually questioning past assumptions.

Now, more than ever before, it is a time to question one's assumptions. As a business person, I would say a cost analysis of war seems prudent. Cost of War on Iraq = at least 1,277,564 human lives lost (includes 4,186 American, 1,273,378 Iraqi lives), countless wounded, and $592,613,864,699 Iraq War Cost. So what did we get for this huge expense? Saddam Hussein is dead - well despite my reverence for life, I can’t get too upset about this fact. We have secured a major oil producing country- I don’t want to get into this issue too much, but it is an outcome. We have brought democracy to a middle eastern country- kinda, sorta, maybe someday? though probably not. We have made the Iraqis safer— not really. We have made the United States safer— I wish. I guess I could get into more details on the spoken and unspoken, debatable and real outcomes of this war, but even if you find all the outcomes to be positive, which I personally do not, I still do not see the cost benefit. In business, you would never make it with this kind of ROI. Again, how can we win when we have already lost so much?

However, we are supposed to continue on for the Win? I just don’t see how transferring over a trillion dollars of American hard-earned cash to Iraq is winning. I just don’t see how losing over 4000 American military lives as a win— no matter how noble their sacrifice. I do honor our service men and women, past, present and future. But as a citizen it is my right and my responsibility to question the decisions of my government. Is this not what we are fighting for? I do see that we need oil, America’s production of oil has been in steady decline since 1970, in spite of an exponential increase in drilling. But almost $600 billion dollars (financial cost of Iraq war) would buy a lot of oil without the cost in lives.

In more general terms; what do you actually win in a war? Land, territory, money, rights, lives, freedom, power? What of these is really important? What of these is worth the cost? What of these could not be won in any other way or with any other strategy? What have we won or will we win that could possibly be seen as a clear “win?” When I think of winning something, I think of winning the lottery – a fools hope; winning a game – not usually that important; or winning an account – could make or break your business but not worth killing over. So on the eve of this year’s election, ask yourself, what would winning this war mean to you? And is it worth the price that we have already paid?

Now, if you want to ask a more pointed question, How can we win peace? The options increase exponentially. An actual plan begins to shape in the far-corners of my mind, as I unconsciously begin to roll up my sleeves for the work ahead. As Mother Theresa said, "I was once asked why I don't participate in antiwar demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I'll be there."

Isn’t it time to take off the win vs. lose, black and white interpretation of war? The problems we face are far more complex than any of us wants to admit, but we must admit it in order to have any hope of making this world better for ourselves and our children. Instead of being reactive (from a war mentality) let us be proactive for Peace and find real victory in our days to come. For I have completely lost interest in war. Winning or losing. I find Peace much more interesting. How do you win peace? Now lets think about that...

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