Shortly after we arrived in the United States, President Trump ordered the assassination of one of Iran’s military leaders, general Qassem Suleimani, by an unmanned drone. It really was an assassination but they call it a “targeted killing,” because assassination is illegal in the U.S. You tell me what the difference is? I suggest there is none. The hit was clean. Well relatively clean. “Only” 2 others were killed. The driver of the General’s car and one other person, presumably his body guard.
Shortly after our arrival in Arizona, Chris and I joined some of our American friends around their backyard fire. Like me, they love fires. We had a pleasant chat. It got a little dicey however when we started talking about the assassination. Usually I am better at avoiding controversy with my American friends. I am trying to be a good guest. Sometimes that is hard. Like today. But he made me do it.
My friend said if it was up to him he would “take out Iran.” This seemed astonishing to me. He said, the Americans had managed to kill Qassem Suleimani in a nice and neat operation. If the Americans could do that, he said, they should take out all of the top military leadership. He seemed to think that somehow they could obliterate the entire military that way, leaving the country intact. He said he wanted to make it clear that he was not advocating bombing the entire country into the Stone Age as General Curtis Lemay had advocated for the North Vietnamese in the Vietnam War. But he did want to “take them out” as he called it. He made it sound like precise surgery. His wife got very upset at these statements. She called them “stupid.”
I told him that I did not think the American military could be that precise and that wars are never that neat and tidy. I thought America might be able to eventually overpower the armed forces of Iran, but like the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq this would probably drag on indefinitely too. Could the US really afford one more war? Why would this one be any better?
I reminded my friend how American was still involved in the War in Afghanistan 18 years after it started. I believe it is now the longest war in American history.
I reminded him that the United States had spent $6 trillion in the Middle East since 9/11. I don’t know how many American soldiers have been killed. Thousands of Afghanis have been killed. Thousand of Iraqis as well. That is just two of the wars the US has been involved in. Was it worth it? Think of how many schools could have been built for that money? How many hospitals. How many young people could be given a free education? How many people could be given free medical care?
What has the US accomplished with all these wars? Do Americans feel safer? Is the Middle East a safer place? The people in the Middle East hate Americans even more than they did 18 years ago. What was the point?
After the assassination the Iraq government has asked the Americans to leave, fearing that their country will be turned into a battleground between Iran and the US. That is not a paranoid concern.
This discussion with my American friend made me think wars. Wars are brutal. And they never go as planned. They are never neat and tidy.
I thought about World War I–the Great War–where European soldiers battled each other in the muddy trenches of Europe for 4 years. That was a war that was started for no reason whatsoever. A bunch of European countries arguing about who could exploit which colonial countries. Finally the war was called because every country was exhausted. By then millions were dead for absolutely no purpose at all.
Then there was World War II. In that war there were clear villains. Heroes were more opaque and well camouflaged. Again millions of people were killed. Yes the allies stopped a brutal dictator who was responsible for the death of millions, bu the legacy of these wars was a century of brutality. Savagery and brutality to which the world has since grown accustomed. Some historians have even suggested the the Nazis could not have ushered int he Holocaust without the cover of war. In any event, it delivered death on an awesome scale. After that such death and brutality became matter of fact. All I am saying is the the cost of the war was incredibly high.
We sure should think twice about going to war. Cocksure claims like “taking them out” are extremely dangerous.