The name given to World War I, before the world knew it would have a sequel, was The Great War. Europe had seen nothing like it before. It was called the War to End All Wars. A noble thought, but in retrospect, we see that the title was, at the very least, misguided.
Now we stand at the threshold of yet another war proposed to end war, so it might be prudent to think about what conditions led to the Second World War, only a few years later. The justification used by the madman who led Germany to action in that time was that they had suffered a collective dishonor, a collective injustice, foisted upon them by external international forces. His words were believed in not because they themselves were persuasive, but because the people he was speaking to had felt real loss, and wanted to do something about it.
Wars are not fought by ideologies. This war that is proposed by the White House will not be a war of Western Democracy against Fundamentalist Islam. It will be a war of people against people. People with memories, with lost loved ones, with personal struggles that are only sure to be worsened by the strife of war. And where did this war come from?
The United States armed the Mujahadeen to fight Soviets in Afghanistan. Those weapons, and the training we offered, became the inheritance of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. In the Summer of 2012 we began arming certain rebel groups in Syria (meanwhile ignoring others who were mounting effective media campaigns without weapons), favoring them because they violently opposed both Al-Qaeda and the regime of Bashar Al-Assad. Is it any wonder, then, that those weapons ended up in the hands of this current threat, the so-called “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant”?
The Levant is a name for the territory that was carved up in the wake of the First World War. It was carved up by foreign powers to satisfy imperial appetites for resources and prestige. But the real people who lived there, the Kurds, the Alawites, the Druze, the Nizari, became separated by artificial borders, cut off from families and given new national identities and dictators propped up for the profit of European concerns.
Al-Baghdadi, the one who has claimed to be the legitimate Caliph of a dawning Islamic State is undoubtedly as evil as Hitler. He must be stopped. But as we stand on the verge of another war, let's pause to consider: What is our endgame? Are we poised to once again create the conditions for the next war? Is our strategy really a strategy? Is this war really a pursuit of justice, or is it in fact the pretense that helps our American corporate powers scoop up Syria's resources at bargain prices, while funding the weapons manufacturers who profit whether we win or lose? Who profit whether our own service members live or die?
What the current AUMF against the so-called Islamic State lacks is a victory condition. Section five of the authorization defines America's enemy as “individuals and organizations fighting for, on behalf of, or alongside ISIL or any closely-related successor entity in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.” We have defined not a war to end a war, but a war to continue endlessly war.
This authorization is criminal, misguided, and certain to create more enemies. Instead of timetables, we should recognize that the only way to end a war is to begin peace. When the dust clears and the leaders of this current uprising are quelled, we must have a diplomatic framework in place that offers us a chance to build lasting peace with the stakeholders in the region.
As followers of the Justice Party know, however, that sort of proposal will never be made by a Democratic or Republican White House, because of how deeply entrenched the military-industrial complex is within our government. An end to hostilities means invariably a slump in sales. A Justice Party White House would know, however, that the true cost of war is measured in lives, not in polling numbers or in dollars.