I wrote before about Dan Simmons’s message vis-a-vis the current conflict(s) and the response he got from readers. What gives me the heebie-jeebies is first the eerie possible reality he suggests, but even more so the response of so many of his “enlightened” readers. To paraphrase dog show commentator Buck Laughlin: they went after him like he was made out of ham, throwing around buzzwords like ‘intolerance’ and ‘xenophobe’ and whatnot. But as far as I can tell, the current climate–indeed the climate for the last fifty years–in the Middle East indicates that Simmons et. al. might be onto something. In other words, WWIII (or WWIV) might already be going on strong. Will we be fighting the same war a hundred years from now? If so, is there anything that can be done to avoid it? The news, whether it uses the word or not, sure sounds like war is going on now: Iran’s latest warningsHezbollah’s latest warnings/threatsCategory error on the US’s part, according to a conservative
Haven’t politicians (US and otherwise) been reluctant to call anything a war for a long time? With apologies to Forrest Gump, “I may not be a smart man, but I know what war is.” Sure, Iraq’s a “war” in the minds of some, but isn’t it really a front in a wider war that includes military warfare with tanks and guns and bombs and missiles, as well as the less conventional guerrilla means employed by Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, Hamas, and others; as well as diplomatic/psychological warfare in the form of rhetoric and suicide bombings and the unending messages from OBL and his confederates or lieutenants; and economic warfare, in the form of energy production. We don’t like to speak of it much, but the Middle Eastern nations produce the majority of the world’s oil. (Top producers? Iraq and Iran, and Saudi Arabia and
Kuwait. What we have stockpiled couldn’t keep Franklin County, GA, lit for long, much less burgeoning megacities like Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Dallas/Ft. Worth and
And on those three fronts—military, psychological/diplomatic, and economic—the
US and the West in general seem to be, if not losing, then treading water. We have thrown millions, nay billions, of dollars of materiel into the sinkhole of Afghanistan/Iraq. And though we can demonstrate some steps forward, it sometimes seems like walking in quicksand–sure, there’s forward movement, but if you’re not really watching, you’ll spend the rest of your short life underground.
1. On Front One: Military, we are fighting a Revolutionary-War-like conflict in at least one important sense: British soldiers came to the colonies expecting one kind of fight, but they found something far different. The war here was a guerilla war, and noble conflict didn’t happen. The Minutemen shot from behind trees, attacked in the dead of night, all that kind of stuff, while the British tried to fight like gentlemen. And in Iraq and the rest of the
Middle East, the same thing is true. While the US and
Israel try desperately to spare civilians while striking enemy targets, the enemy bunkers down in neighborhoods.
Consider, too, that despite lots of rhetoric, the axis of evil Bush mentioned five years ago remains largely untouched and unaddressed, apparently accumulating materiel and stockpiling it or funneling it to guerrillas on multiple fronts: North Korea to Iran, Iran to Hezbollah and Iraqi rebels,
Syria to Hezbollah. That’s what war looks like; we and our allies are doing the same thing in Iraq and
Afghanistan. Even the Iraqi prime minister says Iraq is a front in a larger war. (I’m not advocating preemptive strikes against these countries, btw; I’m just wondering ‘aloud’ about friends and not-friends. We will have to decide what price we are willing to pay for real victory. Incidentally, I think we have yet to realize the real nature of some of our ‘friends’ in the region, e.g.,
2. Which brings me to Front Two. When IDF or US troops kill civilians, Al-Jazeera and its friends in the Western media immediately show families swathed in grief, carry angry quotes from families whose family members have died, and generally make the
US look like Nazi Germany. (Case in point: this cartoon from the Oslo,
Norway Dagbladet.) And Western media outlets are weapons in other ways. Their choice of language (e.g., foreign terrorists in
Iraq are insurgents) seriously affects the way the public sees, first, the enemy and second, the war.
And finally, what about the way the American right and left (rightly) decry abuses by the US in
Iraq and elsewhere while ignoring the far more serious and longstanding abuses by our enlightened “allies.” Again, that’s not to excuse our abuses; I’m just trying to point out the psy-ops going on here. For example, consider Afghanistan (which recently sentenced a Abdel Rahman to death for converting to Christianity), Saudi Arabia,
China (a trade ally, if not a military ally).
3. Which brings me to Front Three: Economics. China is our trade ally (now with permanent Normal Trade Relations status), and they maintain close ties with
North Korea (see the above chain of materiel). But energy, primarily in the form of oil, represents a powerful weapon in the hands of Middle Eastern nations. The
US’s dependence on foreign oil continues to increase, and our stockpiles will only last a couple months if we completely lose foreign imports. Now, we are not as dependent on Middle Eastern oil as we have been at times, but we must acknowledge that, through their control of OPEC, they can hurt us and hurt us bad if they choose to. Witness the oil embargo of the early Seventies, during a regional war (the Yom Kippur War) not unlike
Israel is now becoming embroiled in. If Israel faces other enemies—e.g., Syria and
Iran—this could fast become the most important front in the big war.
So there you have it. I have no doubt I’m out of my depth here, and these are just my own thoughts (cobbled together from those of others; no new thoughts, you know). I also have no illusions about the firestorm I may be inviting. The more important question, from my perspective, than the ones I mentioned in the first paragraph is where Christians belong, philosophically and practically. So many of the people I generally agree with in the States are vehemently leftist on this issue. On the other side, though, you have ideologues encouraging unwavering support for Israel on a variety of bases.
I’m not particularly ideological in either direction, but this seems a very important concern, and I find myself wobbling on a highwire in the middle. After all, the gospel is good news for the whole world, and God knows (literally) we need some good news in the world right now. And while people and Christians on either side of my highwire seem to be alternately shaking and steadying the wire as they cajole and sell their POV. Can I join either side with a clear conscience? Or will their jostling throw me off? If that happens, where will I land?
I’m not sure what’s below, but it’s an awful long way down.