According to a new analysis from Bloomburg News:

This month, as the last U.S. combat forces left Iraq, the holiday parade in Hickory, North Carolina, featured a first: marchers carrying the names of all the state’s troops who died in that war and in Afghanistan.

“The older men stood and saluted; some people cried,” said Mike Beasley, an ex-Marine who organized the display through his church. “It opened a lot of people up to what had happened.”

Places like Hickory, with a population of 40,010, bore much of the burden of Iraq war casualties. Roughly half of those who died came from towns with fewer than 50,000 people, and of those, about a quarter were from places with less than 10,000, a Bloomberg analysis of U.S. Census figures suggests.

The all-volunteer military gets many front-line troops from rural areas, where there’s a culture of patriotism, a tradition of service and often limited economic opportunities, said Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow in defense policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

“Infantry forces, which take the brunt of a lot of the casualties, do tend to draw predominantly from these regions,” O’Hanlon said.

This statistic is even more telling when you consider that while one-half (1/2) of the troop that died came from rural areas; only 10% of the US population lives in such areas. In other words, one-half of the deaths came from just 10% of the US population.

And yet, most Congresspersons representing rural areas  like Alabama Cong. Mike Rogers (see here and here) seem to agitate for more war & any war.

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Andrew Bacevich on the legacy of the Iraq War:

Central to that legacy has been Washington’s decisive and seemingly irrevocable abandonment of any semblance of self-restraint regarding the use of violence as an instrument of statecraft. With all remaining prudential, normative, and constitutional barriers to the use of force having now been set aside, war has become a normal condition, something that the great majority of Americans accept without complaint. War is U.S.

“The very word ‘war’, therefore, has become misleading.  It would probably be accurate to say that by becoming continuous, war has ceased to exist. … War is Peace.” – from George Orwell’s 1984

In a surreal article entitled “A decade after the 9/11 attacks, Americans live in an era of endless war,” the Washington Post proves 1984 has arrived. Discussing the Pentagon’s most recent war assessment, the article recounts:

Today, radical religious ideologies, new technologies and cheap, powerful weapons have catapulted the world into “a period of persistent conflict,” according to the Pentagon’s last major assessment of global security. “No one should harbor the illusion that the developed world can win this conflict in the near future,” the document concludes.

By this logic, America’s wars are unending and any talk of peace is quixotic or naive. The new view of war and peace has brought about far-reaching changes in agencies such as the CIA, which is increasingly shifting its focus from gathering intelligence to targeting and killing terrorists. Within the military the shift has reshaped Army bases, spurred the creation of new commands and changed what it means to be a warrior.

On the home front, the new thinking has altered long-held views about the effectiveness of military power and the likelihood that peace will ever prevail. . .

“To be honest there was a certain surrealism about it,” Coglianese wrote. “For this very small slice of American children this way of life is completely normal.

Compare this new thinking in DC with Thomas Jefferson’s vision of military and foreign affairs:

I have ever deemed it fundamental for the United States never to take part in the quarrels of Europe. Their political interests are entirely distinct from ours. Their mutual jealousies, their
balance of power, their complicated alliances, their forms and principles of government are all foreign to us. They are nations of eternal war. All their energies are expended in the destruction of the labor, property, and lives of their people. On our part, never had a people so favorable a chance of trying the opposite system of peace and fraternity with mankind, and the direction of all our means and faculties to the purposes of improvement instead of destruction.

“War” not “peace” was the dirty word for Jefferson, Washington, Adams, and Madison. America is now actually a “nation of eternal war.” Evidently, you cannot even speak of “peace and fraternity” in DC any longer. The article even shows a bit of actual 1984 “newspeak.”

“Peace,” meanwhile, has become something of a dirty word in Washington foreign-policy circles. Earlier this year, the House voted to cut all funding for the congressionally funded U.S. Institute of Peace.

Although the money was eventually restored, the institute’s leadership remains convinced that the word “peace” in its name was partially to blame for its woes. The word is too abstract and academic, said Richard Solomon, the institute’s president.

Solomon suggested one alternative: the U.S. Institute for Conflict Management.

I suppose “Permanent War for Permanent Peace” is now the official policy in DC.

Where is the Tea Party on this? The Tea Party’s loves to cite the Founding Fathers on every subject? Would the Founding Father be proud of our “endless war” and “persistent conflict.”

What would the Founding Fathers do, in deed?

  • No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare. ~James Madison
  • If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy. ~James Madison
  • America has abstained from interference in the concerns of others, even when the conflict has been for principles to which she clings….She goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and
    vindicator only of her own. ~John Quincy Adams
  • There never was a good war or a bad peace. ~Benjamin Franklin
  • Observe good faith and justice toward all nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all. ~George Washington
  • Peace and abstinence from European interferences are our objects, and so will continue while the present order of things in America remain uninterrupted. ~Thomas Jefferson
  • The loss of liberty at home is to be charged to the provisions against danger, real or imagined, from abroad. ~James Madison
  • If there is one principle more deeply rooted in the mind of every American, it is that we should have nothing to do with conquest. ~Thomas Jefferson
  • Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none. ~Thomas Jefferson
  • Determined as we are to avoid, if possible, wasting the energies of our people in war and destruction, we shall avoid implicating ourselves with the powers of Europe, even in support of principles which we mean to pursue. They have so many other interests different from ours that we must avoid being entangled in them. We believe we can enforce these principles, as to ourselves, by peaceable means, now that we are likely to have our public councils detached from foreign views. ~~Thomas Jefferson
  • No protracted war can fail to endanger the freedom of a democratic country. ~Alexis de Tocqueville (not a Founder but Tea Partiers quote him alot.)

Last week, to howls and cries from neo-conservatives, President Obama announced a limited withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan over the next 15 months.

President Barack Obama announced Wednesday night that all the 33,000 additional U.S. forces he ordered to Afghanistan in December 2009 will be home within 15 months.

In a nationally televised address from the East Room of the White House, Obama said 10,000 of the “surge” forces would withdraw by the end of this year, and the other 23,000 would leave Afghanistan by September 2012.

This withdrawal should not have come as a surprise; he advised of his plans 18 months ago.

So after 15 months, we will still have a substantial occupying force in Afghanistan.  After draw-down is complete, the total U.S. military deployment in Afghanistan will still be nearly 70,000 troops.

Nevertheless, my Congressman, Republican Mike Rogers, saw fit to, not only criticize the President’s decision, but cynically impugn his motives:

The sacrifices our brave men and women in uniform have made in Afghanistan have helped bring greater stability there, and must not be jeopardized by any withdrawal plan based on political expediency and not the real-world decisions of our commanders on the ground.

We have been in Afghanistan for 10 years.  How long should we stay? When would be an appropriate time?

Congressman, there are many reasons to make this decision wholly apart from “political expediency.” For instance, in addition to the human loss (2554 US and coalition deaths in Afghanistan alone), the fiscal costs are unsustainable. In support of bringing the troops home, the conservative Future of Freedom Foundation stated:

The occupation of Afghanistan costs $10 billion a month. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars have now cost more than $1 trillion, and these money pits are still in operation. Let that sink in: The government has a $14 trillion debt. Annual budget deficits are running at more than $1 trillion a year. Congress and the president are wrangling over whether to raise the debt ceiling. And the government is spending $10 billion a month in Afghanistan alone.

If this were a movie, you’d dismiss it as ridiculous beyond belief. Yet our “leaders” expect us to accept this as reasonable, reassured that wise people in power know what they are doing. If it seems screwy, you must be an “isolationist” or uninformed.

If there is a criticism of the President, please address why we should not bring the more troops home more rapidly. I mean the president has not exactly shown himself to be an antiwar radical nor a lover of civil liberty. Greenwald summarizes his recent actions well:

In just the past two months alone (all subsequent to the killing of Osama bin Laden), the U.S. Government has taken the following steps in the name of battling the Terrorist menace: extended the Patriot Act by four years without a single reform; begun a new CIA drone attack campaign in Yemen; launched drone attacks in Somalia; slaughtered more civilians in Pakistan; attempted to assassinate U.S. citizen Anwar Awlaki far from any battlefield and without a whiff of due process; invoked secrecy doctrines to conceal legal memos setting forth its views of its own domestic warrantless surveillance powers; announced a “withdrawal”plan for Afghanistan that entails double the number of troops in that country as were there when Obama was inaugurated; and invoked a very expansive view of its detention powers under the 2001 AUMF by detaining an alleged member of al-Shabab on a floating prison, without charges, Miranda warnings, or access to a lawyer.  That’s all independent of a whole slew of drastically expanded surveillance powers seized over the past two years in the name of the same threat.

And “real-world decisions?” In the real world, does our War in Afghanistan effectively deal with Terrorism or actually make it more likely. A well stated here:

Of course, just in case those propagandistic claims aren’t sufficient — we must wage war in multiple countries and seize ever-expanding surveillance powers to stop this group of two dozen Terrorist masterminds — the U.S. is doing everything possible to ensure that Terrorism remains as large as a threat as possible:

A NATO air strike has killed at least 14 civilians, including eight children, in the eastern Afghan province of Khost, local police say. . . .The deadly air raid came a day after two children were reportedly killed in a separate air strike in southwest Ghazni province.

The killing of civilians by foreign troops is a major source of friction between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his Western backers, and has soured the feelings of many ordinary Afghans towards foreign forces. . . . As violence has spread across the country, casualties have risen, and the United Nations said May was the deadliest month for civilians since they began keeping records four years earlier.

So Congressman Rogers, please encourage the President to bring the troops home as quickly and safely as possible.

 

 

  • The spirit of monarchy is war and enlargement of domain: peace and moderation are the spirit of a republic.” – – Thomas Jefferson copied Montesquieu’s Spirit of Laws, IX,c.2: into his Commonplace Book
  • “Of all the enemies to public liberty, war is perhaps the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other.” – –  James Madison—”Political Observations,” 1795
  • “As to myself, I love peace, and I am anxious that we should give the world still another useful lesson, by showing to them other modes of punishing injuries than by war, which is as much a punishment to the punisher as to the sufferer.” Thomas Jefferson: Letter To Tench Coxe, Monticello, May 1, 1794
  • “Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage and to be haughty and intractable when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed and bloody contests.” – – George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796
  •  “I do not believe war the most certain means of enforcing principles. Those peaceable coercions which are in the power of every nation, if undertaken in concert and in time of peace, are more likely to produce the desired effect.”- –  Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Robert Livingston, 1801
  •  “Determined as we are to avoid, if possible, wasting the energies of our people in war and destruction, we shall avoid implicating ourselves with the powers of Europe, even in support of principles which we mean to pursue. They have so many other interests different from ours that we must avoid being entangled in them. We believe we can enforce these principles as to ourselves by peaceable means.” – – Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Thomas Paine, March 18, 1801

I do not think we are living by these principles when you read this about the US’s  six wars and counting:

Let’s look at this, war by war:

Iraq: Now largely the dregs of a counterinsurgency operation, this war will not end in 2011.  At his confirmation hearings, for instance, Panetta cited the existence of al-Qaeda in Iraq as a reason for U.S. troops to remain beyond an agreed-upon year-end withdrawal date.  Should those troops actually leave, however, the war will still go on, even if in quite a different form.  A gargantuan, increasingly militarized State Department “mission” in that country, complete with its own “army” and “air force” of perhaps 5,100 mercenaries, will evidently keep the faith.

Afghanistan: This remains a full-scale U.S. Army-run counterinsurgency war, backed by a major special operations/CIA counterterror war.

Pakistan: A full-scale CIA-run drone war in the Pakistani borderlands is actually expanding.  In the post-9/11 era, this has been the first of Washington’s “covert” or “shadow” wars (which no longer means “secret” — it’s all over the news almost daily — but something closer to “off the books,” as in beyond the reach of any form of significant popular or congressional oversight or accountability). Panetta is calling for more emphasis on such off-the-books wars in which U.S. military operatives might, as in the bin Laden operation, temporarily find themselves under the command of the CIA.

Libya: Officially a NATO air war, this one is nonetheless partially run by the Pentagon with targeting assistance from various U.S. intelligence agencies.  It involves both direct U.S. air strikes and support for strikes by various NATO and Arab allies fronting the operation.  It is also, for Americans, a “war” in name only since, except in the case of engine malfunction, there is essentially no way the Libyans can harm a U.S. pilot.  It is also an example of another air war that, while destructive, has proven itself incapable of fulfilling its stated aims.  Months later, Gaddafi remains alive and more or less in power, while NATO flags.

Yemen: Another of those “covert” air wars, being run, according to the Times, by the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command, closely coordinated with the CIA out of a secret office in the Yemeni capital.

The Global War on Terror: While the Obama administration officially discarded the Bush-era name, it expanded the war and the forces meant to fight it in places like Somalia.  U.S. special operations forces now pursue war-on-terror tasks in at least 75 countries and who knows how many CIA and other intelligence agents are involved as well.

Think of all this as a kind of mix-and-match version of war that increasingly integrates civilian branches of the government like the State Department, an ever more warlike CIA (once known as “the president’s private army”), the regular Army, Marines, and Air Force, ever-growing drone air power (split between an officially civilian intelligence agency and the military), and a secret combined military force of perhaps 20,000 special operatives.

With the face of American war changing in striking ways and at least six wars, none going particularly well, on or off the books, no one should be surprised if, as retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and historian William Astore makes clear in his latest piece, Washington as a war capital increasingly looks like a new kind of town.  In the meantime, when it comes to how many wars Americans can fight at once, Washington is reaching for the record books.