As another “holiday” weekend draws to a close, Americans have again been bombarded with exhortations to thank the U.S. military establishment for their supposed freedom. This theme pervades all aspects of American culture. Uniformed military personnel are granted privileges on airlines, discounts at restaurants, hotels, and other business establishments. This past summer, I attended my daughter’s dance recital at the Tampa Performing Arts Center. At the midpoint of the performance, men in uniform were rolled out onto the stage and a long tribute follwed, including patriotic-sounding music and a special dance routine, with a pair of army boots spotlighted at the front of the stage. The militarization of American culture is inescapable. That no one seems to recognize the similarity between this cultural worship of the military and the same by another militarized society of not so long ago is truly horrifying.
It may not be fashionable to say so, but I am sick and tired of being told to thank the military. The idea that thanks is owed grows out of the inability of most Americans to recognize simple cause and effect relationships. As I’ve said before, Americans seem to be unwilling to ask themselves the most basic questions about precisely how U.S. wars have made them freer. What are the specific results that the U.S. military has either achieved or prevented in the past 70 years that have led to this supposed increase in freedom? How would we be less free if the U.S. government did not fight one or more of those wars? While I have dealt with this at length before, let me summarize briefly:
1. U.S. citizens are not freer because the U.S. military invaded Korea.
2. U.S. citizens are not freer because the U.S. military invaded Viet Nam.
3. U.S. citizens are not freer because the U.S. military invaded Grenada (does anyone really take this one seriously?).
4. U.S. citizens are not freer because the U.S. military invaded Somalia.
5. U.S. citizens are not freer because the U.S. military invaded Kuwait.
6. U.S. citizens are not freer because the U.S. military invaded Iraq.
7. U.S. citizens are not freer because the U.S. military invaded Afghanistan.
Now, I know that these statements are at odds with conventional wisdom and will be regarded as unpatriotic by conservatives and even most liberals. However, after completing the required ad hominem attack upon the author, I challenge anyone who disagrees to refute these statements logically, providing a reasonable argument that there is some cause-effect relationship between the cited wars and the relative freedom of U.S. citizens. It will be particularly difficult to make the argument in the case of Viet Nam, where the objective (to prevent North Viet Nam from taking over South Viet Nam) was not achieved. U.S. citizens should have been less free as a result. Were they? How?
Cause and effect. It is the first and most basic natural law of the universe. It is the first concept that human beings must master before they can begin to undertsand the world around them. This understanding is imperative when performing the simplest task, like crossing the street. An inability to understand the cause and effect relationships between drivers and pedestrians can get you killed. The danger is exponentially greater when considering spending hundreds of billions of dollars to send hundreds of thousands of armed men to some far-off land.
The so-called debate on Iran provides yet another example of the inability of most Americans to recognize cause and effect relationships. Assuming that the Iranian government is attempting to build a nuclear weapon, the government-media complex has presented a narrow range of options from which Americans are expected to choose, with all others off the table. They are 1. Bomb or invade Iran now, before they get a nuclear weapon or 2. Impose economic sanctions (i.e., a military blockade/act of war) and bomb or invade them later. All of this is predicated upon the assumption that Iran will immediately use this nuclear weapon the minute they build it. While even the most hawkish conservatives would probably concede that there is not much chance that Iran will develop an inter-continental ballistic missile capable of striking the U.S. anytime soon, they cite the possibility that Iran may use this weapon against Israel.
This is where Americans don’t seem to be able to call upon the most basic critical thinking skills. Let’s assume that the hawks are correct. Iran develops a nuclear weapon. Let’s assume that one sunny morning, they decide to fire it. What would happen next?
Israel has approximately 300 nuclear weapons in its arsenal and the most well-trained and equipped military establishment in the Middle East. Do the math. The idea that Iran would preemptively nuke Israel, resulting in its complete destruction, is preposterous. Yet, most American citizens either refuse or are incapable of engaging in this simple analysis and instead give their tacit or enthusiastic support to whatever destructive foreign policy decisions their leaders make.
There is the argument that Iran is led by a government that is not reasonable and therefore would not consider its inevitable destruction before attacking Israel with a nuclear weapon. Of course, “not reasonable” is a label that would fit any government like an old pair of shoes , but is Iran’s government less reasonable than any other? Let’s consider a few facts.
Iran has not invaded another country in over 200 years. The last overt aggressive action that the Iranian government has taken against another nation is the taking of hostages from the U.S. embassy in 1979 (the Iran-Iraq War was a defensive one for Iran). If asked why the Iranians did this, I’m sure most politicians would respond with the “they hate us for our freedom” mantra. Unfortunately, most Americans are willing to believe that the leaders of foreign nations have the same motivations as the villains in comic books.
Assuming that the hostages were taken because the Iranians “hate us for our freedom,” a few questions should immediately spring to mind. Why did they not take hostages from the German Embassy, or the French Embassy, or the Dutch Embassy? Were those countries so much less free than the United States that the Iranians would not have similar hatred toward them? Americans are asked to swallow this nonsense without question and ignore the Iranians’ stated reason for the kidnapping: the U.S.-led overthrow of the democratically-elected Iranian government and subsequent installation and decades-long support of the brutal Shah.
U.S. taxpayers are now being asked to once again abandon cause-effect reasoning in order to support the next steps on the path to war with Iran. They are asked to assume that somehow the results of a military conflict with Iran would be different from the results of the military conflicts in Iraq and Afganistan. After 10 years and trillions of dollars, not to mention lost American and civilian lives, absolutely nothing has been accomplished by either of those wars. Neither has America been rendered freer as a result of them. On the contrary, Americans now live in what any lucid person would describe as an Orwellian police state, complete with electronic surveillance, warrantless searches and seizures, and summary execution of U.S. citizens - without trial or even indictment – at the order of an American dictator. These have been the results of the “War on Terror.” No sane person should expect anything but more of the same if it is expanded further.
Ron Paul was far too polite in responding to the “What if Iran…” question. It is time for Americans to stop worshipping their military establishment and start thinking critically about these issues. Whether they develop a nuclear weapon or not (which is their right as much as any sovereign nation’s), Iran is never going to initiate war with it. What is certain is that if the U.S. government is allowed to lead its country into another destructive war, Americans will be less free, further in debt, and more hated around the world than they are now. The last ten years should be all the proof we need.
Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.
© Thomas Mullen 2011