Andy Stone: War, like politics, is local issue
Yes, this is a “local” newspaper. And, yes, I am a “local” columnist. But how can I write about the Farmer’s Market or the latest development dispute or even the perfidy of the City Council when our nation is poised to plunge the world into war?
It is one of our modern-day truisms that “all politics is local.” And now we need to face the fact that nothing is more local than war.
To be selfish about it, as the threat of war looms, we watch the stock market decline, we watch gas prices soar, we watch our hopes for a strong tourist season evaporate.
To be human about it, we watch our sons and daughters, or the sons and daughters of our friends or, simply, our countrymen march off to kill or be killed in a foreign land.
The government warns us, each and every one, to be on guard against terrorist attacks. We are told to buy plastic sheeting and rolls of duct tape to create barriers against chemical and biological attacks. (Though experts tell us those “barriers” won’t really do any good.) We are told to buy batteries, bottled water and canned food.
We are, ultimately, told in effect to go about our lives as normal, but to be very, very scared as we do so.
Could anything be more local than this?
Our finances are shaken. Our family, friends and countrymen die. We live in fear.
In recent weeks, a debate raged – very briefly – about bringing back the military draft.
The congressman who suggested it declared the point was to bring about economic and racial justice, so that the burden of a war would not fall most heavily on those whose lower position in society led them more naturally to enlist in our new “professional army.”
Those who opposed it argued that draftees are worthless in the modern army and that the proposal was really just an attempt to derail the plans for war.
But there was another good reason for bringing back the draft (desperately though so many of us may have dodged it). It is inappropriate for a true democracy to maintain a professional warrior class, a standing army of mercenaries who can be sent willy-nilly to fight anywhere, any place … without those heavy local impacts.
So, yes, war, no matter how far-flung, is local. And war must remain local.
And yet, locally, we are left feeling that we are without any real power to affect this war.
Suddenly it seems as if war in Iraq is not merely (merely!) inevitable. It also has begun to seem necessary.
We have all been maneuvered into a very tight corner by the master politicians of the current Republican administration. (Yes, I said “master politicians” – not “diplomats,” to be sure, but politicians without peer.)
For whatever reason (and one can choose from a long list of possible motivations, ranging from the most idealistic to the most cynically evil), the administration has become determined that there will be a war.
They have chosen a demonstrably evil dictator as the target of this war. They have focused the debate on proving that he is evil, rather than proving that we need a war.
They have forced the U.N. into making demands that this dictator will never – could never – meet. And, with those demands on the table, the debate becomes whether he has willingly, eagerly, given up all his weapons, rather than whether he has been rendered harmless.
They have created a situation in which a failure to go to war will be seen as evidence that the forces of “justice” and “freedom” have neither courage nor character nor determination.
They have brought us to a point where the consequences of failing to attack may well be worse than the consequences of even an unjustified attack.
How did this collection of blundering “cowboys,” semicompetent oil company executives and war-loving “chicken hawks” bring this about?
Perhaps it is instructive to recall the election of 2000, in which our current president came to power.
Remember that, when the outcome of the election was uncertain and the presidency was, in effect, up for grabs, these same Republicans raced in with the fierce will, ruthless determination and political skill to swing the balance in their candidate’s favor.
While the Democrats dithered, the Republicans cut to the heart of the matter and got the job done.
They may have raised fierce resentment and dealt a near-fatal blow to civil political discourse, but their man is now president.
That was national politics driven home with very local sledgehammer blows.
And now that same sledgehammer is being swung on the international stage.
Allies may be alienated. Alliances may be imperiled. Crises are apparently allowed to flare out of control. But the job is getting done.
The bull in the china shop may cause vast destruction, but in the end he gets his way.
And so we sit, watching the broad stokes on the international scene – and waiting for the very local effects.
[Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.]
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