By GENE H. McINTYRE
What’s timely about now? Would that be the call for a contest? A contest to Name that War!
Back in 2001, after 9/11, George W. Bush announced that the U.S. was engaged in a “Global War on Terrorism.” That was Bush’s contribution to Name that War!
Upon taking over the presidency in 2009, Barack Obama junked Bush’s formulation, as he did the other day in his usual rhetoric form. Meanwhile, war in the Middle East has continued, largely unabated, but with the on-going promise to stop it…well, sometime soon.
What appears to be the case these days is that we now have a nameless war which may soon, in one form or another, big or small by endeavor, secret or open, add Syria to those nations in the Middle East that have been or are now occupied by the United States. Again, we don’t have a name for the war that will probably soon include Syria.
But, it’s argued, it does matter what we choose to call the military enterprise we’ve been waging in Afghanistan and Iraq for more than ten years now. There are then also the smaller forays by the CIA, and branches of the military, among the nations scattered hither and yon across the Islamic world.
So, what should we call this war? Is it simply to be labeled the “Long War” as it has already entered deeply into three decades long. After all, the war, as we know it now, had its origins (August, 1996) in the Osama bin Laden’s “Declaration to War against the Americans Occupying the Land (Saudi Arabia) of the Holy Places.”
Although Bill Clinton took notice, the U.S. response to bin Laden’s provocations back in the mid-1990s was not only limited but wholly ineffectual. Nowadays, the realists among us recognize that the bin Laden-started “war” will not end soon.
Actually, the war we’re in at present began in 1948 when Israel was established. The founding of Israel was viewed by many as a justification for the Holocaust Jewish people suffered and eased consciences in the west. For Muslims, however, especially the Arabs, the founding of a Jewish state represented an enragingly unholy injustice.
In the 1940s and 1950s, the U.S. generally remained neutral. This changed dramatically in the 1960s when we became Israel’s principal patron. The U.S. and Israel now share technology, intelligence and a common cause that’s perceived by Arabs as primarily against the Islam religion and its devotees. Meanwhile, as has been the case for years and years, Israel disregards U.S. concerns about the threat of nuclear weapons and colonizing of Palestinian territories it has militarily conquered.
Getting back to where this essay started with the call for a contest to “Name that War,” we need a name for that in which we are hopelessly entangled. A tempting submission to win the contest is, “The Second 100 Years War,” as the ”first” began in 1337 and ended with the last Crusade in 1453.
In the last century, the U.S. took over for the British when that nation was “broke” as a world power at the end of World War II. Great Britain then left the mess it created in the Middle East after the Ottoman Empire (mainly modern-day Turkey and its servile states in the Middle East) and Germany were defeated by the Allies at World War I’s end and they “re-organized” it. As time would tell, the whole area degenerated into a state of chaos and killing that’s become its profile ever since.
Yes, the U.S. was lured by oil and the fear that the former Soviet Union would step into the Middle East to take the place of Great Britain. So, in we rushed to try to control it for U.S. interests.
What can we Americans hope for? Can we pacify the region? Can we make-over our image there? Can we keep a “lid” on the place? So far, it looks a lot like we’ve flunked that test badly while the future resembles a quicksand where we sink evermore deeply into a furious, totally agitated quagmire.
Actually the war into which we have totally immersed ourselves began nearly 1,00 years ago and has continued through fits and starts for centuries. Now, WE are the “infidels,” mostly in American uniforms; attacking and killing Muslims thereby with our arsenal of “godless” weapons.
Former President George W. Bush, in an unscripted moment several years ago, described the war as a “crusade.” What he probably should have said, if he and his administrators had had enough knowledge of the Middle East to know better, if we ever wanted to establish and maintain anything like cordial relations, is that we were entering the “Eternal War,” driving blindly into another millennium of bloody conflicts.
Now, then, let’s end this column by going back to the start: Name that War!
(Gene H. McIntyre lives in Keizer.)