by Philip Greenspan
(Swans - January 31, 2005) Time, place, and circumstance create perceptions whose plausibility seems unquestionable. With the collapse of the Soviet Union the U.S. became the world's sole superpower. The appellation "SOLE SUPERPOWER" created a perception that the U.S. could not only dominate the world, but with all their space age weaponry, could dominate the universe.
The terrorist actions of 9/11 were made to order for the neocons to exert America's superpower muscle and gain major economic and geopolitical advantages. A likely target was Iraq. A snap military operation would provide the U.S. with the world's second largest oil reserves and strategically-located military bases in the heart of the oil rich Middle East.
Iraq, a small Third World country, was no threat. Since 1980 it had been battered by two wars (with Iran and the U.S.), sanctions and bombings. It seemed like easy pickings for the military. But the outcome is quite different from what was expected.
History is replete with erroneous perceptions. Why? Because significant factors are missed, overlooked or forgotten.
Two comparable examples are Vietnam and Palestine.
Vietnam's defeat was also perceived as a snap. A Third World nation that sought freedom from its French masters after WWII should have been a pushover for the French army. But those stubborn rebels outlasted their master's determination for victory. Well, the French weren't up to the job. Didn't they surrender to the Germans early in WWII?
The U.S. was different. They were part of the team that defeated the Axis powers. The Axis, primarily Germany and Japan, were awesome belligerents. At the height of their power their territory included almost all of Europe, a chunk of North Africa and a vast area in Southeast Asia. They were unstoppable as they gobbled up all that territory in a relatively short time. It took years and scads of ordnance blasting through that territory before the Axis was finally defeated.
Yet, although the U.S. pulverized that small country of Vietnam with more tonnage than was rained down during WWII, it was unable to crush the Vietnamese.
Similarly the Palestinians, occupying two small patches of realty referred to as the occupied territories and having no military, have been able to withstand abominable war crimes of the fourth strongest military power for almost half a century.
Many knowledgeable individuals claim that the U.S. is now replaying the traumatic adventure of Vietnam; an enterprise that concluded when a widespread mutiny sabotaged the military operation.
Thereafter, the Vietnam syndrome haunted the nation's leaders. Its causes were analyzed and major changes in policy were implemented to prevent a recurrence.
Future wars would be short -- commenced with an overwhelming force against an inferior opponent. Most importantly, no longer would draftees, whose devotion to duty left much to be desired, be compelled to serve. The services would be composed of troops committed to a military career, volunteers.
Bush I was euphoric when Gulf War I ended quickly and proclaimed "By God, we've kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all!" But that easy low-cost victory generated another false perception. While only 148 soldiers were killed in combat and most from "friendly fire" the eventual costs were far greater. Irresponsible use of toxic materials caused one-third of all who participated to demand that their disability claims be recognized by the Veterans Administration and over 220,000 have already been approved.
The US news media, echoing the administration, claims progress has been made in Iraq and implies that the operation will end successfully. Those on the scene to observe conditions there and those familiar with the area insist that the U.S. is facing a stormy future.
Stormy future or not, the administration is determined to hang in there. The rewards for success are far greater than what was at stake in Vietnam.
In spite of their exiting problems the neo-cons are now setting their sites on Iran. A pr campaign is already unfolding. Those crazies, having lied and lied and lied and gotten into one predicament after another, will, with an attack on Iran, compound their troubles with more lies and problems.
The military is stretched thin for the missions they have already undertaken. To alleviate that condition a reinstatement of the draft is reluctantly being considered. An Iranian operation will surely require it. And enacting a draft will hit them with another can of worms. Draft legislation with so much of the public already opposed to the war will not be easy to pass. Families with children of draft age who are currently pro-war or are indifferent will rethink their position and many will oppose the draft and the war as well.
The U.S. created an all volunteer force to prevent a rebellion or mutiny. The most significant lesson of Vietnam taught the military that draftees were unreliable and would ultimately rebel. Even if they can manipulate their volunteer forces without a draft they cannot rule out another massive mutiny!
Structural steel is exceedingly strong. Yet if repetitive stresses well below its ultimate strength are exerted on it, metal fatigue will eventually cause it to fail. Similarly, conscientious soldiers if repeatedly stressed will also fail to uphold their mission.
In spite of all the hype from the administration and the media clamoring to "Support the Troops," they themselves have actually been destroying troop morale.
How? By getting them to fight an unnecessary war based on lies. How? By utilizing a provision known as stop-loss that extends tours of duty well beyond discharge and retirement dates. How? By not providing the requisite equipment so they must scrounge for protective armor. How? By not providing the best hospital care for the wounded. How? By reducing pay. How? By closing veterans hospitals. How? By reducing benefits.
Combat stresses the horrors and fears felt, seen, and heard; the deaths and casualties of buddies, innocent civilians, etc. are additional demoralizing factors.
Symptoms have appeared which presage an eventual deterioration of the war effort. Reenlistments are falling short of the goals although bonuses were increased substantially. A survey of thousands of GIs who returned from Iraq was published in the July issue of The New England Journal of Medicine. The findings: one in eight suffers symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 5,500 servicemen who refuse to serve in Iraq have deserted. Suicides are nearly a third higher than the Army's historical average. A hotline for US military personnel who want to get out received an estimated 34,800 calls last year.
Now that Bush has copped another four-year term, the neocons are anticipating a continuation of the war against regimes they wish to replace. They are ignoring the negatives that will hinder their progress. Their perception of the superpower knocking off the easy pickings was flawed. It is likely that their plans for the future are also flawed.
But the Bush gang are survivors. They have retained their lofty positions in spite of all their goofs and will not back down from the policies they have staked out. However, they have merely papered over the problems and not solved them. If additional problems emerge and public pressures intensify against them and their policies, what will they do? They are desperate and will resort to any tactic necessary to attain their goals.
They might use the ultimate weapon, the nuclear bomb. Other presidents had such thoughts but were restrained by level-headed advisors. Individuals of that description have been purged and no longer occupy the White House inner circle.
Would they resort to another terrorist attack like 9/11 to regain public approval? 9/11 transformed Bush from a failure to an icon. If they felt the public would respond the same way again, I think they'd chance it!
The next four years may yield many unexpected and surprising incidents and occurrences. Nixon captured 49 states an unprecedented landslide victory -- to usher in his second term. He surely had a mandate. But he did not complete even half his term. He resigned after 18 months rather than be impeached.
No one can predict the future but four years hence the situation will be far different than what is expected.