Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Reasons for going to war vs. the Reasons for fighting a war

A lot of people complain about the war in Iraq, saying the reasons that we started it, aren’t the same reasons for which we are still fighting it. They say that Bush mislead us into war about WMDs, and now in an attempt to save face, he is claiming that this war is about spreading democracy and the global war on terror.

The original reasons for going to war, often have the same fate as plans for war: they usually don’t last the first few minutes of battle, instead being replaced by newly emerged reasons.

Take the American Civil War. Yes, slavery was a key issue, but the war wasn’t about freeing the slaves. The Southern States were feeling that the Northern States were disregarding their wants and needs, and didn’t find that belonging to the Union was further beneficial to them. The Northern States decided that the Union should be held intact and didn’t want the Southern States to secede. The Northern States definitely wanted to phase out slavery over time, but they didn’t go to war to free the slaves. They went to war to force the south to stay in the Union. The Emancipation Proclamation should make it clear to everyone: it stated that slaves in the rebel states were free, but those in slave-holding states loyal to the Union still remained in bondage. The Emancipation Proclamation punished the rebel states, but wasn’t going to punish the loyal states. Even four years into the war Lincoln stated about the reasons for going to war: "...but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came." So, although the American Civil War ended slavery, that wasn’t the original intent. I am sure that a lot of Northerners complained that Lincoln was changing the reasons of the war, that the war was brutal and shouldn’t be fought, no peace could be worth all that death and destruction. However, somehow now it is looked back upon with some national pain, but a feeling that is was necessary, and was the second birth of the USA.

I happened upon this article and it sums it up quite well, using WWII as its example:

So it may well be with Iraq. The original hypothesis of Saddam, in 12-year defiance of UN sanctions, using his WMD against the West or transferring them to terrorist groups was definitely a valid premise for military action. Yet even if the hard evidence of WMD stockpiles is never found, the value to the world of his removal, with new humanitarian transgressions emerging every day, is undeniable. The opportunity to establish a new democracy in a region that has never had one, with its promise of fundamentally reshaping the dynamic of the Middle East’s relationship to the rest of the world is a potentially epochal moment in modern history. The difficulty of achieving that objective should not be confused with the legitimacy of undertaking the task itself.

Ironically, Poland’s freedom, whose invasion by Germany was the catalyst for the beginning of European hostilities, was never achieved. The Soviets rolled into Poland from the east on their way to Germany, and kept Poland under Soviet control for the next fifty years! Thus, the entire rationale for starting World War II remained unfulfilled at the conclusion of hostilities in 1945. Does that mean the war shouldn’t have been fought?

That’s irrational.

And that pretty much says it all.


Blogger Chris said...

Now ValleyGirl, I don't think this post is in reference to me huh? :)

If you want to compare Bush to Lincoln, then so be it. I think you will discover that Bush is no where near Lincoln.

I have always believed that to compare one moment in history to another is, more common than not, a mistake.

You are correct to conclude that publicly Lincoln did not want the Civil War to be about slavery. His reasoning to do this was more because he didn't want the Border States to secede, more so than his feelings about slavery or his views as to why the Southerner's were rebeling. Lincoln knew from the very first second that he was elected president that the South would secede and would do so because of his slavery views.

Lincoln admitted publicly that the Civil War was being fought in order to preserve the Union. He said he would preserve the Union whether it meant freeing a single slave or not. Lincoln, with the Emancipation, furthered that the Union could not exist with slavery, and his proposal for the 13th Amendment which aboloshied slavery forever proves this. So yes the Civil War was fought in order to free the slaves.

Bush, on the other hand, changed his reasoning for war because his original plans and intentions were proved false. Lincolns insistence that the Union must be preserved and that this was the reason for fighting was never proved false. Never. And if it meant freeing the slaves or not, that's what he would do, and did do. Turns out, slavery and a more perfect Union could not coincide. This changes Lincoln's logic none nor changes his reasons for fighting the War.

Bush never mentions WMD or aiding Bin Laden anymore. Lincoln never stopped mentioning preserving the Union.

I just don't think Lincoln and the Civil War make that great of a comparison to Bush and Iraq. In fact, it's a huge stretch.

Now for WWII. I'm not sure I have the time for this one, but I'll make it quick. America did not enter WWII because Poland was invaded. Britain and France did. When America entered the war in 1941, it did so with the objectives to completely destroy Nazi Germany and Nazi Japan, and make the world safe for democracy. America's objectives, or reasons for fighting, were accomplished.

America's entrance into the war changed the entire reasoning for the Allies. America assumed complete command over all European and Pacific theatres, and with that changed why the war was being fought. If you argue that the objective of liberating Poland was the reason for war, then you argue failed European objectives, which I could argue about failed European wars and reasonings all day.

Hope I made this clear. If not I will check back later and try it again.

See ya.

7:50 PM  
Blogger Sminklemeyer said...

actually, mj, the reason we entered wwII was to give the American food industry a boost. before the big one, all we served at ball games were hot dogs and pickles. now, fans have a wide selection of brats, sour kraut and even polish sausage. and of course where would our country be without the german beer recipes? ummmmm.... beer. i think i'll have a nice german beer right now.

10:13 PM  
Blogger Sminklemeyer said...

oh and for the bush-lincoln comparison... lincoln logs sounds a lot better than bush logs. however, bush's name fits much nicer in other puns. and there is a beer named bush, albeit it's cheap. but it's still beer.

10:15 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Now beer is something I can talk about. American beer sucks. So does Canadian. I like Mexican, which actually is a German brew.

I think too much alcohol definetely correllates to so many European wars.

10:36 PM  
Blogger CaliValleyGirl said...

MJ, I wasn’t trying to compare Bush to anyone, certainly not Lincoln, nor Chamberlin, nor Daladier.

And I agree that Lincoln was an abolitionist. However we shouldn’t completely disregard the growing sectionalism in the US during the first half of the 19th century. Had South Carolina not backed down during the Nullification crisis in 1832, the Civil War may have been started because of taxes. The Civil War is quite contentious, and we obviously both have our own differing historical interpretations of it. The truth of the matter is this: the South wanted to secede, the North wanted the union to remain intact and that was why they went to war. Of course, the reason that the North and South differed so much, was of course because of that “peculiar institution.”

So, if I wanted to draw parallels between the Civil War and the current war in Iraq I would say that we had a long building stand-off between Iraq and the US. We had a few confrontations over the years, Operation Desert Storm, 1991 about the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, Operation Desert Fox in 1998 about Iraq refusing to let in UN inspectors, and now another confrontation, this time, once again, there was non-compliance with UN inspectors off and on, and suspected illegal weapons program. However the underlying reason for these problems remain the same: Saddam Hussein. Bush gave Saddam an ultimatum: leave Iraq within 48 hours. Of course Saddam didn’t comply. Thus the war started. So, we can say that we went to war over WMDs, but that the underlying reason was Iraq’s own “peculiar institution,” Saddam Hussein.

Another point: do you think that Bush just wanted to go into Iraq, find WMDs, and then say, “hey guys, found them, now I am going to catch the next plane back to Texas?” Even if his reasons for the urgency to go in now were WMDs, it was understood that toppling Saddam was the aim, which implicitly involved helping build a democracy in the vacuum left behind.

The example the other author made about WWII, were about the reasons that Britain and France entered the war, not the US. And once again, the invasion of Poland was the historical counterpart of Iraq (Saddam Hussein)not complying with the UN security council, and the US suspecting WMDs: i.e. a further sign of Nazi, or respectively, Saddam Hussein’s, aggression that needed to be stopped.

Also you base your argument on Lincoln’s private versus public sentiments. His private sentiments as seen in private correspondence and personal writings? Well, we have no idea what Bush’s private correspondence looks like. We can debate that point in another 50 years...;-)

Sminklemeyer...does this mean that we are going to have falafel and pistacio nuts at ball games now?

10:14 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

ValleyGirl, I agree to a certain extent, but I really see no comparison between Bush and Lincoln or Iraq and the Civil War.

The first divisions in the young America was in the early 1800s when New England had a secessionist movement. And they dang near did leave the Union.

I supported going to war to remove Saddam. But what we have accomplished in Iraq is not exactly removing Saddam. Sure he's gone, but look at the huge void that is left. Bush screwed this up. America was not to stick around and build a democracy. We were to install Ahmed Chalabi as head of Iraq, leave the country, and let Bush smirk. It did not happen.

The Iraqi National Congress was a joke. Chalabi was a crook and now we have almost 1600 dead soldiers because of Bush's rush to war. Had Bush thought all this through, Iraq would be in much better shape and maybe we could have accomplished our "implicit" goal of forming some sort of democracy.

But, wait, I thought our explicit goal was forming democracy. Judging from Bush's rhetoric of the last 16 months, that's exactly why we went to war. Bush never talks about removing Saddam or destroying WMD, ever. He only talks about spreading democracy around the world.

So if our implicit goal was building democracy, then Bush really has this more screwed up than I thought, cause now it's the main reason for the invasion. Interesting.


The German invasion of Poland in 1939 would probably be better if compared to Saddam invading Kuwait in 1991- but still it's a huge stretch.

Why would that author include France? France isn't even fighting in Iraq, and they really didn't fight in WWII either. France never has a reason to fight. So that essay makes less sense now than it did before.

However, I still stand squarely behind my comment that when America entered WWII it changed completely and forever the reasons for fighting and the objectives that needed to be met. And if one considers the liberation of Poland as the reason for war then one completely denies the importance of America in that war. There would have been no victory without America.

The liberation of Poland failed the moment the war started.

Always fun. You keep me thinking.

5:23 PM  
Blogger Sminklemeyer said...

children, i am glad we came to an understanding. remember, words are just words. let's not get angry. and valleygirl, you need to go to more ball games. the falafel and pistacio nuts are already there.

11:10 PM  

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