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The Texas Blue
Advancing Progressive Ideas

Reflecting on 62 Years

Today is Tuesday, August 14th. Here in Denton, we're in the middle of our first searing heat wave of the summer. As the mercury once more looks to blast past the century mark, I'm thinking about two wars separated by 62 years. One, arguably the struggle for the soul of the 20th century, ended 62 years ago today. The other, a struggle that looks like it will define the first half of the 21st century, continues on without an exit strategy for our soldiers nor any serious progress towards a necessary political solution from our current crop of Iraqi political leaders.

My dad is a World War II vet who served in the Navy on a submarine chaser, the U.S.S. PC-798. He served in the Pacific Theater and came back home to the cactus and caliche of Central Texas, something that more than a few of his friends did not have the chance to do. To this day he can tell you the names of his friends from his youth who were killed in World War II in places so exotic to a bunch of small town farm boys from Central Texas that they could have been on Mars for all they knew: Burma, Anzio, Guadalcanal, Bastogne and the Aleutians.

In many of our conversations since the invasion of Iraq, my dad has remarked that he understood that America's mortal enemies in World War II were Japan and Germany, in particular Japan. "They jumped us and we had to fight back" is what he says. This remark is often followed by a rhetorical question about why we invaded Iraq when the people who planned, financed and carried out the U.S. Embassy bombings in East Africa, the people who masterminded and attacked the U.S.S. Cole and the majority of the September 11th hijackers all hailed from the Arabian peninsula, in particular from Saudi Arabia. "Why not invade Saudi Arabia? It's their people who attacked us after training in Afghanistan, not Iraqis."

62 years ago today, the world caught its first pause and took a deep breath after almost seven years of war. For America, the preceding years of warfare had cost her over a million dead and wounded. Compared to the Soviet Union, our casualties were light; the Soviets lost over 26 million dead and wounded. As the smoke cleared and the world began to rebuild from the carnage and destruction of World War II, American sacrifices had laid the foundation for America to be seen around the world as a beacon of hope for all people.

Since 2003, we've heard a lot of disposable rhetoric about how our war against Islamic radical terrorists and radical Islamic belief is like our fight against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in World War II. Ignoring the grievious problems in comparing a global war of ideas and large scale manouver on land, air and sea focused on clearly defined nation-states to a series of regional wars of ideas, counterinsurgency and covert operations focused on subnational units (individuals, ethnic groups, religious groups, etc.), we need look no further than what our current leadership has asked of us (nothing) versus what FDR and Harry Truman asked of us (substantial sacrifices across the board).

August 20, 2007 will mark 54 months, four and a half years, that have passed since we invaded Iraq in March 2003. As a country, Iraq has been decimated by both our invasion and by subsequent combat between Coalition forces and insurgents and by sectarian violence. Iraq's political leadership is content to tread water while American soldiers are maimed and killed. In comparison, four and a half years after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, the Allies had defeated both Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. We were on the verge of embarking on the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe. We still can't get leadership on the war from our political leaders nor can we get Iraqi politicians whose concern extends beyond their individual ethno-religious fiefdoms and sinecures to the larger task of creating sustainable political stability and functioning government.

62 years after Imperial Japan's unconditional surrender marked the end of World War II and the beginning of the heart of "the American Century," we find ourselves at the dawn of a new century, a century that will belong to someone else, not to America. Most likely the 21st Century will be "the Chinese Century" as the 20th was ours and the 19th the British. As we sink deeper and deeper into a security solution for a political and social problem in Iraq that is grinding, our war is financed at a non-trivial level by the purchase of our debt by Asian central banks. While Iraq's political leadership vacations and fails time and again at providing the crucial political solution to make progress out of the blood sacrifices of American soldiers, our leadership not only makes a bloody wreck out of the promise of a generation in Iraq, but also mortages the souls of our future generations in the form of massive sales of national debt to finance our war. What will America be for the great grandchildren of the Greatest Generation? The memory of what once was and dreams of what could be crushed under piles of debt?

For my parents, this is a bewildering vision of America to see in their twilight years. They came of age with service, sacrifice and a sense of duty instilled in them by the New Deal and by the war effort. They fought with weapons paid for by war bonds bought by the American public, ate from Victory Gardens and sacrificed rubber and gasoline to rationing for the war effort. What has our political leadership asked of us? Keep shopping. Keep traveling. Trust us. Stay the course.

It's remarkable that in 62 years' time we've gone from a country that bought war bonds, grew small gardens, rode tires down to their last bit of rubber and made nothing other than necessary travel as modes of sacrifice for the greater war effort to a country that adds a new sunroom onto the house, buys that second flat screen TV and takes that trip to Disneyworld to support the war effort.

Is it any wonder my parents wonder what's become of the country they knew? Is it any wonder that the 21st century will not be ours?

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