February 12, 2003
The Quiet Man

The United States is the most powerful nation on the planet, and has been attacked in a spectacular and egregious way. Yet we prevaricate and protest. Europe once ruled the entire planet with an iron fist and yet brought literacy and enlightenment where once war and abject slaughter ruled. Yet they see in their greatest trade partner and staunchest ally a force of chaos, good only for ridicule, while a culture that has worked to destroy them for more than a thousand years sharpens its knives yet again. Why is it this way? What the hell happened?

One of my favorite "old" movies is John Ford's The Quiet Man. In it, John Wayne plays Sean Thornton, an American returning to Ireland to reclaim the homestead of his ancestors. Sean has a secret, one which drives a major portion of the plot.

Sean used to be a boxer. Sean beat a man to death in the ring.

Because of this Sean won't fight, he just won't. This stand threatens his health, his love, even his standing in the community. Everyone thinks he won't fight because he's a coward. Everyone is, of course, wrong. He is eventually drawn into a fight, but not until grossly provoked. Fortunately this is "old" Hollywood and so everyone plays by the rules, and it all has a happy ending.

Such anti-heroes have become a staple in American cinema. From Pale Rider to Rambo and Star Wars to The Godfather, all and many more contain people who turned away or tried to stay out of it all, to no avail.

It's a tradition that has its roots deep in western thought and culture. The Greeks, unique in all the ancient world, had armies made up of free men who quite literally had better things to do. The Romans worshipped Cincinnatus who, after all, just wanted to plow his fields. Of course, for every Cincinnatus there were a hundred Caligulas, for every Washington a thousand Napoleons. We cherish these quiet men because they are in fact exceedingly rare.

The west drove itself to the brink of annihilation in the twentieth century because we ignored the lessons of the quiet man, not just once but twice. Europe immolated the old order in a drunken orgy of death and destruction that, were it not for the reluctant intervention of the United States, threatened to literally go on forever.

Sick to their very bones of fighting, the west then ignored the rise to power of a series of dictatorial governments whose leaders were so insanely out of touch with reality they made Charles Manson look like Buddha. What Germany and Japan did not understand was the rest of the world gave them what they wanted not out of cowardice, but from an unwillingness to go through all that again, to throw wave after wave of their children into a bloody, futile meat grinder, where even the survivors can't truely be said to be human anymore.

So Europe did whatever it took short of war to avoid it. Even when it came to war, it should be no surprise that the nations whose soil soaked up the blood of Verdun, Somme, and Flanders chose to surrender instead of going through it all again in less than a single generation. Britain remained standing more out of luck and the insanity of the opposition than any defense, no matter how valiant it may have been. It took an unprovoked invasion of the largest country in Eurasia combined with a humiliating defeat on a tiny island in the Pacific before the last of the great western powers awoke, rolled their sleeves up, and got down to business.

And what a business it was. The west became powerful because of the way we fight wars. We're good at it, better than any culture has ever been. At the climax of the Second World War, we were cooking people in bomb shelters because the fires in the cities were so intense. We vaporized people by unleashing a force hotter than the surface of the sun. Like a boxer who can't hear the bell over the thundering in his ears, we kept punching and punching and punching, not noticing that the other guy's skull had been completely bashed in.

The culture that had ruled the world for nearly two hundred years collectively recoiled in horror at what it had done. A nation whose cornerstones are liberty and justice burned whole square miles of city completely to ash, ensuring the last thing too many children saw was the way a firebomb blew open like a dandelion, just before it hit. Like an alcoholic waking up from a blackout and finding blood all over the house and a knife in his hand, Europe quite willingly let the US handle the liquor of war and has ever since tried to convince the rest of the world to go on the wagon (even as they themselves occasionally fell off).

For a brief period of time the United States, which through geographic co-incidence hadn't suffered serious domestic casualties in nearly a century, put down its traditional disdain for foreign conflicts and threw itself full-force into defending what it saw as the entire free world. It took an additional 58,000 or so bodies coming home in bags during the course of a decade over a place so remote most people couldn't find it on a map before we realized we were in fact not omnipotent. And always the shadows burned into the walls of Hiroshima and Nagasaki haunted us.

So, eventually, the cultures of the west collectively decided to sit it out. The rest of the world could be nasty and brutal and dangerous and, as long as they didn't do it in front of a camera, we all, almost subconsciously, decided to let them. The quiet man decided he'd had a belly full of death.

Then the walls fell.

It's never as simple as this. The peoples of Europe are not a monolith, and the peoples of America are nothing if not the peoples of the entire world. The governments and businesses and academia of continental Europe, along with the intelligencia and entertainment elite of our own country, oppose the war for cynical, self-serving reasons. Reasons that have very, very little to do with peace on earth, good will toward man. But the people of Europe, our founding Britain, and in no small part our own country, the ones who stand up for ridicule and, God help them, go running around in the snows of central park wearing nothing but boots and scarves, they oppose war because the quiet man still wishes to simply be left alone.

The tragedy is it can't happen this way. It just can't. Where we see holding back out of mercy, the tin pot dictators see retreat out of cowardice. Where we see concern that only combatants are annihilated, the religious fanatics of the world see an effete concern for the welfare of the expendable. Where we decide through simple economics that it just isn't worth it to save a people who don't want to be saved, the leaders of those people decide we simply don't have the stomach to take them on, and kill a few more out of spite.

Even sixty years on, the peoples of Europe are still heartsick over what happened in the middle of the last century. Fortunately for them, we are not, and have seen what must be done. The quiet man west of Albion has been awakened with a terrible fury and purpose. Fortunately for us, our allies in Europe (and Britain, and Canada) stand by, if nothing else to protect us from our own excess, grounding us and ensuring the less savory elements of our own culture are kept in check, and that we really do act on the international stage in the world's best interest. It's not comfortable, and it hurts us more than they know, but we need it desperately.

The fanatics and dictators of the rest of the world see the hole in Manhattan as a triumph, the prevarication of the west in its aftermath an opportunity. They do not understand that the smoke merely woke again the sleeping giant, and the debate is merely over how best to dissect the insect.

More's the pity.

Posted by scott at February 12, 2003 06:16 PM

eMail this entry!

I've seen the "No War" signs. I don't want war either, but sometimes things have to be done to elicite a change for the good "of the people".
We are the quite man; everyone knows us when they need help, but don't piss us off.
(Sounds like some strong women I know, eh ladies).

Posted by: Cindy on February 12, 2003 11:52 PM

Outstanding! This is the best thing you have written. I am so very frightened, especially of the Koreans and their Chinese allies. They are a people who really have no regard for life and consider us less than human.

Posted by: Pat on February 13, 2003 01:31 AM

So very well spoken! Elizabeth

Posted by: Elizbeth Hoerske on February 13, 2003 01:54 AM

Super Essay.

Japan's Admiral Yamamoto, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, said: "I fear we have awakened a sleeping tiger and filled it with a great resolve."

Hopefully, that "resolve" in manifesting itself, post 9/11. The "nay sayers" seem to be drowning out the "Quiet Men."

Posted by: Bill Ewing, MSGT USAF (RET) on February 13, 2003 04:30 AM

beautifully said. I couldn't say it nearly as eloquently.

This really is a BRILLIANT piece, Scott. My hat is off to you!

Posted by: Jim S on February 13, 2003 09:01 AM

Didn't know you had it in ya!! hehe. Honestly though, brilliant piece!! I must say that the ending paragraph actually gave me chills. Yeah, you need to submit stuff to TCM!!

Posted by: Battie on February 13, 2003 09:53 AM

With respect:

Well said, but wrong. The United States pursued what could generally be called an imperialistic policy only while expanding its borders within the natural geographic limits of the North American continent. Compared to the Eurasian and African landmasses, North America was relatively empty (admittedly because of the unintended holocaust of disease unleashed in the hundred years before). While Wounded Knee was an horrific tragedy that should rightly be remembered with shame, it is nothing, nothing compared to what the Europeans perpetrated in sub-Saharan Africa.

I will not argue the right or wrong of our expansion inside this continent, because I can't. It was wrong, but it was done, and had we not done it then the nation would not exist, and if we did not exist then what, exactly, would've stopped Europe?

From that point on, from that point on, America ceased aggressive territorial expansion. American leaders may have gotten the taste for empire in them, but the people most definitely did not. Our leaders took a crack at building an empire in the late 19th century by dismantling the remnants of the Spanish empire. Yet what happened? We left Cuba in less than a decade, turned Puerto Rico and Guam into territories with equal rights and privileges, and set the Philippines on the road to independence. Was it clean and just? No, it was nasty and messy, but it was a damn sight better than what Africa, India, and Asia had to do to pull free of Europe.

We built no empire other than this. Our leaders tried, several times, but we would not tolerate it. The prohibition against foreign wars was a powerful one that reverberates to this day.

In actual fact, by WWI we were woefully unprepared for war. Our army was a sad little thing incapable of even chasing down Mexican bandits crossing our borders. We had no overseas alliances, and had declared ourselves strictly neutral. Woodrow Wilson ran for and won his second presidential term with a core message of "no foreign wars". The people had no stomach for it, because we didn't see how, exactly, our interests were affected.

It made no real difference to us whether or not the Kaiser ruled in Paris, because he'd still need our raw materials and finished goods. It was only through clever British manipulation and some really boneheaded German blunders that Wilson was able to get a declaration of war. However, unlike the other great powers, we were not in it for the land or the money. When it was over we brought everyone home and promptly dismantled nearly the entire army and navy.

It would happen all over again, in no small part because the nations of Europe were too cynical and selfish to take the fourteen points seriously, and again we had no wish to take part. We didn't even care if Hitler took the place over. It was only because of the perception that a quiet man is a cowardly one and through the underestimation of the most arrogant culture on the planet at that time, that we were drawn in. Even then it is widely debated in academic circles what, exactly, might have happened if Hitler hadn't declared war on us.

The United States didn't need nuclear weapons because we were unable to express our power in more "natural" ways. Modern war is nothing if not about materiel, and at that point we were out producing the next three countries combined. What is not widely known is that, compared to mobilization, population, and production figures of the other combatants, by 1945 we were only half-way to maximum output.

Harry Truman is widely considered to be a simple man, widely criticized because he was no FDR, and could not see the subtleties of a situation. I accept this, but don't really consider it a criticism. Truman dropped the bomb for one reason and one reason only. To save American lives. We weren't about saving anyone else's at that time. We dropped the first bomb, stepped back, and waited. Nothing happened. So we dropped another, and they surrendered.

And then we went home again. There were riots in the US because we couldn't get the boys back fast enough. At that point we were strong enough to take on, and take over, the whole world, instead We. Went. Home.

We are targeting Sadaam out of logic if nothing else. Al Quaeda was removed from Afghanistan, and can't re-organize in Pakistan. But over there is a state with the second-largest oil reserves in the Persian Gulf, one who hates the US at least as much as bin Laden, one with control over the resources of an entire state. All in a region, and this is extremely important and not remarked often enough by the monkey press, with no superpower-class counterweight nearby to take control when he gets completely out of hand.

North Korea doesn't take a dump without China's OK, and we have all kinds of levers on China. As they do to us. Negotiations can, and hopefully will, work because it's in China's best interest for them to work. We do not have that kind of leverage with Sadaam. That is why we go after him and not Jong Il. For now.

We tried negotiation, we tried to just maintain the status quo, but it hasn't worked. We have a giant smoking hole in New York as a reward for our efforts.

No. More.

Posted by: scott on February 13, 2003 01:05 PM

I'm against bombing. And war in general, really, but since no one is ever going to stop deciding to wage war, I've decided that from now on, countries should each have a top video game expert (perhaps a team of them, even) with a top secret computer (each country could also develop computer parts in secret to upgrade their systems) and we resolve disputes from now on by playing Ghost Recon or Halo and blowing eachother up in the virtual world rather than actually hurting and killing people in real life.

Posted by: Pam on February 13, 2003 02:55 PM

Sounds like a lot more fun than having to blow people up.

Posted by: scott on February 13, 2003 04:07 PM

Greetings again,

Well, I only mention the expansion of the US to bring about the point that we were at many times the terrorists unwilling to listen to anything but our own egotistical calling from ‘god’ to claim the boards of this land. I use it as an example to draw our comparison of a quiet man and one rife with a history of blood-lust. I do not want to use this space as a location to debate the pros and cons of said expansion, just using it to point out things.

I understand what you are saying about the events with the Spanish-American War. But, with all due respect, you are glossing over important details. We didn’t go to war with Spain until April 1898, when one of our naval ships was destroyed. At that point we declared war on Spain. The Spanish military leaders knew that they could not match our naval abilities and knew of certain failure against the US. This war lasted until the end of 1898 with Cuba being handed over to us Jan. 1 1899. Yes, this war lasted 8 months. We were there as a direct result from an attack on us. The event lasted 8 months. We were handed Cuba and that was that. I’m not trying to bring this into a total historical debate; I just want to note that we acted on that incident swiftly and strongly. This war also resulted in America becoming known as a great power.

To discuss whether the military was drastically downsized or not really isn’t a good defense regarding us being a ‘sleeping giant.’ We as a nation have maintained a military ready to go into battle. By constant training and recruitment procedures, we try to sustain a constant state of preparedness; this is not what I consider ‘sleeping.’

The only thing, dear friend that I have not been informed of from you is the correlation between the targeting of Saddam and the smoking hole in NY or the recently patched walls of the Pentagon. Al Quaeda has been removed but not demolished. Osama bin Laden is still running rampant. We cannot find him. This is just a distraction so that people will forget that last March Bush proclaimed he will kill Osama. Since then there has been very little talk of our most vengeful foe, why? What has happened in the immediate past that has elevated Saddam from his normal level of being a pain-in-the-ass that he normally is to the horror that is causing people to rush out to create their very own suffocation chambers?

I will tell you why we have the heighten state of alert. Bush and company is prancing around threatening Saddam. They are frustrated with the UN and are ready to attack. Because of these threats Saddam has stepped up his America bashing and started his own threats. Osama likes the look of this and acknowledges that America must go down and is rallying his troops. Tracing this back, we find that the aggression of a woken giant re-directing his frustration upon a different target simply because his first one eluded him. If someone cuts you off in traffic and drives out of sight, do you then chase the next person that runs a red light in your aroused anger? Not likely.

Yes, we have to retaliate against the ones that attacked our soil. Yes, Saddam is a fear that needs to be taken care of. But, you cannot easily disregard my dislike in the current state of affairs when we are being lead into combat by a guy that referred to Saddam by saying “After all, this is the guy who tried to kill my dad.” These are not the words of a sleeping giant trying to avoid conflict. These are the words of vengeance, hatred and personal emotions. This, my friend is one of the reasons the current administration scares me and I do not agree with the necessity of war. Not at this time, not in this way. There are far to many other possible theaters to be taken care of.

One last note, about your analogy with the movie, remember life is not Hollywood. If it were, we would all sit down at Christmas and watch “It’s a Chekov Life.” Where am I going with that? Well, just a final point that no super power is ever a sleeping giant trying to avoid conflict. There is a reason one becomes a super power, and maintains such a state. It isn’t because we sit idly by at struggles within other countries. We are known as the policemen of the world. We watch everyone and get involved like the nosey neighbors that we are. The attacks were tragic, but a true vision of reality dictates that such an even is going to happen. No matter who you are. It is good that we reacted like we did to the attacks, but let’s not allow that to take a back burner when it should be our priority.

Posted by: Sesh on February 13, 2003 04:08 PM

Everything you deplore about America is part and parcel of your standard of living. We all have the right to express our own opinion, but it sounds to me that you might be happier if you walked away from your computer and joined the Taliban.

Posted by: Doug on February 13, 2003 06:48 PM

Doug: Sesh is obviously concerned for the freedom of not just American citizens but citizens of the world in general. The Taliban has no concern for freedom of any kind. That was a rather cheap remark, don't you think?

Watching the debate with interest...

Posted by: Pam on February 13, 2003 07:07 PM

You are correct Doug in the fact we all have our own opinions, thats why we all comment.

Nice, cheap shot.. and no weblog to look at.

Posted by: Ellen on February 13, 2003 07:16 PM

Again, we took the land because in large part nobody else had claim to it. A matter of semantics for certain, in that hunter-gatherer societies simply don't look at real estate in that fashion, but still.

America's maintenance of a really large standing army is quite at odds with the previous century-and-a-half history of our country. Without exception, we have a tendency to build up really large forces in response to immediate threats, only to utterly dismantle them after the threat is over. The Civil War, both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, even the Gulf War, were all examples of us building up massive armed forces against either real or perceived threats, only to take them apart and spend the money elsewhere when we decided the threat, well, wasn't.

We are a sleeping giant precisely because of this. Apologies if I seem pedantic, but again modern warfare is determined by how many fancy widgets you can turn out per day to blow the other guy up in new and interesting ways. In this way, industrial capacity is the ultimate "stealth" weapon. What turns out cars can, with a dozen or so months of retooling, be simply retasked into turning out, say, F-16s. My father, while touring a Pontiac plant in the early sixties, once asked what a series of switches and alarm bells actually meant. "Oh, those?" the tour guide commented, "if someone presses those we can be turning out F-4s in about two days." With respect, I would posit you are mistaking "preparedness for defense" with "preparing for attack."

Also, I would be careful you are not, as so many of our and the world's liberal "elite" are, mistaking the man for the cause. Just because you don't like George Bush the person doesn't mean you get to automatically assume everything he does is wrong. It's OK to be suspicious (more power to you!), but beware the ad-hominem.

What other theaters do we take care of first? North Korea is in China's sphere of influence, and it is in China's best interest to control them. Al-Quaeda has been driven underground; it's leaders almost certainly dead, most definitely rendered ineffective. If you would deny me the analogy of film, allow me the analogy of the game. When fighting the "boss" monster, which should you go after first... the monster itself, even when it's hiding behind a rock and of no threat to you at the moment, or the energy sources that allow it to heal and power-up indefinitely?

Posted by: scott on February 13, 2003 07:58 PM

I came here via a pointer from Emperor Misha.

Dear Scott and sesh: If there were some way that YOUR BODIES, rather than those of my family, will be torn to shreds in the next terror attack, then I would bear with you.

But that is unlikely.

Do you think, after that next terror attack, that the American people will, as a result, meekly elect compromisers, appeasers, and peaceniks to sue for terms of peace?

Do you?

Posted by: Gerald on February 13, 2003 09:26 PM

Gerald, I think you are misreading Scott's point of view. I hope and pray that no one's family is "torn to shreds" in a future terrorists attack. As much as I dread and fear it I think the time has come to go forth and take care of business.

Posted by: Pat on February 13, 2003 09:52 PM

"take care of business"

As far as I'm concerned, that says it all. America, as a nation and as individuals, has learned that we cannot (CANNOT!) ignore those who would do us harm. Talk ancient history all you want about the causes and results of the War of 1812, but we're living on the ground today. I'll even give you Vietnam. We learned our lesson there, harshly learned it. That's why I applaud our approach to Iraq and Al-Queda. Here is a basket of snakes that would do us harm given half a chance. We have the means to stop it. We can put the lid on it, and put the basket in a deep hole, and seal that hole up with concrete so they run out of air, or we can obliterate it into shreds a micron thick and a millimeter long. We will choose the former over the latter, given the choice, but something must be done before more innocents die on these shores for no reason other than they are on these shores.

And you know what? We'll learn even more lessons from this war. We'll examine it 5,000 ways to Sunday and we'll come out the other end better and stronger. And that education, again harshly won, will only serve to make the mad dogs madder, but how do you cure the mad dogs? By killing them with a single bullet to the head when they walk down your street, just like Atticus Finch did.

I don't want a war. War is hideous. All I want to do, though, is go about and do my business and take care of my family, and I want them to do the same. It's a crying fucking shame that I can't do that today because some asshole keeps poking me in the ribs while I try to drink my beer and listen to the band in peace.

[Grrrr...sorry for that mini-rant, Scotty. Nice essay. Very nice.]

Posted by: Scott Chaffin on February 13, 2003 11:47 PM

"To discuss whether the military was drastically downsized or not really isn’t a good defense regarding us being a ‘sleeping giant.’ We as a nation have maintained a military ready to go into battle."

Wow. Denial that strong should only be available via prescription. The first sentence openly contradicts itself, then the next goes it one better.

Mission Control to Sesh: if the argument is about a "sleeping giant" amidst the disputes of nations, a drastically downsized military is in fact the best possible evidence imaginable. It's not a good defense - it's a near perfect one.

"We as a nation have maintained a military ready to go into battle."

This is where the denial goes nuclear. Your opposite number just told you we didn't have a military ready to go into battle, twice. He has good evidence to back it up. Moreover, that unreadiness and downsized military state was the very subject of the argument you acknowledged in the preceding *sentence*.

No, America has NOT always maintained such a force. Your opponent has brought forth evidence, and your response was to dismiss it and then assert the contrary, both on no basis at all. Which, from a debating point of view, makes you either dishonest or delusional.

Which is it?

Posted by: Joe Katzman on February 13, 2003 11:50 PM

> we resolve disputes from now on by playing Ghost Recon or Halo

What happens when someone:
(1) Decides to ignore the outcome of such games.
(2) Refuses to play.

Posted by: Andy Freeman on February 14, 2003 02:15 AM

Andy: my video game strategem would only work if everyone decided to forgo the deaths of innocent people and play fair. Since no one will ever want to stop killing people, like I said to Scott, it'll never work =)

Posted by: Pam on February 14, 2003 07:56 AM

Scott: What is your view on the US going to war against the wishes of the UN?

Posted by: Pam on February 14, 2003 07:57 AM

Excellent piece Scott, I'll be linking to it.

Posted by: Jeff Brokaw on February 14, 2003 08:52 AM

Here is a good link to an economic article about the USA's WWII economic potential

Couple of asides,

The US Until recently has not had a huge standing force (And when you look at the percentages of our population and total GDP we don’t spend a such a huge amount on the military and a lot of what we do spend goes to things like the VA, retirement, soldiers pay etc. In 1997 the only 4.7% of our GDP was spent on Defense)

Sleeping Giant:
Every single war the US has fought in (With the exception of The Gulf War) the military hasn't been prepared. From the war of 1812 (The frigates that the US had authorized to be built during the Rev war had been laid up, the army had been downsized etc) We almost went into the Spanish American war with Civil war era Monitors as our primary battleships. WWI the navy was in good shape but the army and Air forces were pitifully inadequate. History speaks for itself with regards to this. The forces that fought in Vietnam were available because of the cold war. The gulf war forces were available because the drawdown from the cold war had yet to come fully into effect (The battleships that were there were on their last deployments prior to mothballing etc)

Does this mean I think that the US should invade Iraq?? Nope. We are going to go into Iraq for the wrong reasons. Does Saddam need to go?? Yes. Is the use of military force the only way we are going to be able to get rid of him?? Probably, But to go in on our own at this time is only going to make a bad situation MUCH worse. The time to act on our own has passed (Either during the Gulf War or directly after 9/11 when we could have said "Saddam is a direct threat to us and he is going Bye-Bye” and made it stick. Now it just seems like W is doing this as a political ploy designed to take the American peoples minds off the @#@ job he is doing on the economy and other world affairs.


Posted by: Jeff on February 14, 2003 10:20 AM

Wow, it looks like I have a lot to answer for. I will try to address all those that have written to/about me.

Doug - No where did I say that I hate America for what it has done. All I was merely trying to say is that we are not as sweet and innocent as some might think. And yes, we do all have the right to expres our opinions. I believe though that by your words, that because my opinions might not directly tie into the “America – Goood, rest of the world – baaad” sentiments that I would be better of leaving. I don’t see how this makes sense only because we are both using that American freedom to feel comfortable to openly discuss these specific opinions.

Scott - To continue on the debate as to whether we are a sleeping giant or not has merely boiled down to semantics. This is an argument that has continued on within the walls of the big building with the dome a few blocks away from where I currently sit. This is a debate in which we will not come to agreeable terms because we do not agree on the terms used.

I do however, feel that someone is attempting to have us travel down a certain path which cannot produce any civilized debates. I am, of course, referring to your statements “Just because you don't like George Bush the person doesn't mean you get to automatically assume everything he does is wrong.” The warning of sounding like a “liberal elite.” I, in none of my previous responses have made no mention as my like or dislike of Bush save one, the line he used about Saddam. I did mention oil at one point but that was simply to echo other sentiments that not only people within our great shores have expressed, but other leaders in other countries. I know of conservative republicans that have expressed the same ideas. And, being the fact that I have not attacked Bush on any other topic, I don’t think that paragraph is pertinent to the discussions we are having on this particular topic.

What I will say though is this. I have put forth a question that has yet to be answered. I still would like to know how, because of the smoking hole in NY, how did we get to needing to attack Saddam immediately. To repeat myself from the previous response, why are we directing our anger toward a different player in the field? Let’s assume for a moment that I will allow the “sleeping giant” analogy (I haven’t but let’s just pretend). How does this directly affect our relation or strain on Saddam? Yes, a sleeping giant has awoken (remember we are pretending on that agreement) does this mean we can lash out against all those who have wronged us in the past? Ok, we have taken out Saddam, bring on the next victim, we are still pissed at the events of 9/11! Where is the sense in this?

Gerald - I don’t understand. I stated previously that I agree with going in and blowing the snot out of Osama. I don’t understand the animosity towards us (or me). I am deeply sorry for any loss that you, your friends and family might have encountered because of the events in NY, Penn, or the Pentagon. I was working with the DOD at the time and knew of friends that were directly affected by the attacks. I don’t want you to think that I would want any other action then to destroy bin Laden in no less then 400 ways.

Joe - Oh boy, what do I say now? Ok, let me try to explain what I was saying. I never started the discussion as to whether the military did or did not downsize. What I was attempting to say is this; we as a nation have maintained a military that trains to be in a readied state of awareness. This state does not, to me, paint a picture of “sleeping giant.” It shows me a person that is using every day to prepare to fight and die for his/her country/leader/god/whatever. This is not the method of someone preparing for peace. This is someone who is ready to defend peace, moreover, jump into the fray when the going gets tough, not back down. Again, like I stated above, debating “sleeping giant” is a debate of semantics and not one for this type of forum. I suppose the only other evidence toward my comments of an active force rather then one that tries to stay out of conflict can best be represented by a small list of military actions that have happened since WWII.

Korea War
Defense of Chinese Nationalists
Bay of Pigs
Anti-Communist Intervention
Vietnam War
Dominican Crisis
Mayaguez Incident
Operation Eagle Claw
Operation Urgent Fury
Operation El Dorado Canyon
Persian Gulf War
Operation Restore Hope
Operation Uphold Democracy
Balkan War

Make no mistake, I am not debating the right or wrong of our participation in said events, just merely pointing out that we are always doing something besides training.

If I missed anything please let me know and I will attempt to address it.

Posted by: Sesh on February 14, 2003 10:33 AM

It's a misperception to think that the UN is some sort of governing body. It is not. It is an advisory organization, a pressure valve that allows governments to blow off steam at each other and get the word out about their situations. In this capacity it has served admirably, especially during the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.

While its charter certainly implies that decisions are binding on its members, the mechanisms for making those decisions were purposely set up (by all the participating nations, not just the United States) to ensure national sovereignty would never be impinged. Example:

What the United States is asking for is, in essence, for the Security Council to authorize the use of military force to enforce previous Security Council resolutions. Were, say, France to veto this measure, it would simply mean that the Security Council (and therefore the UN) have neither authorized nor prohibited the use of force.

For a full prohibition to be put into effect, another resolution would have to be brought before the council stating this clearly. The United States would, of course, veto this resolution (more likely Russia or England would do it for us, for concessions), and therefore no prohibition could ever be put in place.

It won't come to this, mainly because France and Russia (who are the only ones who have a veto on the council) aren't interested in world peace. Both governments could care less if, say, the entire population of Iraq were to get marched into the sea.

The French government is worried because they have big economic interests in the present regime in Iraq, and the current government is extremely pliable to France's normal method of diplomacy (bribes). Because United States businesses are, of course, forbidden to trade with Iraq, both France and Germany have a far easier time trading with the current government.

Russia has a slightly different set of concerns. They are one of, if not the, largest exporters of oil behind Saudi Arabia. They are making money hand-over-fist right now with world oil prices so high. It's given them three years of economic prosperity (which, considering they still have hundreds of nuclear-tipped missiles on hand, is a Very Good Thing). They also desperately want to open up some sort of pipeline to give their oil access to the ports in the Persian Gulf. They've made multi-billion dollar agreements with the current Iraqi government to build those pipelines.

Were a democratic government successfully set up in Iraq, all of this would be threatened. The United States has (admittedly only in the past 30 years or so) gotten this incredibly unreasonable idea that bribing everyone within earshot is not a kosher way to do business. This seriously hacks France off, because their welfare state and union practices makes them completely uncompetitive otherwise. Germany ends up with a lot more effective competition than the stupid French. Russia has a double threat-- that their pipelines won't get built and the price of oil will probably fall, threatening both the future and current state of their economic and political stability.

What we're seeing is actually the edges of an intense battle involving some very, very powerful people who have decided they must be made happy before we get our way. Russia will be the easiest. They are probably looking for guarantees of their pipeline contracts and a promise from us we won't open Iraq's taps wide when we get our hands on them. Assuming our guys are smart enough to realize this (no promises there), expect Russia to turn around in the next week or so.

Germany doesn't have a veto on the Security Council, but, ironically, is chairing it at this time. I think they're also looking for some business guarantees and some sort of political cover so Schroeder won't look so stupid when they abstain. I think if we could just open up a tiny bit more and tell folks where some targets really are they'd turn around.

That, of course, leaves France. France has a veto, and France is feeling left out. This is never a good thing. Their government is seeing this as their Last Big Chance to show the world that they are not, in fact, an irrelevant bunch of cheese-eating surrender monkeys (God I love that phrase). It's quite possible their overweening pride will blind them to any deal, and the buck can most definitely stop with them.

But there's still time, and Europe is nothing if not about big business. Mollifying Germany will go a long way toward taking the air out of France's balloon, and perhaps throwing France a few trade concessions will seal the deal. They'll be last, but I do expect them to come around.

Oh they'll all hem and haw and tear their shirts and claim it's all for the good of the world and wait until the very last minute (on the chance they'll get some juicier concessions), but I expect to see a whole bunch of abstentions instead of a single veto.

Anyone who tells you Europe's protests are about world peace and the dangers of American power is either hopelessly naive or selling something.

Posted by: scott on February 14, 2003 10:47 AM

Pam, with all due respect, why should we care about the U.N.? It is a bad joke. The U.N. Commission on Human Rights is being run by LIBYA, for Pete's sake. And Iran and Iraq are due to chair the Disarmament Committee this summer? Most countries in the U.N. are being run by dictators, and the only way to get their support is to buy them off. How do you think we got the "unanimous" vote on Iraq the last time? They're worse than a bunch of Olympic judges, with every vote for sale...

Posted by: BarCodeKing on February 14, 2003 10:54 AM


You say:

"The only thing, dear friend that I have not been informed of from you is the correlation between the targeting of Saddam and the smoking hole in NY or the recently patched walls of the Pentagon."

You may think it appropriate to finely split hairs in this way but, in doing so, you only exhibit your ignorance of the larger picture. America did not declare war on Osama Bin Laden. America did not declare war on Al Queda. The war, my friend, has been declared on those who are driven to acquire the means of killing Americans en masse out of a hatred for Western culture. The war is declared on those who believe that 9/11 was a wondrous event and who are working to arrange a sequel.

Here are two essential questions you must answer: Do you truly believe that if Saddam were to offer a ton of VX nerve gas to Al Queda that they would turn down the offer because Saddam is not “pure” enough in his practice of Islam? Do you truly believe that Saddam would not give WMDs to terrorists for use against Americans if he believed he could get away with it?

Affirm the first, and you place your faith in the “purity” of those that snarl with abject hatred for America. Affirm the second and you place your faith in the “reasonableness” of a ruthless and insular tyrant, dictator and mass-murderer.

If you are willing to stake the lives of your countrymen on blithe affirmations of both of these questions, then it is little wonder that you, and others like you, have lost our faith and are largely being ignored.

(Note: I've posted more on this topic at http://wildmonk.net).

Posted by: WildMonk on February 14, 2003 11:06 AM

How does this directly affect our relation or strain on Saddam? Yes, a sleeping giant has awoken (remember we are pretending on that agreement) does this mean we can lash out against all those who have wronged us in the past? Ok, we have taken out Saddam, bring on the next victim, we are still pissed at the events of 9/11! Where is the sense in this?

Well done! While Quiet Man can be (and apparently has been) seen as a heavily pro-war tract, such was not my intent when I wrote it. I was merely attempting to explain the why behind it all. Why we always seem to hold back, why the people of Europe seem to so seldom support us, and why now it won't, can't make a difference. I am pro war at this time, and it shows in the essay, but my feelings are much more ambiguous than the essay would at first make seem.

If the current administration would answer all, or even one, of the questions you have put forth I think most of the problems and conflict we are experiencing would evaporate. There are reasons why they don't, some good (if we say "here's where the biological warfare trailer park is" it won't stay there for very long), some bad (stupid press monkeys don't need to know). I would certainly feel a lot more comfortable, that's for sure.

But, if we do decide to go to war, I'm of the opinion (to cheesily quote one of my favorite movies), "You're taking an awful risk [George]. This had better work."

Personally I think it will, and the world will be a better place for it. But I'd feel a lot more comfortable if I had more information.

Posted by: scott on February 14, 2003 11:19 AM


Even if the UN can and will be bought, it is still there for a reason. I have faith in it, which granted may be because I am a naive college student who doesn't really know a whole lot about the world (which is why I asked Scott how he felt about the US going against the UN...I don't have an opinion on it, so I was interested to hear his, since I usually disagree with him ;), but nevertheless...I think some appeasing and discussing should be done with the UN before the US goes "officially" to war.

If nothing less than to save America's image in the eyes of the rest of the world. A little damage control, if you would.

Posted by: Pam on February 14, 2003 01:47 PM

Ok, Pam, maybe this will help. Think of the UN as "Lord of the Flies" operating on a world stage, rather than a collection of wise Solons of the world.

Posted by: CGeib on February 14, 2003 08:32 PM

America's image in the eyes of the world will rise not because of what we do in the UN but because of what we do to free the Iraqi people.


Posted by: M. Simon on February 15, 2003 04:02 AM

Excellent article. Well said.

The fools who feel America is or ever has been "imperialist" don't get it, and never will.

Posted by: Dean Esmay on February 15, 2003 06:23 AM

Does freeing the Iraqi people mean bombing them all to bits? Also, some of them don't *want* to be freed. They are afraid that America will westernise their religion and culture, and I doubt that nothing short of Allah telling them otherwise will convince them.

Posted by: Pam on February 15, 2003 10:37 AM

We have not bombed anyone "to bits", which I take to mean indescriminant bombing of civilians, for sixty years. We haven't inflicted appreciable civilian casualties of any sort for more than thirty. We have hindered our prosecution of wars to avoid any chance of civilian casualties for more than ten. "To free [the villiage] it had to be destroyed" was false hyperbole in Vietnam, it's even worse today.

It should be pointed out that Russians wept when Stalin died. People dislike uncertainty, and that is why they attempt to hold on to even horrible governments.

As to the US "westernizing" the religion or culture of an occupied territory (which I take to mean "destroying" it), please provide an example of how we have done that in the past sixty years. Certainly the Japanese are no less Japanese for the experience, and sixty years on look at them now.

Posted by: scott on February 15, 2003 10:56 AM

No, not indiscriminate bombing, but there are no bombs that kill just the bad guys and no one else. Click, click, click ("American pilots have run out of dubious "military" targets and are now destroying mud houses, a hospital, Red Cross warehouses, lorries carrying refugees"). And those are just a few examples.

And finally, I never said that the US *would* westernise their culture/religion. I said they were afraid of it.

Regarding the Japanese: they used to be one of the healthiest peoples on the planet, but since the influx of McDonald's and American movies into their culture, (and it being "fashionable" to be American over there) they are now progressively getting unhealthier. Fascinating.

Posted by: Pam on February 15, 2003 08:22 PM

Pam: "Does freeing the Iraqi people mean bombing them all to bits?"

No, and no one with any sense believes that's going to happen.

Have you, oh, I don't know, bothered to ask any actual Iraqis whether they want us to remove Saddam? Of course you haven't.

Pam: "They are afraid that America will westernise their religion and culture"

If you knew ANYTHING AT ALL about Iraq, you'd know that it's already westernized. It's a secular state, run by a secular dictator. It's nothing at ALL like Afghanistan under the Taliban, or Iran, or Saudi Arabia, or...

Pam: "Regarding the Japanese: they used to be one of the healthiest peoples on the planet, but since the influx of McDonald's and American movies into their culture, (and it being "fashionable" to be American over there) they are now progressively getting unhealthier"

Their average height has increased by 10 cm (about 4 inches) and the rate of school children harboring intestinal parasites has dropped from 70% to less than 10%, among many other signs of "unhealthiness".

Posted by: Niccolo Machiavelli on February 15, 2003 11:47 PM

The American way may not always be the right way, but I don't recall us forcing any country's people to submit everything to us and forgo any previous existence.
I do remember my history that we have "liberated" some populace from horror dictators and helped others in setting up a new government when asked for help. We do not force our ideals on anyone; if other people want to be like us, that is their problem; if other people want to blame us, then that is their right; if other people want to anihilate us, then that is our problem to deal with.
There are certain things I, as an American, would not wish on another country's people as a whole; death is one of them. I was brought up in the 70s and 80s (been through some rough/scary stuff), but we were attacked and are being provoked.
We can debate on this issue all we want, but we aren't the ones making the decisions on either side to go forward or stop any of this.
BTW Sesh, working for the DOD at the time of the attacks doesn't necessarily mean you were privy to all the data about who was involved and to what extent. I did notice that you said "were" and that word to me speaks volumes.
Oh, and Pam, just because you're in college doesn't mean that you are naive about the world. Your take and stand on events are shaped by what you witness and see as you age. People like me are hardened by some of the events of our teenage years and early adult lives. This situation is shaping what you will think in the future.

Posted by: Cindy on February 16, 2003 12:55 AM

Niccolo: No, I haven't asked any Iraqis whether or not they want the Americans to remove Saddam or not, but guess what? Neither has the American government. But I wonder, judging from the throngs of people shown on the news marching in the streets of Iraq with Saddam's face on their signs, if they do in fact want their dictator to be removed, as Mr Bush seems to think.

One could of course argue that the Germans did not want their Hitler removed either, but that is not the point here. It's not whether the Iraqis are justified in wanting what they want, it's simply whether they want it or not. Americans may have to face that when they go into Iraq, they might not be welcomed with open arms, and may not be thanked afterwards for the "help" they offered.

Posted by: Pam on February 16, 2003 08:28 AM


I simply cannot take your citations seriously as a source of unbaised research and reportage when I find things like:

There is no difference between the attacks upon the WTC [and the] U.S-U.K. revenge coalition bombing of military targets located in populated urban areas.


Killing civilians even if unintentional is criminal.


national-level media outlets try to report as accurately as possible given the resources at their disposal

and the author's reliance on Al Jazeera and Afghan Islamic Press as primary and reliable sources. You shouldn't either. The author quite patently has an axe to grind.

Far more evenhanded (and IMO trustworthy) is this NPR report

Picking an increase in the rate of heart disease as a sign that one nation's culture did not in fact survive the occupation of a western power is cherry picking. The Japanese people are healthier, freer, better educated, and wealthier than pretty much any other Asian country on the planet. These developments all ocurred in the past sixty years, not coincidentally starting about the same time as the United States ended its occupation.

Posted by: scott on February 16, 2003 10:43 AM

I missed that comment about the attacks on the WTC being no different from bombing of military targets. Sorry.

And I (personally) believe that killing civilians...any civilian...IS criminal, whether it is unintentional or not. Every country should be accountable for the deaths it deals in a time of war, just as it would be if there was no war.

I think the belief that a country is not responsible for the deaths it causes in wartime is a terrible one. A couple of American pilots "accidently" dropped a bomb on some Canadians doing live-fire training in Iraq. The American government is attempting to pass it off as "casualties during a time of war", so they don't have to be liable for them. On a larger scale (and bear with me here), how is that any different from al Qaeda bombing the WTC and claiming zero liability for civilian deaths in a time of war? If the American pilot had "accidently" dropped a bomb on some Iraqis doing live-fire training, would anyone care? Probably not. Why? Because we don't like them, and even though we're not officially at war...well, who cares.

As for the Japanese, I never said that their culture did not survive the occupation of a western power. I said that their diet did not survive the mass Americanisation of their world. Yes, it's their fault for wanting to be American. But in wanting to be American they are losing their health and maybe even a tiny sliver of their culture. Who can say, in a hundred years, if anyone will still know how to make a really great miso soup.

They may be better educated, freer, and wealthier than before. The same may come of the Muslim people of the middle east when we win this war and help them out a little. But Scott, I just can't help but think that if another culture came along to US and said "Oh my god! You guys are so very behind. Here, we can improve your way of life...make you more educated, healthier, freer, wealthier...all you have to do is get rid of sports, hamburgers, french fries, actually all fast food whatsoever, we're going to completely flip your way of governing yourselves, take away this and replace it with that (etc etc)" we would be pretty put out. Human nature is that we want to evolve and change on our own. We want to better ourselves! And doing all that drastic stuff to us is just like what we may do to the middle east, and how they may feel once it's done.

(Trying very hard not to use absolutes, being that this is all opinion)

Maybe they are great and wonderful and really good changes that will improve their way of life and all that...but I think we should stop and think about how we would feel if someone tried to change us that way. I realise that America has not forced their culture onto anyone in the past few decades. But I am concerned for the middle east, simply because a very few number of people seem to understand the religion/culture over there. It is completely alien to a great number of people, and what do people like to do to that which is strange but to change it into something familiar?

I guess I don't really have an argument against the war itself. I am against war and killing and all of that nasty stuff, but if any other country had been treated the way America had by a foreign body, they would have been in and out already (with the exception of Canada, because no one really gives enough of a shit to piss off Canada anyway ;-). Regardless of how America treated Iraq. It's time to just duke it out, because that's the way it's going to be done and that's the only way we know how to absolve frustrations between countries at the moment.

I didn't intend to get involved in this debate because as I said before, I haven't thought my way through all of this and formed opinions and such of my own. I didn't think it'd be fair if I kept wavering back and forth between points ;) So if it's okay with you, I will probably not say anything more on the subject.

Thanks again, Scott, for getting those rusty gears going.

Posted by: Pam on February 16, 2003 06:37 PM


The whole point of the exercise is to debate. Defending your beliefs is like putting them in a fire... it threatens them, but also makes them more flexible, combines them with other elements, and makes what comes out stronger.

Thanks for paricipating, and not getting personal! :)

Posted by: Scott on February 17, 2003 07:26 AM

A good thinking piece. . .I encourage you to write more. . .the connections you have need to be more supportive with more evidence to your case but otherwise a very good argument.

Posted by: Pang on December 17, 2003 11:54 AM
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