I feel kinda bad writing such a completely serious post--especially in the wake of my FurReal dog-blog yesterday. However, this is a question I've been pondering for several months now. Are we still technically "at war" in Iraq?
If you read my blog at all, you're probably thinking: "You fibber! Just a couple days ago, you said you were through talking about politics!"
Well, this isn't about politics. I'm not giving opinions or making any kind of analysis. And I'm not trying to be cute or clever. I'm simply asking a very serious question that I've not heard anyone else ask before. I just want to know the answer. I welcome any input you might have.
Every day--dozens of times a day--I hear or read the phrase "the war in Iraq." There are people who are solidly committed to this "war" and there are people who oppose it to the depths of their souls. It's certainly one of the hot issues of this presidential campaign.
I guess I must have a pretty narrow definition of war. To me, war involves battles, air assaults, campaigns, cannons, army vs. army engagements, and anything else associated with traditional "warfare." Which begs another question: Are those things happening now? Obviously we still have armed troops in Iraq. Lots of them. And these troops are fully prepared to engage in any kind of military confrontation as deemed necessary. But are there actual battles occurring? Are there strategically planned campaigns? Is there any ongoing combat involving battalions of American soldiers?
It seems to me that our role has changed drastically since the initial battles took place five years ago. Maybe when President Bush said, "Mission accomplished" on that aircraft carrier he was more correct than he's been given credit for being. (Perhaps he SHOULD have said "Mission One accomplished.") To me, it seems that now our purpose for being there is basically peace-keeping, not warfare. So if maintaining peace and incubating democracy is our current function, why does everyone keep referring to it as a "war?"
You can still read about "battles" occurring in Iraq. In fact, I googled an article from just a couple weeks ago (February 11) on current "battles" in Iraq. The big difference is that nowadays Iraq's battles seem to be mainly internal, religious-based skirmishes between the conflicting Islamic groups, the Shiites and Sunni. (Last year I read an incredible piece in Time called "Behind the Sunni-Shiite Divide." It is an amazing article that carefully describes the insane (and even silly) hatred between these groups. I strongly recommend reading it.)
So yet another question arises: Can hatred of that scale really be suppressed or controlled or prohibited? Are we being collectively naive to think that the country of Iraq can ever come to a point where Shiite and Sunni leaders will sit down and peaceably govern their nation? I wish I knew. In my gut, it seems like a noble but futile dream.
In our own history we learned how futile it is to "prohibit" anything on a national scale. The whole Prohibition period (1920-1933) was a nightmare in this country. The buying and selling (and making) of alcoholic beverages became illegal--a federal offense! They made a Constitutional Amendment to launch it (the 18th) and another one to repeal it (the 21st). Some things just can't be controlled. The ingredients to Religious Hatred (a "God Idea" plus an unyielding doctrine plus religious fervor plus prejudice), like whiskey (grain plus water plus sugar plus yeast plus heat), are "natural" and impossible to control by legislation or prohibition. And Reason certainly doesn't seem to work with the Iraqi factions.
I truly believe that our troops are doing a good thing--a GREAT thing--by being where they are. However, part of me can't help but wonder if a "lasting peace in Iraq" is really possible. Or if it is possible, will it require so much time that the services of the children and grandchildren of our current troops will be needed to accomplish it?
So, I repeat the question: Are we still at war? or are we at Wishful Thinking? or are we at a genuine Crossroads of Change in the Middle East? I wish I knew.
Sober thoughts for a Saturday.