I was passed this link by a reader: Aid and Comfort. He wrote:
Is the American Legion providing aid and comfort to our enemies?
This is a valid question, I guess, since the link notes this story about the American Legion voting unanimously to “stand against anyone and any group that would demoralize our troops, or worse, endanger their lives by encouraging terrorists to continue their cowardly attacks against freedom-loving peoples”. Then we see a letter written to the President with a list of four points that the American Legion feels must be met before using military force and this admonishment:
It is the opinion of The American Legion, which I am sure is shared by the majority of Americans, that three of the above listed conditions have not been met
after beginning with
The American Legion, a wartime veterans organization of nearly three-million members, urges the immediate withdrawal of American troops
Quite a contradiction, no?
Well, yes and no.
You see, the letter to the President was written in 1999 regarding Operation “Allied Force” in the Yugoslav region. So while these two positions taken by the American Legion may appear to be contradictory IF VIEWED IN AN UTTER AND COMPLETE VACUUM, I humbly suggest that perhaps a thing or two has changed in the world since 1999.
(Yes, there will be those who maintain that 9/11 didn’t “change the world” but only “changed America’s view of the world”, but you gotta admit that changing America’s view of the world changes the world.)
Another difference between 1999 and 2005 is the fact that providing “aid and comfort” to our enemies today in Iraq runs the very real risk of endangering our people due to the nature of our presence on the ground among the population. In 1999 our fighter and bomber pilots were not nearly as exposed to backlash from locals or at risk from enemy militants aided by a potentially-hostile citizenry.
Regarding previous military action between Desert Storm and 9/11, I was just talking recently about how I had been opposed to the use of US Marines in Somalia when deployed there by the first President Bush in 1992. I saw it as an African problem and not worth our time, money, effort, or lives. I didn’t see how, had it been the mission or indeed even possible, that a stable and friendly Somalia really helped us in any way. But as I became more aware of what was really going on there, I began to see that “with great power comes great responsibility” and that sometimes you need to help people simply because they cannot help themselves.
By the time of the Battle of Mogadishu, I was firmly on the side of using our strength to do right for those who were weak. And I stood slack-jawed as we retreated after the street brawl.
I was skeptical of some things about the whole Kosovo/Yugoslavia/Bosnia/Wherever situation, but I fully supported the removal of Milosevic and peace-keeping missions in various places. Although some of the “wag the dog” arguments seemed compelling, I never put a whole lot of stock in them. I figure it was hyping something that was real to draw attention away from other more unsavory news, not creating a situation out of thin air.
As far as Haiti and the ever-unpopular nation building exercises in various places, I wanted at the time to have military-ish types of organizations to do that sort of work, not front-line combat troops. I think we’re seeing the value of that approach as we struggle in Iraq and Afghanistan to accomplish what we’ve set out to do. I was never against “nation building” as such, and I also noted some remarks by Michael Kinsley of Slate in September of 2003. Kinsley had wanted to know when Bush was going to apologize about his disparaging remarks regarding “nation building” during the 2000 election campaign. I cut and pasted a remark I had made earlier that year, and I’ll do so again this time:
But in 2000, remember, we were all looking back at Haiti, at Kosovo, and at a humiliating withdrawal from Somalia after many lost the stomach to win. We weren’t looking ahead toward four hijacked airliners and thousands of dead American citizens in September of 2001. President Bush, and the rest of America, has learned some hard lessons in the past year and a half, and our eyes are opened to the possibilities, even the probabilities, of more terror in the years to come. Bush would probably have used different words if he had known then what he knows now. Regardless, the question doesn’t explain anyone’s opposition to the war in Iraq. It’s merely partisan, which is just politics, and petty, which is just pedestrian.
The world has changed a lot. Even since September of 2003. It continues to change and won’t ever stop.
So while pointing out this apparent flip-flop by the American Legion is certainly fun for pundits and wanna-bes, I guess I just don’t see how it really applies to what’s going on today.