Of Diplomacy and Nationalism: How We Argue Inside Our Own Borders

Recently, a study published by Johns Hopkins University estimated the Iraqi civilian deaths at 655,000. This was a careful, scientific study, peer-reviewed and meticulously backed-up by other sources. The statistic is horrendous, the implications ominous. You would think that someone other than the families of those killed would care.

Oddly, however, it seems that in the U.S. our need to justify our actions makes it imperative that we dispute even the most solid evidence that our actions may have had disastrous results. We pick apart numbers which would make us reconsider, hearken to higher goals, and remonstrate with ourselves to “keep our eye on the prize”. Those who find themselves righteously outraged are all too often ignored by those who are trying to find the truth, as their outrage hints at a brand of extremism, and we have enough of that going around already.

Obviously, presenting hard numbers is not enough. Holding out summations by our own intelligence services which indicate that our activities are counterproductive to our proclaimed goals is not enough. Providing evidence that our leaders have deceived us is not enough to change our minds, or even to make us insist on an investigation. And yet, we are cautioned to be moderate in our statements, to consider the other side, to above all make our loyalty to our country foremost in all our thoughts and deeds.

At what point is the middle path the path to hell?

As a woman born and bred to logic and reasoned debate, let me take a stab at laying it all out in a logical fashion:

  • There are not, and were not at the time of our invasion, any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
  • Saddam Hussein did not support the men who attacked our country on 9/11
  • Our invasion of Iraq has resulted in the deaths of 655,000 Iraqi civilians, and over 2758 Americans.
  • Our actions in the “War on Terror” have damaged our standing in the international community, and been repeatedly called into legal question thereof.
  • Our fight against terror has not helped us catch more terrorists.
  • Our fight against terror has not made us safer from future attacks.
  • We have given up more personal liberty in the United States than at any other time except in a time of war, and yet there is a crucial difference between this war and others: there is no actual determinant by which we can decide at what point this war is won. Therefore,
  • There is no end in sight.

Let us consider all of these items, and their implications for our society. We have attacked and severely damaged another nation on baseless claims. In doing so we have undermined diplomacy with much of the rest of the world, but not ensured our own safety. In a war of eternal duration (realizing the inability of the United States to bring the entire world under its control, and recognizing that even if such a feat were possible there would still be no guarantee that we could keep down insurgent activity within our own nation), there is no point of recovery at which we may reclaim the rights which we have set aside. If this trend were to continue unabated, we would eventually find ourselves in the position of A) having little, if any, international cooperation, while B) as citizens having no means at our disposal to alter the course of our government, short of violence.

This is the fear of many in the United States today, and an endpoint I am quite sure no one at all wants. There are, of course, plenty of arguments which dispute this conclusion. Unfortunately, they seem to rest on emotional appeal and a variety of logical fallacies, such as the argument that as violence brought us to this point, the only solution is violence. These arguments are not factual, and are not convincing.

Of course, all of these facts have been presented before, many times and in many ways. Clearly, they are not enough to convince those who support the current administration that our path has become flawed. This is why we find otherwise rational people devolving into name calling and useless angry rhetoric — out of frustration that the facts are simply not enough. Sadly, this tendency leads anyone not already in agreement to the conclusion that they must be right in their assessment of current events, as such flailing appears to undermine the facts being presented. However understandable it may be from a humanistic viewpoint, we must hold ourselves to the same standard as that we argue for the United States detainee treatment policies: that it doesn’t matter if the other side is doing it, it undermines our cause if we sink to the same level.

That said, let me engage in a little diplomatic pressure which sets the facts in the background and addresses the emotional issues with which we are all presented on a daily basis.

Supporting U.S. military action uncritically and giving up individual rights will not save you or your family from the Terrorists. Giving up your personal freedoms by necessity demands that you conduct your life in a state of dependence upon our government to protect you, and yet all the evidence indicates that our government is making it more likely, rather than less, that someone will want to attack us. The Terrorists will not rely upon Constitutional freedoms to hide and protect their activities. They will carry on, oblivious to the limits imposed on the rest of us. Just as the prohibition of guns will ensure that only criminals have guns, the prohibition of personal liberty will ensure that only Terrorists have freedom.