Thoughts On The Iraq War: Part 3

Readers have continued providing me with plenty of fine comments on the Iraq war. But before that, let’s get to the real reason I live in Japan.

Rob wrote on Sept. 13, “I’ve always wondered why you choose to live in Japan, and I guess I now understand. You want to live in a country where you can apologize daily for your foolish fellow citizens. Perhaps you and Sean Penn hang out on a regular basis.”

Ron clarifies, “I am surprised and disheartened to find that you live in Japan so you can daily apologize for being American, as revealed by Rob. I thought you lived in Japan because you hate whales.”

I’ve been outed!

Now, to the war.

Vinay wrote that “anyone who doesn’t think it’s going badly is just living in a fool’s paradise.”

Kartik wrote, “While an attack on Iraq to hunt Saudi terrorists was illogical and uncalled for, the planning of war and resurrection of Iraq went awfully wrong. Certainly you’d expect a lot better from a superpower.”

Rhonda, who is married to a Vietnam veteran with two Purple Hearts, wrote on his behalf, “Peace is patriotic. Pro life means no killing by the military. Support our soldiers means bringing them home.”

However, Brent wrote:

Has anyone ever stopped to consider that the only reason Saddam Hussein felt emboldened to discard the Gulf War treaty and ignore Security Counsel resolutions was because of the anti-Bush hysteria gripping the Democratic Party and their mainstream media mouthpiece? He had every reason to believe America would not support President Bush’s stance that the UN resolutions should be enforced. All the leftwing folks taking to the streets here and abroad protesting the saber rattling are to blame for the war. Mr. Bush pointed a gun at Saddam’s head and told him to comply with the UN resolutions, but the Lefties convinced Saddam that the gun was not loaded.

Granted, there have been three follies to Mr. Bush’s approach:

1) Islamic societies are incapable of our system of democracy, justice, and civil liberties.

2) If you’re going to fight a war, you don’t do so by trying not to offend the people you’re killing. The only language those people understand is violence, and to speak in any other voice is a waste of time.

3) Iran and Syria should be bombed back to the stone age if there’s hard evidence they’re involved in the deaths of our soldiers.

Brian wrote:

The war began on the grounds of WMD. When none were found they shifted to ousting Saddam. When he was found and detained and the violence escalated instead of waning, the war was lost.

Many military people were opposed to the war. Just militarily it was a bad idea. My father is a Navy captain and his best friend is an Army two-star general, neither support the war, both have spent their lives serving the country.

Walt, Bruce, and several others think I’m making a mistake to write about anything non-financial on my site. Walt said that he comes here for financial info only and doesn’t want to wade through “all this war crap” when he just wants stock tips. Bruce advises me to stick to my knitting and “stay out of politics and morality” so as not to diminish my business opportunities.

I replied that I don’t see anything wrong with taking a moment on the sixth anniversary of 9/11 to look at where we stand today. In fact, this situation took me back to when I posted an article in the week following 9/11 providing stock market guidance for when the markets re-opened, and was lambasted for daring to think of anything related to stocks when clearly something larger should have been on my mind. People threatened to end their subscriptions then, too, and some did.

Now, I’m attacked for daring to take a break from stocks to write about the war and what’s happened since 9/11. Again, people have threatened to end their subscriptions and some did last weekend.

That’s certainly their right, but I question why a person who has been well-served by the financial advice of a letter would quit that letter because of a difference of opinion with the author on a matter unrelated to finance. Far better, it seems to me, to react by sending a note comparing our difference of opinion and then simply acknowledging that it’s a big world and there are lots of ways to think about it.

In fairness to Bruce, cited above, he did take the time to send his differing viewpoint, which I’m pleased to share:

Movies are not where you go to get unblemished and unbiased view of politics, war, etc. — too many people today have no understanding of our country’s history other than badly blemished movies that deride “the greatest country on God’s green earth”. We are not perfect, but we are damn good, gracious, generous and much admired by many with any knowledge of history — we are also the object of disdain for our success by those who feel they cannot compete and find it makes them feel better about themselves to do so. I come from a family where my father was drafted into service in WWII, had four children, was wounded in action in France, served willingly, and all four of his sons volunteered for service (two during war and have no regrets and are proud of it). I am one of those four sons.

If you want objectivity you have to read stuff by the respected writers of both sides, understanding where they sit and where they stand and are willing to at least provide a balanced review of what happened and when and what the circumstances were at the time the events occurred. Did the Congress not overwhelmingly support going to war after viewing the same intelligence the president saw — 9/11 not being the first incident of terrorism but one of many prior? We made some mistakes along the way, so what, anybody that does something makes mistakes. Did the president not do what he thought was the right thing to do at that time which, by the way, was what many had been demanding (Democrat leaders and Republican, I can supply quotes) during the Clinton administration? Does any sensible, knowledgeable person believe the president lied and people died?

There are fanatics on both sides — most on the Democratic side of the aisle — who are demagogues who will stop at nothing for power to turn this country into a socialist state.

My grandfather flew B-29s in WWII and I live in the country that benefited most from a U.S. victory and subsequent reconstruction. I hear regularly from the elderly in Japan about how wonderful G.I.s are, how they landed at Yokohama and contrary to fears of raping and pillaging to follow, began handing out chocolate to the children and coffee to the adults. I’ve had old women come to me and pat my shoulder and thank me for rebuilding their country. This many years later, two generations removed, and that’s still what comes to their minds when seeing an American face.

I suppose that’s why it’s so painful for me to note that the same great country that was able to win WWII and so beautifully repair what had been damaged, has not had a decent follow-up action since. It’s hard to understand how anybody can be proud to see the American colors flying next to the names of these military actions:

> Vietnam
> Beirut
> Gulf War
> Somalia
> Iraq War

Bruce, I am proud of my country and I respect it to the point that I’m tired of people humiliating it through absurd actions like the ones shown above. Osama bin Laden even said prior to the start of the Iraq war that he was confident that he’d be able to draw America into a losing battle on Arab soil — and he did it. You and others continually remind everybody that America is the greatest country on Earth, yet it hasn’t had a proud military moment in two generations. That stinks.

What’s more, we pay through the nose for our military. It’s the greatest and most expensive the world has ever seen, but
is sent off on goal-less missions regularly that cheapen its prowess and the dedication of the men and women serving in it.

There’s a saying in Colorado about guns: if it’s important enough to shoot, it’s important enough to kill. This idea was drummed into my head as a boy. You do not treat guns casually. You do not point them without meaning. The only time you aim and shoot is when the situation is serious enough to require killing the target.

I wish presidents were taught something similar about our military: if it’s important enough to send troops, it’s important enough to win. In my lifetime, I’ve seen only sad news headlines about U.S. troops being sent to faraway lands on a whim, without adequate support, without a clear goal, and on a timeline and scope that creep as the years and months and dollars and lives go by.

Finally, invoking WWII is probably not the best way to defend the Iraq war. Those who successfully planned and executed our involvement in WWII would be shaking their heads and pounding table tops after witnessing the poor showing in both the gulf war and the Iraq war.

“Where was the plan?” Ike would scream.

Ask yourself, “What if D-Day had been as badly planned as the Iraq war?”

MacArthur would say to President Bush, “Let’s get these Iraqi people what they need!” When he arrived in Tokyo on August 30, 1945, MacArthur immediately decreed that no allied personnel were to assault Japanese people or eat the scarce Japanese food.

Ask yourself, “What if allies had barricaded themselves behind walls where they lived well while the Japanese starved and descended into civil war on the outskirts of Tokyo?”

No, the proud history of WWII is not the right way to defend the Iraq war. It’s a new generation. The brilliance of my grandfather’s generation is nowhere to be found.

Don wrote:

Psychologists know that regardless of what you say, what you do is who you are. We also know that children learn much more from the example of behavior than from the speeches made to them, and those examples wind up being the major character-forming issues in their lives. Leadership at any level is a role model, and one that affects character and behavior of those who follow them in the same way. When leaders play fast and loose with the rules or by pass them with excuses, they are making unwritten rules that say “you can ignore the established rules and make up your own”. This is an example to all who are below that leader; it authorizes and encourages similar abuse on their level. If our CEO (the dubya shrub) can’t demonstrate character in his position, given all his power, why should CEOs in industry or leaders in other fields?

The broad presence of character would be the universal antidote for social and political ills. Character is self-regulation to values that can be respected by society as a whole. We need laws only because self-regulation is not an automatic quality of the human species, and because far too many people do not value it in themselves, do not recognize it in others or do not use it as a selective tool in determining who they allow to lead or influence them. A president ignoring law or adjusting it to suit himself is the ultimate bad example of contempt for law and lack of character. When there is a blatant lack of character at the very top, you can expect it to trickle down in all areas, then multiply and become epidemic if it’s not stopped cold. That does not appear likely to happen, despite the vast amount of evidence that it should.

I fully expect this to become a greater issue in the market and economy in the near future because of the vacuum of character in current adminsitration that will continue for at least another 15 months.

There’s a lot more coming in each day, and I’ll post material periodically. I think this is important to all of us.

Tomorrow, though, we’ll get back to stocks.

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