Posted under Interventionism
The discussion over a potential rising of the anti-war Right along with how the “Jacksonian” or better described as the “Scots-Irish” subset of American culture view war have caught my attention. Dan Larison has written on the subject on Eunomia Justin Raimondo added in his two cents today. I agree with his view that Larison is trying to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Not all those who will take a non-interventionist stance on the current situation will do so from a Ron Paul point of view and many will find it hard to do so. Rep. Walter Jones Jr. is brave man to take the views he has taken because he represents a “Jacksonian” district, complete with a military base (the Marines’ Camp Lejune). Those with a vested interest in the military as a source of employment, as a veteran, as a nationalist, or anyone who identifies with the military in the name of institutional loyalty, may very well view Ron Paul as someone who wants to put them out of business. Indeed, the dilemma the antiwar Right faces is a difficult one, how do you convince people within the military community, people who would usually be labeled as Rightist, it is in their interest to follow a non-interventionist foreign policy?
One thing we should remember is that Jacksonians generally don’t start wars and generally don’t seek them out. Very few are ever in positions of power to do so to begin with (Jackson’s presidency itself was relatively peaceful. A Mexican incursion began the Mexican-American War under Polk. ) They simply fight them. They are the tools of the civilians. It’s the civilians who possess the ideology of warfare, whether its Rooseveltian imperialism, Wilsonian messianic idealism, the Cold War mentality or neoconservative revolutionism. Right now the current gang in power may very well frown upon the vulgar nationalism of the neocons, but they do incorporate Wilsonian idealistic principals they can easily use to justify force. The Jacksonians simply carry out the policy they way soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen do in our civilian-controlled military.
Accordingly, the stereotype of the Jacksonians is that they love to fight. They love war and battle. Some may, although even someone non-Jacksonian who wouldn’t be caught dead in a uniform like Jonah Goldberg, share the same characteristics (They watch a lot of Patton probably). But it’s one thing to love a good scrap, it’s another to love war for war’s sake. The whole Vietnam experience, as the Scots-Irishman James Webb will tell you, shattered the illusion the Scots-Irish will simply, unthinkingly die on command. Coinciding with the nuclear age, the idea of “limited war” offends the Scots-Irish because puts the whole meaning of death and sacrifice and glory into question. Put it this way, if I’m Jacksonian at Khe Sahn, and I fought to the death to prevent its capture and I lost a lot of my buddies in the process, how do you think I would feel when I found out only a few months later the U.S. military essentially abandoned the position and the enemy recaptured it without so much as a scratch? In strategies of limited war, Khe Sahn was insignificant. It meant nothing other than a political show of will to the Vietmanese. It the eyes of the Jacksonian, however, it meant that his effort was meaningless. They gave everything for the ground that was later given away without a fight. His buddies died for nothing. They died in vain in a useless war. Imagine Patton’s reaction if that had happened in World War II.
This is the silent fear that guides policy and guides public opinion, that at some point we will withdraw from both Iraq and Afghanistan and shortly thereafter our enemies will later triumph against our allies, just like Vietnam. But if our enemy is simply a terrorist group and a small one that at that (Al Qaeda is not Cobra from G.I. Joe), it’s hard to see how they could march down the streets of Baghdad or Kabul in a victory parade. Presumably the Taliban could regain control of Afghanistan if the U.S. ever left and our puppet government fell (as they all do when puppetmaster cuts the strings) but I’m not the idiot or idiots who continue to make the Taliban our enemy. The striking thing about Obama’s West Point speech was how little room was left open for any kind of political reconciliation with the Taliban and other assorted rebel groups. Because of this, over 100,000 U.S. troops and NATO allies now either beat the Taliban completely or admit failure. If the Taliban had handed over bin Laden when they had the chance, do anyone think they wouldn’t be running Afghanistan? Or do we continue to fight the Taliban because the feminists and the gay rights lobby would raise a stink if we didn’t defend the “new” Afghanistan? If that’s what we’re fighting for in Afghanistan, then it’s hard to see how enthusiastic Rightists can still remain for a war which has become something that has nothing to do with original purpose.
It may very well be that Jacksonian “total war” cannot happen in the nuclear age or in an age when our enemies is a terrorist group instead of a nation-state. What Rep. Chaffetz was proposing was a way to fight Al Qadea without having to bomb villages in the process with drone aircraft. This is the idea of Rep. Paul’s “letters of marque and reprisal” strategy that is written in the Constitution. After all, we are still at war presumably. Should not the proper resources be directed at scale and scope of the enemy we are facing? That’s a lot different from advocating a total transformation of the Middle East and not using the resources available to undertake such an ambitious project. This is the Bush II Administration’s and the neocons’ ultimate failure. They tried to fight a Wilsonian war with Taftian/McGovern military.
In the movie MacArthur, the General is frustrated at the limits the policy makers in Washington are putting on his forces during the Korean War in preventing him from attacking Chinese soil even though their MIGs are attacking U.S. troops. “I for the life of me do not know how to bomb half a bridge!” he says. That’s the whole point isn’t it? If you’re not going to engage in the effort that war requires for victory, then don’t do it. It’s that simple. You don’t make men die for half-measures or strategic stalemates like Korea itself, where we are still dealing with North Korea as an adversary over 50 years since the war concluded not with a peace treaty, but a simple armistice. Yes, the U.S. rolled back an apparent Communist tide without blowing up the world but creating a united Korean peninsula might would leave us less worry now about North Korean nuclear weapons or at least if Dean Acheson had sent the signal that the U.S. would defend South Korea, then maybe the war would not have been fought at all.
The Jacksonian Way of War, it seems to me, is pretty simple: Fight or don’t fight. Defeat the enemy totally or negotiate. Limited war may be an easy sell politically and it may be easy to do strategically, but the people who make those decision aren’t the ones doing the dying. The Jacksonians are for the most part. Is it not too much to expect those who wish to lead them give them the tools and present a strategy that will lead to a victorious conclusion so if those who do pay the ultimate price are not throwing away their lives needlessly and their sacrifices have a meaning and purpose for generations to come? I don’t think it’s too much to ask.