Wednesday, August 22, 2012

American Foreign Policy: Bomb First, Talk Later

The let's-bomb-Iran drum beat gets louder as we get closer to November. For the chicken hawks on the right, this seems to be the only way they know how to talk foreign policy, not necessarily having to go fight or enlist their sons and/or daughters, as is the case with Mitt Romney's five able-bodied sons. 

Just in case war-drum beating is not enough, Romney's running mate, Paul Ryan even boasted “I voted to send people to war” as if that proved he has some sort of foreign policy and/or military decision-making experience. 

Mitt Romney and Sons -- Fit to Fight
Bragging about one's wanton desire to bomb other countries whose policies or leaders one doesn't agree with seems to have become the mindset of modern American politicians, left and right. The ability to drop bombs from 30,000 feet without a care as to the destruction on the ground has furthered desensitized politicians, and their supporters, from the consequence of war or the loss of lives. 

America's air supremacy may have begun with the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but the scale of America's war machine was put on full display during the Viet Nam War, where one bombing run after another became routine.

It’s Just Another Operation
Though “shock and awe” was a phrase uttered by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld during the invasion of Iraq, its doctrine was put into good use during the Viet Nam War. The American military even came up with great names for the various bombing campaigns, the most infamous of which was Operation Rolling Thunder. It was designed as “a method of strategic persuasion” to get the North Vietnamese to stop fighting. That went really well there, didn’t it? The bombing began on March 2, 1965 and did not end until November 11, 1968. This was the grand-daddy of the “shock and awe.”

File:Bombing in Vietnam.jpg
American F-105s "Operation Rolling Thunder"
By the end of “Operation Rolling Thunder,” a total of “more than a million sorties were flown and three-quarters of a million tons of bombs were dropped” on Viet Nam.

There were also Operation Barrel Roll, Operation Steel Tiger and Operation Commando Hunt, all took place in Viet Nam. Even our Judeo-Christian tradition could not stop us from bombing Viet Nam “back to the Stone Age,” because there was the Operation Linebacker and, in the best of Hollywood tradition, Operation Linebacker II, otherwise known as the Christmas bombing. It was so named because the US Air Force kept on bombing during and past the Christmas holidays.

The Christmas bombing, which lasted for 12 days, from December 18 to December 29, 1972, was notable for many things. The B-52 Stratofortress bombers, the backbone of the main attraction of the Viet Nam War, were modified to carry up to 60,000 pounds (27,215 kg) or 108 bombs. By the end of the 12 days, 15,237 tons of bombs were dropped on North Viet Nam, mainly  Hanoi and Haiphong.

B-52 Stratofortress Bomber
And you are not going to believe this? the so-called “carpet bombing” of Cambodia began with Operation Breakfast, which was decided by President Richard Nixon and his staff in the Oval Office, right after church service on Sunday, March 16, 1969. Church service!?!?

During the first war with Iraq we had Operation Desert Storm in 1990 and when that did not stop Saddam Hussein’s desire to “take over the world,” we moved on to Operation Desert Fox eight years later. Then we got serious with Hussein with Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, but we have now settled in in Iraq with Operation New Dawn as of September 1, 2011.

Over in Afghanistan we began with Operation Enduring Freedom, which has proven to be long-lasting because we are still there. And because of its enduring quality, we have used it again and again in the Philippines, the Horn of Africa and other places in between.

Commenting on what goes through the mind of the fighter pilots and whether they want to acknowledge what their bombs do to people and things on the ground, Giora Rom, a retired Major General and himself a fighter pilot in the Israeli Defense Forces wrote this in the Haaretz, Israel’s oldest newspaper, in April of 2009.

“Pilots drop bombs. Pilots kill people. Pilots destroy things that took great effort to build. Pilots do all of this without seeing the results of their actions up close.”

And now with the drones, at the press of a button, we can level towns and villages and destroy everything within, all from the comfort of an ergonomic chair in an air-conditioned room, within easy reach of Coca-Cola and pizzas. The drones have furthered eroded our humanity, our innate sense of responsibility and compassion for others. How can we when those we kill are nothing but blips and dots on a computer monitor, zeros and ones, not flesh and blood?

Unexploded bombs dropped on Cambodia, Laos and Viet Nam 35 years ago still kill and maim hundreds of innocent people every year, mostly farmers and their children. Viet Nam has estimated that it takes up to 300 years to clear all the unexploded  mines and bombs.

This Laotian man lost both of his arms and right eye to an unexplored 
cluster bomblet while fishing (Photo: Cluster Munitions Coalition)
Death and Destruction Sensitization
Peace and security should not be achieved through death and destruction, as in the cases of Iraq and Afghanistan. Diplomacy should not only be employed after a war or threat of an imminent war.

For the United States, the victims and survivors of every imaginable war and conflict it has ever been involved in since 1940 can be found right here in the good ole’ U.S. of A. Their stories we should know. Their experiences we should learn. Their pain and suffering we should feel. Too often those who are responsible for the policies that take our nation to war do so without empathy and a sense of who the people whose lives we are about to change forever are.

Faces of the very people who have been affected by our government’s foreign policies are reflected in those we see every day at our local gas stations, hospitals, schools and universities, neighborhood restaurants, churches, dry cleaners, banks, shopping malls and convenience stores.

Every effort for peace and every policy designed to achieve security, at home and abroad, should have the voices of these victims and survivors of our past wars and conflicts. Maybe, just then maybe, it will help with our effort to achieve peace and security around the world without the loss of lives and treasury, not to mention our own humanity.

Therefore, it should be a national concern whenever our political leaders beat the war drums, especially the candidates for the White House.