The G7 recently wrapped up in France. Amongst many topics of discussion were Russia and possibly inviting them to be present for next year’s G7 meeting in the United States. Russia used to be the eighth member of the group. That was until their membership was revoked by the other countries for annexing Crimea in 2014. President Trump has publicly promoted the idea of claiming it’s better to have them in the room than out. This stance fuels Russian conspiracy theories and only reinforces his critic’s beliefs that he indeed colluded with Russia in the 2016 election. Appearances are everything. By taking that position Trump does himself no good politically speaking, especially by rehashing a story that dominated the majority of his first two years in office.
A search of why the G7 is important brings up the following statement. The G7 brings together the world’s advanced economies to influence global trends and tackle pervasive and cross-cutting issues. The G7 has strengthened international economic and security policy, mainstreamed climate change and gender equality, brought donors together and supported disarmament programs.
With all the lofty goals from the seven most advanced economies, the two most pressing issues that were publicly disclosed were tariffs and trade wars. Since the G7 focus has historically been about economics I am surprised and saddened to hear the lack of attention given to the cost of actual wars. Case in point the global war on terror. That war has cost the U.S. and several other countries trillions of dollars. Since the attacks on the United States in 2001, the U.S. and its allies have been involved in fighting an ideological war in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. Besides the time and bloodshed lost, imagine what could have been achieved if we had an actual path to victory and not continued to engage in this generations Vietnam.
I wrote about war and its cost in my book The War For The Middle. I’m including it in this post to bring some perspective. While the media focuses so heavily on trade wars because it might make their next Chinese made product a few dollars higher, perhaps they should refocus on what real loss is. Anyone that has had to bury a loved one who died while fighting overseas would gladly take a trade war over a real war any day of the week. For people that say trade wars can bring us into a recession, I say this. You can always get another job. You can’t unbury the dead. With that being said I hope you enjoy the section.
The 1960s were undoubtedly the protest era. There was a musician by the name of Edwin Starr. In 1969 he released a song that summed up the frustrations of the nation and the anti-war movement of the time: simply titled, WAR. The lyrics are profound, simple, repetitive and hit home.
“I said, war, huh good god, why’all
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing say it again.”
He goes on to say:
“War means tears to thousands of mothers eyes
When their sons go to fight
And lose their lives.”
He closes the song with this verse before ending with the chorus:
“It ain’t nothing but a heart breaker
(War) friend only to the undertaker
Peace, love, and understanding
Tell me, is there no place for them today
They say we must fight to keep our freedom
But lord knows there’s got to be a better way.”
In my opinion, truer words have not been spoken. I want to focus on the second to last line of that song. “They say we must fight to keep our freedom.” We all know freedom is not free. In order to live in a free society, you must have people who are willing to fight to defend that freedom and ultimately sacrifice their lives if need be. The price of freedom and cost of war is measured not just in dollars and cents but, in the souls of countrymen lost and the families who grieve them.
Sometimes you have to fight on foreign soil to retaliate against a country who has struck the first blow. What if there was no actual attack on the United States and the motivation of ‘fighting for our freedom’ is based on ideology? Is promoting the American way of life a just cause for sending our soldiers thousands of miles away to possibly die in a foreign country that does not believe in what we believe in? Is it not conceivable to war hawks that the world is a complex place and our views on how to govern are just that, our views? Should a world of 7 continents consisting of several hundred countries and over 7 billion people all share the same beliefs that are written in our constitution? If communism, tribal law, and dictators who rule with an iron fist are accepted forms of government for the people of those lands who are we to tell them otherwise.
The Vietnam War lasted slightly more than 17 years. Our government and military leaders decided that in order to stop the ‘domino effect of communism’ we had to take a stand in Vietnam. There were no clear winners after we withdrew our troops. The end result was thousands of lives lost on both sides. The Southern half of the country that we fought so hard and long to defend was taken over by the communist-controlled North shortly after our departure. Soldiers who returned home were not given a heroes welcome. On the contrary, they were often treated with disdain by a people who did not believe that the war many of their comrades died for was just, let alone did anything to keep our country free. If the end result was delaying the inevitable, was the cost of that war worth it?
Currently, we are waging wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria in an effort to defeat terrorism. The attacks on September 11, 2001, are what motivated us to enter into Afghanistan. Osama Bin Laden, a former US ally during the cold war was now public enemy number one. He was credited as being the mastermind behind the attacks that caused the deaths of close to 3,000 civilians and injuries to approximately 6,000 more. It took us close to ten years but, in May 2011 we got our man and he met the fate of a bullet from our military’s finest.
Some might be naturally thinking ‘Mission Accomplished’, let’s go home: why are we still there? The same sentiment was expressed eight years earlier by the President who signed off on us going into war. In May 2003, President George W. Bush stood on an aircraft carrier under a giant ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner and declared that ‘‘major combat operations in Iraq have ended’’- just six weeks after the invasion. What gives? Why are we still there?
Since 2001, we have spent trillions of dollars, lost thousands of American lives, killed tens of thousands of enemy combatants along with many innocent civilians, destroyed multiple buildings and decimated entire cities all in the name of defeating terrorism no matter what the cost. The problem is there is a cost.
Whether it’s the war on terrorism, the war on drugs, defeating communism or liberating countries from oppressive leaders. Every war has a price that is only measured when it’s over. The war in Vietnam is eerily similar to the war on terror as there is no clear victor when the goal is ideology.
History books are written from the viewpoint of the author. Each country has its version of what happened. They will tell a story of who the bad guys were and how they were defeated.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) defines terrorism as “The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence against individuals or property in an attempt to coerce or intimidate governments or societies to achieve political, religious or ideological objectives”.
Now, imagine living in a country where for the past 17 years you are under attack and your city is in the middle of a war zone. You have no electricity or running water because the utilities have been destroyed by bombs and missiles. You want to fly away but the airport and runways were the first to be hit. Your family, friends, and neighbors have all been killed by the hands of a country that says they are fighting for freedom in a war against terror. If the NATO definition of terrorism is true and history is told by the survivors, who will they say is the enemy in the war against terrorism? Who will they call a terrorist?
Afghanistan has been labeled the graveyard of empires. If Britain and Russia were unsuccessful in their efforts, wouldn’t it be safe to assume that our efforts will prove fruitless as well? I close this chapter and section as I started it – with a song and a question. “War, huh, good god why’all, what is it good for?” Sometimes it’s for something, other times, absolutely nothing.