Teaching Lilly About the War on Terror
The War on Terror has been an enigma of sorts. It is has only loosely defined and grossly misinterpreted on both sides of the political aisle. Some say it’s a merely a Trojan horse for America to imperialize the Middle East and control the oil market while others are not nearly as cynical. These folks accept that the War on Terror is in fact the last great struggle for Western Civilization. It is as some have called it, the fourth great global war in history (for those that consider the Cold War the third great war.)
But despite all of these grand phrases and such, just what is the War on Terror? If you were to ask the average American in the street what he or she thought the War on Terror was, you would most definitely get a bevy of answers:
It’s a war against radical Islam.
It’s a war against Muslims.
It’s a war for oil.
It’s the war in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.
We’re at war?
And while there might be many answers to that simple question, I truly wonder if people really understand just what is the War on Terror and why does it look the way it does. Why does it feel the way it does? What’s different about this war than the battles of the past? It is easy to accept what our leaders tell us so that we don’t have to think too hard about it but the fact remains that after nearly 5 years of battling this elusive foe, many simply do not know what it is we are trying to do. Mind you, for that I blame our president but that is a column for another day.
We, the capitalist modern West, are fighting a combination of radical religious fundamentalism and Fascism, as purported by Arabs and Persians who dominate the oil rich Middle East of Eurasia. That’s the headline right there but even that doesn’t really begin to describe in detail to those that need a better explanation what the whole point of this conflict is. In fact, it is because most people don’t really understand the headline that the war has become as muddled and misunderstood by the masses
Now let me tell you about Lilly. Lilly is a 17-year-old Mexican-American recovering meth addict from rural parts in central Florida. A friend of the family in the trailer park she lived when she was a little girl raped Lilly. She had a history of violence toward others that would make Sabu blush. To say our girl Lilly was limited in her understanding of the world would be a rather gross understatement. After nearly a year in an inpatient rehabilitation facility the girl could barely even fill out a job application and did not understand the concept buying insurance for her car what exactly the point of insurance was.
Now here’s the rub; Lilly will be able to vote in the very near future. In fact, if the current political trends hold, every pandering politician this side of Cuba will seek after her vote. When I think of how the message of what it is to fight the War on Terror has been so badly communicated, I think of poor, feisty, barely literate Lilly because if grown adults whom actually follow politics really don’t understand what is going on, this kids got no chance in hell of figuring it out.
One day at work, Lilly came to me after group and asked if we were going to get bombed by Iran. She stated that she had seen something in the on-campus that school on TV that scared her half to death and made her wonder if she was at risk. That prompted me to have to boil down nearly every important historical even from World War I to the War on Terror to its lowest common denominator in order for this girl to understand the current Iranian nuclear showdown. After about an hour of me drawing boxes and arrows on a marker board to illustrate the finer points of global policy and war, low and behold this child that resembles more animal than girl in her behavior actually understood the complexity of the War on Terror. She had somewhat of a difficult time explaining it to her peers but regardless; I was like a proud father watching his daughter taking her first steps into a larger universe.
That is when it hit me. My social studies teacher once told me that when you teach somebody something, you own that information for life. Teaching Lilly about the War on Terror actually cleared up some of the problems I had understanding the war. First off, and I didn’t realize this until after we were with our impromptu tutoring session, most people don’t know the first thing about fighting a conventional war, never mind an ideological one.
War is simply one mans attempt to secure resources for his people. Land is where the resources are kept obviously so as Sepultura once said, we war for territory. It its most base form, you mass an army to control the enemy’s territory and then either take over or sever their supply lines. Once you’ve done that, it’s over. The war is done. Mission accomplished. All of the ballyhoo, pomp and circumstance that we’ve learned in countless history classes regarding battles and such were about nothing more than the acquisition of scarce resources by competitive peoples.
People are expendable, good soil and a dependable water supply isn’t. People are replaceable; coal, oil, uranium, gold and other precious metals aren’t. That’s been the driving force of war, to risk people in trade for goods you cannot find elsewhere or are running out of in your own territory.
However, scarcity of resources may be enough for individual men to send millions of his brethren to their doom, but for those on the death march, even the ancient version of warring for oil was not appealing. That is where ideology comes in.
Whether it is religion, patriotism, revenge or the love of a hot chick, to make men fight you must give them a reason they can buy into. Convincing them to hate total strangers who look different from them is a good start but anyone who has studied marketing knows, you need a common denominator for people unite under. Once you’ve got your us VS them ideology rolling it’s easy to make men grab resources for you. It’s easy to commit mass murder in the name of whatever boogeyman you’ve created to unite your army.
The problem we’ve come to since the end of War World II is that somewhere along the way the ideology that makes men fight seemed to have surpassed the quest for resources that is the reason men are made to fight. The Cold War was absolutely about acquiring more resources or retaining the ones you had but those resources were for the first time in history actual people. Capitalist need people to buy their wares and Communists need people to man supply lines and make widgets. If either side had killed too many people then the whole point of the war would have been lost. After all, you can’t rule a country of corpses, until you are Tim Burton (cue rim shot).
The War on Terror is an extension of the Cold War. If you were to look at the possible endgame for the radical Muslims, what you would get is a world full of fellow believers whose sole purpose is to keep this ideology alive. Islam, like all belief systems feeds on humans willing to drink Kool-Aid. That’s it, that is all there is to it. I’m not even sure if Bin Laden and company has thought far enough in advanced to what they’d do with a world where Mohammed wasn’t threatened naked white chicks and newspaper cartoons.
That in a nutshell is why this is such a hard war to fight. If killing people were the way to win then the Muslims would have already lost, just ask the Japanese what I’m talking about. But that isn’t it. Even taking territory such as in Iraq and Afghanistan does next to nothing for us in the grand scheme of things because having control over those places doesn’t cut the average Muslims steady supply of blind faith.
However, not fighting is an even worse option than fighting badly. Because just as we cannot cut their supply of faith, it is that endless supply of faith that keeps them in the quest for the resources they seek. And that resource is us.
Somewhere in Central Florida a 17-year-old Mexican-American girl came away from a rehab understanding why we fight. Only 300 million more left to go.