In one sense, all war is unfinished, because the political crimes that wage death between people groups inevitably come to the surface again. Like toxic waste, old atrocities bubble up from the depths of human strife to plague subsequent generations.
Now and then in history, a war will actually settle a divisive question. Our American Civil War established once and for all that American states of north and south would remain as one federation under a common flag, and that resolution has remained intact.
The First War was an unfinished war, because the issues that separated Germany from the rest of Europe resurfaced, zombie-like, about twenty years later as the the Second World War. Then the Second War resolved those divisive issues in a more effective way, and now Europe is reasonably, if not politically, united in peaceful coexistence.
Forty-nine years of my 63-year life have been spent in the twentieth century, which was a time period in which nations were generally at each others’ throats over ideological differences. The basic conflict between freedom and slavery was continually re-inventing itself in various ideological costumes: libertarian vs. totalitarian, democracy vs. communism, communism vs. fascism, etc.
Now it seems the world reverts to religious identities to fortify the battlefields of the 21st century: Muslim vs. Jew, Muslim vs. Christian, etc. It’s not really as simple as that, but you know what I’m talking about. The issue of whether the so-called Islamic State is actually representing Islam should be a serious point of debate among Muslims; but no matter how that identity pans out, the decapitative modus operandi of IS is undeniably a danger which is Islamic in its ethnic origin.
Furthermore, the ongoing contention between Israel and the Islamic states (with or without Caliphate) is, despite modern secularizing influences in both camps, a religious war the origin of which is shrouded in the dust of Levant history.
On a secondary level within nation-states, we see political divisions, which still revolve around ideological poles: left vs. right, progressive vs. conservative, statist vs. libertarian, etc.
Within my country, USA, the time-honored catch-all labels “left” and “right” have lately morphed from “liberal” vs. “conservative” to “progressive” vs. “conservative.” A subset of this ideological polarity is the “Occupy” crowd vs. the “Tea-Party.”
“Tea Party” derives its philosophical roots from an emphasis on individual liberty. Its tactical roots are found in the Boston Tea Party of 240 years ago, which turns upon economic and tax disputes and government get out of the way attitude.
“Occupy Wall Street” and its progeny (Occupy Oakland, Occupy Vancouver, whatever) derives its precedents from the Civil Rights and Anti-war activisms of the 1960s, and before that the socialist ideal as developed through the French Revolution, Marx, the Russian Revolution, Alinsky etc.
David Horowitz, a (rare) seasoned veteran of both left and right activisms, has identified, in his autobiography Radical Son, this truth:
“. . . conservatism was (is) an attitude about the lessons of the actual past. By contrast, the attention of progressives was (is) directed toward an imagined future.”
During the Vietnam war, a time when I was entering draftable age, the “left” was dragging our American sins of racism and napalmic militarism out into the streets for all the world to see. They imagined a more perfect United States that would successfully rid itself of the hegemonic abuses of capitalistic neo-colonialist empire-building.
Eventually the student-led antiwar movement was able to convince us to withdraw from Vietnam. But the more perfect United States they were dreaming of did not emerge. We are now still the same good n’ bad nation we were then, manifesting a tri-part government of checks and balances that can, every generation or two, arrest our reprobate tendencies.
The activist left of the 1960s, of which I was (like many others) a curious, though non-involved part, also imagined an idealized Vietnam. But it did not materialize after we pulled out.
After the beginning of U.S. withdrawal in 1973, the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam (in whom the American anti-war activists had placed their hope) was crushed by the North Vietnamese army. Oppressive reeducation camps were set up and filled with hundred of thousands of prisoners. Tens of thousands were executed without trials. The bloodbath spilled into Cambodia. Millions were killed by the Khmer Rouge.
The consequences of U.S. withdrawal were tragic. More people died in the first two years of communist peace than had been killed during the U.S. war effort.
So distressed were many Americans who had formerly worked to get us out of Vietnam, that a group of high-profile war-objectors published an ad in the Washington Post protesting the arrests of “thousands upon thousands of detainees”, who suffered enforced reeducation with starvation, physical abuse and use of prisoners as mine-detectors.
While some leftists were grief-stricken at the widespread abuses in postwar, communist Vietnam, many more activists were not appalled. They blamed the aftermath on us–the United States, who were fighting to protect the Vietnamese people from the oppression that followed when the North Vietnamese took over.
That was a long time ago. There’s been a lot of water under the bridge in our river of time, since then.
Now it’s Iraq.
We have an eerily parallel situation in Iraq, with the IS attacking from Syria to enforce an “Islamic” Caliphate, just as the North Viet Cong descended on the South in 1973-75 with cruel, murderous intent.
And once again, the leftists want to blame us because we sent our troops over there and knocked the dictator Saddam out of power and tried to help them establish a just government.
But history, and prudent policy, does not hinge upon what might have happened or not happened because of the military assistance that came from the people of the United States, provided to the people of Iraq.
To those who want to blame us for the IS insurgency now threatening Iraq, we must say: don’t even think about it.
It’s time to subdue the beast that videos decapitations. No one in their right mind wants that kind of vengeful retribution, masquerading as “justice”, established in the world.