I spend considerable time writing about Iraq, the War on Militant Islam, and US Security & Foreign Policy. I have always understood intuitively what my reasons were and why they made sense, but I had no ideology to hang my hat on. Even though I held many positions consistent with the neo-con view, I am not Jewish so the media would only allow me to be a fellow traveler or associate cabalist, and I require a primary role in any scheme for global domination. So I was a man without a cloak for myself and the like-minded, and I thought about who I had the largest number of important beliefs in common with.
It became apparent that there is one group which cuts across all the segments of society minus the very rich and the very liberal, that is current and former military and their families and friends. That is not to say that there is ideological lockstep among these people, no happily there is plenty of disagreement but it is never taken to the extreme of harming the mission. There is an implicit and explicit understanding that together we were engaged in something more important than ourselves and that every situation has a time where it is proper to shut your mouth, salute and move out sharply. Beyond that it requires the embrace of the idea that you may give your life, not just to save a buddy in combat, but for the much more ethereal ideas of Duty, Honor & Country. This environment requires tolerance and I have no doubt society at large would take a large step to be as inclusive as the military family.
Rational Hawk Culture
Colleges nationwide cheat to artificially create a diversity that the military has long been a shining example of (the current policy against gays serving openly excepted, so lets change that). Working, living and dying in the close proximity of all races, religions and flavors of people renders the need to classify them using these descriptors irrelevant. In the military the only classification that matters is competence. If I am lying by the road bleeding, I don't care if the medic coming to save me is gay. I just hope he is one of those buff gay guys who are always in the gym so he can throw me over his shoulder and get me out of there.
Another facet of military life conducive to forming a coherent and rational worldview is the incredible amount of time spent killing time. Long deployments allow long explorations of good and evil, politics, religion, and everything else we could think of. Rarely were agreements reached, and that was what makes it valuable because you must determine and then defend your belief against brutal examination from people with no restraint in belittling your intellect, parentage or anything else. This meant accommodation had to be made, both to the beliefs of others and to the absoluteness of your own. This forms a tolerant, flexible environment where the exigencies of the mission far outweigh any differences of opinion and the pressure cooker combines disparate ingredients into a whole focused on a higher purpose.
The worldview of the Rational Hawk is definitely not limited to those directly tied to the military, as it’s core is simply abandoning pre-conceived notions, looking at what you want to accomplish and pulling together to make it happen. The interesting thing is that the domestic or social policy component of this is the simplest part. Once again using competence as the standard, anyone pulling their weight to the best of their ability is entitled to all the privileges and protections afforded by the group. Someone lollygagging or worse, violating is subject to censure, punishment and in extremis, expulsion. This sounds harsh and that is true, but it is based on the tolerance for major differences mentioned previously and the expectation is “Do the best you can” so a safety net for the least able is in place. The attitude is very much “Do unto others” and sets aside many of the most contentious differences in support of a goal all can share, the preservation and spread of the freedoms we enjoy. Translate this to social policy and as long as you are not hurting others or society as a whole, then have at.
A Rational Hawk’s place in an irrational world
The most useful way to look at a Rational Hawk view of military force is to follow Von Clausewitz “War is the continuation of diplomacy by other means”. The US maintains relations with several hundred nations most of whom qualify as allies or no threat to us, but there are a not insignificant number that threaten their own people, their neighbors and the security of free countries. These may be UN accepted nation-states or rogue groups and their relative dangers must be assessed and policies developed to mitigate or remove those dangers. The question currently is who will do that and how.
The US is the sole superpower and in reality, the only country capable of projecting overwhelming, or even whelming, force worldwide. Diplomacy relies on two forces for it’s efficacy, economic self-interest or greed, and fear of military consequences. The past hundred years contained two major challenges, the first half involved containing German militaristic expansion and the growth of fascism. This required two great wars and the combined efforts of all the major powers to defeat, but once done the balance of power was shifted completely. The US and Soviet Union emerged as superpowers and the second challenge, the Cold War, was begun. This pitted the free west against the totalitarian Soviets and the desire for Communist global domination.
NATO was the organization nominally arrayed against this threat, composed of the US and Rumsfeld’s Old Europe. The stakes rapidly went from expanding spheres of influence to potential destruction of the planet itself as the focus shifted to nuclear arms. Old Europe played along for a while, but having experienced two great wars and the attendant death and destruction up close, they lost the will to equip for or fight a war. Increasingly the US faced opposition from the very European countries that our troop presence and nuclear umbrella safeguarded. Defense spending among these countries decreased every year and their mindset became more focused internally.
President Reagan arrived in time to revive the US resolve and bet our military-industrial complex could beat the Soviets. He was right and the threat of totalitarian Communism was defeated, but the Euros were basically spectators and had no skin in the game. This detachment from responsibility for their own security was only possible because of US strength and will, and that was now taken for granted. The rise of the European Union (EU) further weakened the militaries and consequently diplomatic power of these countries. They focused on providing extensive social programs and began to look at all security dangers with an eye to co-existence or to try to buy them off with trade and assistance. This was driven as much by the lack of military options as by pacifist trending.
The threat for our time is nowhere near as clear cut, and much more amorphous than Fascism or Communism. However Islamic Jihadism is as diametrically opposed to liberal, western democracy as either of the others, and allowed to ferment could present a comparable challenge. Currently our battle against it’s spread is joined somewhat by Old and New Europe as well as others around the globe, but only the US is at war. Once again this is because we are the only ones able; no other country can do more militarily than augment our forces with specialty troops. This led most of the countries who could have joined our efforts to suggest methods for dealing with the threat more in line with their capabilities and non-confrontational mindsets.
The Rational Hawks looked at these suggestions and noticed they had been tried and failed. There must be a continuum from diplomacy and economic engagement that leads to military force if the others fail to achieve desired goals. The EU and the UN had eliminated their ability to project or even threaten effective military action and so were self-handcuffed and limited to larger economic bribes and appeasement. Tremendous pressure has been placed on the US to emphasize multi-lateral efforts and institutions but multi-lateral means many-sided and we found out that often puts these groups and countries on the side opposing us. We have the option of bowing to the neo-pacifist Euros and the feckless UN, but that would not be rational as they are incapable and unwilling to help make the world safer.
The run-up to war in Iraq was the perfect example of this, as both the UN and Old Europe were actively involved in assisting our enemy. They gave him political cover, they funded his illegal activities and they obstructed all efforts we made to back him down by convincing Sadaam they would prevail in the UN and we would not act without it’s seal of approval. Rational people looked at that situation and unsurprisingly concluded that if they were not interested in disarming those they had required to disarm, we would be. Not only did Sadaam need to be turned upside down and shaken to see what he had hidden, but a message needed to be sent to malefactors worldwide. “Toe the line or you might be the latest travel addition to the Marine Corps hymn” The French Foreign Legion and it’s Roman predecessors used a concept “Pour encourager les autres”, to encourage the others. This understands that you need not smack down all threats, just establish that you will smack down one, the rest then don’t know who is next.
We had plenty of beefs with Sadaam and he represented a good opportunity to introduce our policy of preemptive elimination of threats. We stated that we will no longer take the first punch; if you point a gun, or provide one to bad guys you are on notice. Play nice and the Euros and the UN will reward you with money and stature, screw around and you meet the iron fist in the velvet glove. There can be no chance of successful negotiation with those don’t believe their threatening interests are threatened. The model has now been cast and we will see how it plays out in the ongoing war against Jihadism and our interactions with rogue states.
Helpfully this shift in our rationale provides the best hope that diplomacy can actually succeed by restoring the essential element of the potential boot to the ass. Secretary Rice is reaping the reward of this as she is well known to have the ear of the Cowboy himself, and those negotiating with her know one phone call could let loose the Dogs of War. It is vital to note that force was never an end to itself, but a factor to motivate an evil-doer to act in self-preservation if nothing else. No one would be happier to act as a sheathed sword than the military and it was a rational assessment of the effectiveness of being a credible threat to bad guys that leads to support for our current actions and others as required.
A Rational Hawk is the person who sees a man abusing his wife or kids and rather than “what a shaming” with those around, goes over to demand he stop, “Or else”. That “Or else” is what the rest of those most involved with international affairs have given up. The Taliban and Sadaam have now met “Or else” and many other tyrants, petty and otherwise, have been encouraged. This lessens the possibility we will have to actually fight and that was the goal all along.