Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Good American is feminist and radical

Now that the dust has settled, the picture after Wikileaks' publishing of 92'000 documents on the war in Afghanistan has become clearer. The papers were not that sensational, they didn't reveal anything major you couldn't already have known about. The war in Afghanistan is going bad, the look of success has yet to be defined, there are many civilian deaths and Pakistan - understandably - is hedging its interests by playing along with the U.S. and the Taliban at the same time, preparing for a time when the U.S. will have left the scene, leaving a Pakistan behind that is forced to deal with the rather hostile environment it finds itself in all alone.

I went back this week to read Sun Tzu again, the Chinese military strategist who had written his famous work "the Art of War" 2500 years ago. For Sun Tzu, war is best if it doesn't have to be fought, if one can win a conflict with more peaceful means. But if you have to fight, then be quick - no country has ever gained from a protracted war - have the morality on your side and, most importantly, know yourself and your enemy (or your war will be a failure). It seems to me that the U.S. aren't heeding any of Sun Tzu's rules: the war in Afghanistan is the longest in U.S. history; after nine years of fighting and thousands of deaths, it has lost all its moral claims; and they still can't figure out the Taliban and the Afghan people.

But can there be such a thing as a moral war? I doubt. Are the United States a particularily immoral country for fighting this and other wars? I doubt this as well. It is George Modelski's world leader theory again. You are the reigning world champion and then you start losing it. You fight hard to retain the title, it gets costly, brutal, messy. Your enemies, your challengers, hate you and you have to bribe your friends to keep them on your side. It could be Russia, Germany, it could be Great Britain, it is now the U.S. War can kill you, it is the nature of war, it is the human nature. For me, war defies all definitions of morality. (Or is this just my gender biased view? Please read on.)

One of Sun Tzu's teachings especially struck a chord with me: Without harmony in a state there can be no successful military campaign. Now let's take a look at the American people. After 9/11, Americans were in shock, united in their thirst for revenge, in their quest for rooting out the evil in the world once and for all. In order to do that, they were even ready to do evil themselves (and at this point I might quote a well known practitioner of war, Robert McNamara, who in "The Fog of War" stated - his lesson number 9 - that "in order to do good, you have to engage in evil" which he certainly did.)

The harmony of 9/12 has been long lost in the U.S. and more and more Americans start to see what these wars really are about, what they do to the world and what they do to their own country. As one of my American sources put it bluntly: "Damn it! U.S. has got to stop starting wars for profit for a few while using their citizens as cannon fodder. U.S. is a war machine, and not even for its own interests, nor its own protection. It chews up and spits out its own children as well. Most of the U.S. politicians do not even love America, they just use her." No more questions your Honour.
You don't hear it much these times, so this might come as a surprise to you: Not all Americans are - as another of my sources told me - jingoistic, xenophobic puritans celebrating ignorance. A great many of them are Good Americans, as I call them, who hate to see their country, and its image in the world, going down the drain. You meet them on Facebook, you meet them on Twitter, you meet them wherever you meet Americans. (Well, maybe not in a Fox News audience, where one analyst seriously suggested to execute Wikileaks' informant, poor scared kid Bradley Manning.)

These Americans understood the story of the Afghan and Iraq wars all along. They didn't need Wikileaks for that. They hope that last week will be a turning point in American politics - a turning point similar to the publication of Daniel Ellsberg's "Pentagon Papers" in 1971 which compelled the U.S. government to stop lying about the war in Vietnam. They hope that the U.S. finally comes to its senses, that it stops being the neighbourhood bully, that is starts behaving like a respectful citizen of the world, so that Americans can start using their passports again when traveling, not having to resort to their second citizenship (if they possess any).

The Good Americans are often feminists. Feminists? Well, feminists not only because many of them are women, fighting for women's rights, for their liberation. But feminists also in the broader geopolitical sense of the term, meaning that they oppose the dominant militaristic, masculine view of politics which sees armed forces as the ultimate resolver of tensions, which believes that human nature is prone to conflict and having enemies is a natural condition. In America the Good Americans are denigrated as femi-nazi (by machos like Rush Limbaugh) and they are called radicals. But only in America being against a war is being radical. Only in America.