The deaths of U.S. Marine reservists from Ohio this week have stirred up an already-building resentment to the Iraq War by some Americans. More and more politicians are calling for the Administration to bring the troops home. And the Bush Administration is seeking to mollify the public by claiming to be prepared to bring some troops home. Is this the response needed to heal the international wounds caused by this war, or to protect America from future terrorist assaults? Unfortunately, the opposite may be the case.
Americans are turning against the war, but for the wrong reason. Americans are starting to feel the pain of war based on U.S. losses and expenses, not for reasons of morality and of principle. Americans are not saying that the war was illegal and immoral and wrong. Americas are saying that the war was unnecessary and painful and hard to endure. This self-serving and insensitive response will likely not produce sympathy from many of the world’s populations, who have suffered far more than Americans have or ever will.
A lot of people around the world are beginning to think that Americans "can dish it out, but they cannot take it." Americans who did not oppose the war when it seemed to be going well, now oppose it because the war has turned into a "tough slog" as Donald Rumsfeld said many months ago, but hardly believed himself. Imagine what the public mood would be right now if the Iraq resistance had not emerged and gasoline prices in the States had dropped to under $1.00 per gallon! Americans would be delirious with joy and have no regret over the invasion and occupation and destruction of a sovereign nation. Americans are still not concerned over damage to Iraqi lives and Iraqi babies and Iraqi families, but only for their own losses.
This lack of empathy by Americans is a terrible motivator for terrorists around the world. It teaches victims of American aggression that there is value in resistance. It teaches terrorists that American tolerance of pain is limited, and that inflicting pain on Americans gets results.
Americans need to find some empathy for victims of American injustice and violence, before pleading for relief from our own pain. America has inflicted infinitely more pain that she has received. Like the fiscal balance of payments, America’s accounting in pain infliction runs an enormous deficit.
There was a time not long ago when the Israelis and the American military operated on the assumption that Iraqis and other Arabs were fearful, unmotivated, unskilled, cowardly weaklings who would be pushed aside like loose soil to a mighty bulldozer when military operations began. Arabs may have been that way fifty years ago, but survival is on the line now as never before. Arabs are now the underdogs, just as the ragtag American militias were two hundred fifty years ago in comparison with the British Imperial Army.
Americans need an attitude adjustment. Americans need an injection of morality and empathy and humility and remorse. America cannot rule the entire world. The ability to destroy the world does not equate to the ability to rule the world. America can bomb the world to pieces, but it cannot bomb the world to peace. To bring peace and security, America must learn the art of peace and learn to reject the art of war. To get the process started, Americans need to feel empathy for the pain they have caused, which far exceeds the pain they have received.