We Can’t Have it Both Ways

I’ve been noticing over the past few years that American society is not only fickle, but impossible to please. It seems that the majority of those living in my country (legally or illegally) amount to little more than a mob with a short fuse and an even lower IQ. It’s very frustrating to me, particularly when someone tries to shout me down after begging me to debate an issue with them, be it the war, 9/11 conspiracy theories, religion, immigration–you name it.

It all leads to one problem: we subconsciously wish we could have everything both ways.

We can’t, yet that’s exactly what we want. During Clinton’s presidency, we were attacked multiple times by radical Muslims bent on destroying America. Each time, Clinton tucked tail and ran, apologizing as he went. And each time he did that, the attacks became more brazen, leading up to the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000. But the big finale would come on 9/11, when 19 murderers carried out plans they’d been making for years and managed to do more damage and cause more carnage than all of their predecessors combined.

After it happened, everyone bitched about the government’s lack of response. Where was that anger when we were attacked in Mogadishu? Or when the Khobar Towers were bombed? Or when our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were all but vaporized? Or when the Cole was attacked? Nobody demanded to know why Bill Clinton hadn’t done anything to stop those attacks. Clinton had plenty of opportunity, but he never took it, and he left every possible door open for 9/11 to happen (yes, folks, it took years for a plan like that to come together the way it did, and I promise Clinton had a hand in ignoring the warning signs). Did Dubya have a chance to stop 9/11? Maybe. But if he had done something to stop it before it happened, we would’ve had another problem.

Any time we do act preemptively in an attempt to protect ourselves from a pending attack, people decry the move as premature and tragic. They complain (quite loudly) that there wasn’t enough evidence for us to take such action. Iraq is the perfect example. Plenty of mistakes have been made. The war wasn’t planned properly and our rules of engagement are atrocious (requiring our soldiers to see the sniper that’s picking them off before firing is a prime example of how ridiculous it is). I think we should’ve taken out Bin Laden before taking on a bigger responsibility in Iraq. Be that as it may, we’re there, and it was going to happen whether we liked it or not. If we hadn’t taken Saddam out, he might’ve formed an alliance with Iran that would eventually have spelled disaster for America.

In acting preemptively, we have stopped an active threat against us before that threat could become even more real. We know Saddam had weapons of mass destruction; he used mustard gas and sarin in bombs he used on Iranians and Kurds. If he had those weapons, you know he had others, and pictures like this tell us stories that thousands still refuse to believe:


Those are US troops digging a MiG-25 Foxbat, an advanced fighter plane, out of the Iraqi sand. Saddam was allowed to have fighter jets, but had limited flying ability and wasn’t supposed to have them fitted to carry ordinance (weapons). Three of these practically brand-new Russian-made planes were found, all fitted to carry the weapons Saddam wasn’t allowed to have; more than 50 planes total were hidden near al-Taqqadum airfield. We know there were mass movements toward Syria in the days before we invaded. What else was he hiding?

The fact is that we’re never satisfied. If we don’t act to stop a major atrocity, we didn’t do enough; if we do act and disaster is averted, we acted too quickly and should be ashamed of ourselves. We can’t live this way.

It’s the same way with everything in our culture. We’re expressly forbidden from watching a potentially violent person without mountains of evidence. But when that person does snap and kills thirty people, such as in the Virginia Tech massacre, everyone cries foul that more should have been done–he should have been forced to get help, he should have been stripped of his civil liberty to buy firearms, blah, blah, blah. I’m not trying to make light of any issue, but we’re shooting ourselves in both proverbial feet by acting this way.

WWI was fought over a few issues, but was started by the Serbia assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand (yes, the band got it’s name somewhere). Americans were adamant that it wasn’t our fight, but it was the arms race that ultimately led Germany to start taking out her neighbors and eventually leading American leaders to decide that we had to help our allies. The anti-war marches then would put the marches against the Iraq war to shame. But we barely spent a year in that war before it ended, and some argue that it was the US involvement that turned the tide. We lost a lot of our soldiers in WWI and were in no hurry at all to fight again.

Hitler’s popularity was largely based on his insistence that Germany regain her dignity after being crushed so decisively during the first great war. The Allies so demeaned Germany in the terms of surrender that the German people were very bitter and quite embarrassed. Hitler, signing alliances with Italy’s Mussolini and Japan’s Tojo, began by slowly wearing away at his European neighbors–taking back the Rhineland, then the Sudetenland and later the rest of Czechoslovakia. Everyone was so busy trying to appease the bad guys and refusing to believe there was any evidence of hostility that they were blind to what was possible and what later happened.

Even now, we look back on WWII, the holocaust, and the other atrocities (like the rape of Nanking) and wonder why we didn’t get involved sooner. We all know why: if we had stopped Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo in their tracks, we would have later complained that we didn’t have enough evidence to make our actions right.

We can’t have it both ways. We can’t refuse to act because we don’t want to fight or take a risk and later complain that we didn’t do enough. History is littered with such indecision, and it has been the death of many a civilization. It will, one day, be our undoing.

You know why? We’ll never learn. We’re too proud to do that.