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Words from Winterbilt

Peace on Earth and the Christmas gift?

Shannon Bohrer

(12/2015) Christmas is coming and thatís a good thing. It is a magical time of the year when we celebrate the birth of Jesus. Christmas can be uplifting and inspirational; peace on earth and good will toward man - sounds likes such a noble cause. Of course we also see family and friends, sometimes family that we only see because they are family. Sometime we also eat and drink too much and we donít follow our healthy diets and exercise routines. Even when we donít have healthy diets and exercise routines, we sometimes think we do so we over look our indulgences as temporary. Of course all of this helps with our choice(s) for New Year resolutions. With everything going on our holiday spirt can sometimes be confusing, losing sight of the meaning of Christmas - and thatís wrong.

While Peace on earth is a noble thought during the holidays, it is rarely talked about or discussed during the rest of the year. The fact that it seems to fit with Christmas probably adds to our good thoughts. Just the idea that it could even be possible should give us both hope and inspiration. I say that because history tells us that real peace on earth is a very rare event. World history, on the topic of peace on earth is just depressing. Between 3500 BC and 2015, we have had about 300 years of peace. That is not a good record and it also means that during most of the Christmas celebrations wars were being waged somewhere in the world. Of course if your country or state is under threat or is attacked, is defending yourself unethical?

Throughout recorded history many of the conflicts have been related to religious beliefs. And yet war in the name of God, does not fit with the name of God. During our civil war, President Lincoln said the both sides were praying to the same God for victory. I wonder how many other wars occurred where both sides prayed to the same God for victory.

Presently, during our involvements in the Middle East for the last 14 years, the "Arab Spring" occurred. While the term the "Arab Spring" sounds like a good thing, it really means conflict and war has broken out Ė in multiple countries. It also means that individuals and groups are fighting on multiple sides, hoping to be on the winning side. For the United States it means we have politicians and talking heads; the experts, telling us who we should support in the conflicts. Currently we have US Military troops in Afghanistan (and Iraq and Syria, but not that many) and several other potential hot spots. And if some had their way we would have more troops in Afghanistan and we would be sending troops to Libya, more back to Iraq, to Yemen and to several African nations. And that is not counting the troops we have in the Baltic countries conducting NATO training. Remember, Crimea - which was part of Ukraine!

Our politicians, many of which are running for President, have told us that we left Iraq too early allowing ISIS to flourish. They say we need to support the moderate rebels in Syria and we also need a no-fly zone. They also reason there is so much conflict in Libya is because we did not send in the troops. And now they believe we need to go back because President Putin is interfering and itís embarrassing. It was bad enough that we allowed Putin to take Crimea (as if we really had a choice). They allege that our friends no longer trust us and we have emboldened our enemies.

Repeating the same interventions over and over will resolve the issues, it will make us safer and it will bring peace on earth. Yea, sure it will. Of course it also makes us look strong, at least to ourselves. Maybe the world sees it differently? Maybe we should rethink our involvements.

In the Middle East we have been in Afghanistan the longest. We went to war in Afghanistan because the groups that attacked us on 911 resided and operated there. Afghanistan was not their country; they just operated there without any governmental interference, possibly because there was no centralized government. We all know the history since our initial entrance, our enemies moved, migrated, emigrated and evolved or morphed into other groups. Currently we have been at war in the Middle East for over fourteen years and there does not seem to be an end in sight. The questions we might want to ask; is what can we do that we have not done in the first fourteen years and are we really safer?

It also should be repeated that the talking heads and politicians often tell us that after we fight and defeat the insurgency; we will be spreading democracy. I am not a world historian, but when did the United States ever engage in defeating an insurgency and it worked the way we expected? Our military is the best and they can best any other military, but an insurgency is not a military. Insurgencies are ideologies that can just keep recruiting, moving and just changing. The accepted strategy to defeat an ideology is to change the government. We did that in Iraq, but I donít think it worked. When citizens in northern Iraq say they are more afraid of the Iraqi Government than ISIS Ė that is a clue. When the government of Saudi Araba say they are more afraid of Iran than ISIS Ė that is another clue.

If we could build democracies as good as we defeat armies, I donít think we would still be in the Middle East. If anything, we have demonstrated that after winning the battle, we should just leave. Literally, we donít seem to have any idea of how to teach people to govern their own country. And now our historical enemy; Russia, had entered Syria and is fully engaged with troops and equipment. It would appear that President Putin plans on staying a long time. If you recall, before we went to Afghanistan it was Russia that was in Afghanistan for over 9 years. I wonder how that worked?

Maybe we should view Putinís move into the Middle East as a Christmas Gift. As long as a world power is in Syria keeping the peace, maybe we should just leave. If we stay, does anyone really think anything would change? History may say that with great intentions we just overreached. And just maybe history would say that instead of staying and embracing our past errors, we changed directions. There may not be peace in the world this Christmas, but it does not mean that we have to be at war.

Merry Christmas

Read other articles by Shannon Bohrer