Saturday, September 11, 2010

Why Do We Fight? Redux

Why We Fight presents numerous threads of director Eugene Jarecki's take on post-9/11 American foreign policy. Dominant in those threads seems to be a left-wing interpretation of the actions of the United States since 9/11 -- peppered with references to "American Empire".

But more compelling, and perhaps more illuminating are some of the personal stories of post-9/11 America. One of those is the story of retired NYPD officer Wilton Sekzer, whose son was in the World Trade Centre on 9/11, and died therein.

In the film, Sekzer tells his story of seeking comfort in the days following 9/11. In his case, he did this by asking the US military to dedicate a bomb to his son's memory during the opening days of the Iraq War.

Eventually disillusioned by the war -- he had been led to believe that the war was a retaliatory campaign for 9/11 -- Sekzer comes to regret having asked for this.

He seems to have reached a sobering revelation about the waging of war as a measure of revenge.

Not everyone in the United States has reached this realization. The plan of Pastor Terry Jones of Florida's Dove World Outreach Centre, a non-demoninational evangelical church, to burn a Koran on 9/11 -- which, at most recent reports, had been cancelled -- demonstrates this.

Revenge per se wasn't the stated motivation for Jones' announced intention to host a Koran burning. Rather, he had reportedly planned it in response to the building of the controversial Ground Zero mosque (located not at Ground Zero, but within a few city blocks of it).

But the pettiness that pervades notions of revenge positively saturates Jones' pledged act.

There should be little doubt that Jones regarded his planned Koran burning as an act of revenge for 9/11.

But revenge isn't a valid justification for any act, especially not for acts such as these. It's an emotional response.

To fight a war in Iraq or Afghanistan with revenge as the motive would be wrong. The only valid justification for waging such conflicts is to ensure the security of the states waging them, or international security as a whole.

There is no credible question that removing the regimes in place in each state at the time of the invasion would benefit international security as a whole. Whether the Iraq war, more specifically, actually achieved that goal is credibly a matter of some debate.

The question of why the Iraq war was fought, and the relationship of that decision to the events of 9/11 will remain a crucial question for not only the United States, but for the world as a whole.

When going to war, it's crucial to know why we fight. It cannot be for revenge.

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