May 05, 2010


Sam Smith

The three wars we'll never win are easy to remember. The enemy in each conflict begins with the letter M: Muslim, Mexican and marijuana.

Leaving aside all moral restraints, there is still one exceptionally good rule about starting a war: don't begin one you can't win.

But an extraordinary percentage of our national, state and local budgets goes into these three failed struggles. The cause of our incapability varies in each case, but in the end the story is the same: by fighting these wars  we are making ourselves their major victim.

Consider what happened the other day in Times Square. In a few months it will have been nine years since something far worse happened in New York City, yet during all that time our country has not taken one significant step towards improving relations with the Muslim world. We have instead continued to support Israel's apartheid and its abuse of Palestinians, treated Muslims in this land like pro forma suspects of terror, escalated the war in Afghanistan and expanded it to Pakistan, including drone attacks on innocent households. All the time denying we were anti-Muslim.

The Afghan war, the second longest war in American history (after Vietnam), is also the second longest military failure in American history (after Vietnam). Again, leaving morality aside (since the media and our politicians find it offensive and cowardly), it can be said fairly that the major result of the Afghan war has been to increase Middle Eastern and Muslim hostility towards the United States.

This hostility has been reflected in a number of ways, but perhaps most interestingly has been the recent shift in the character of our most feared opponents from being little known residents of Pakistani encampments to being citizens of our own land. We have, you might say, domesticated Al Qaeda and the Taliban. This is not a smart move.

Faishal Shahzad even has an MBA from the University of Bridgeport. And unless he's just a cover for a new Wall Street assault on America by bombs rather than by derivatives, this is a striking symbol of how our foreign policy has not eased our problem but merely brought it to within an hour and 21 minutes of Manhattan via Metro North.

Justin Raimondo of Anti War describes it well:

|||| The oddness of this case is brought out in the details of Shahzad’s career – from being a financial analyst at the Affinion Group, in Norwalk, Connecticut, where he commuted from the home he and his wife had purchased in nearby Shelton, to quitting his job, in 2009, going off to Waziristan for "training," and then returning to at the beginning of this year, a changed man. . . News articles talk about how, in the beginning, Shahzad and his wife - whose Facebook page says she "likes to party every night" - were friendly, at first, but later seemed to withdraw as Shahzad became more "radicalized" . . .

What stands out about Shahzad and his family is their ordinariness - the wife, a University of Colorado graduate, majoring in business, and Shahzad, who spent his days calculating profit margins and tending his garden, not to mention a baby daughter nicknamed "Bunny Wabbit." So typical is this family that they recently had their Shelton house foreclosed." ||||

Even Walt Kelly - who warned us years ago of meeting the enemy and finding it to be us - might be alarmed.

This apparent enemy not only did not have to invade us; we gave him an MBA. This is not good military strategy.

Our war against Mexicans is less dangerous but similarly futile. It is not that illegal immigrants don't pose a problem, but not every problem in life can be solved by force, regulation, and macho police raids.

The anti-immigrant hysteria is driven by a number of factors including the successful effort by the repugnant right to blame our lack of jobs on a few of the weakest people in our land.

Yet the number of illegals has actually declined of late. And to get rid of all of them would cost each of us close to $1000 in tax dollars according to one study.

Further, The number of foreign born - legal or not - now comprise the same percentage of the population as was the case in 1930 and considerably less than between 1860 and 1910.

The blame for our economy being placed on illegals is grossly misleading. Here's a test I proposed some time back:

1. Has a Mexican ever fired or laid you off?

2. Was the plant you worked for until it was sent overseas been bought by Mexicans or is it still owned by the same people you used to work for?

3. Has a Mexican ever cut your pension or health benefits? Outsourced your job to India?

4. Was Enron run by Mexicans?

5. How much of the corruption in Washington has been instigated by the Mexicans?

6. Did the Mexicans make us invade Iraq?

The best way to think of illegal immigration is: how do we keep it down to a dull roar? Enforcement at the borders is clearly important, but turning our workplaces into magnets for police terrorism or Arizona style brutality is not helpful at all. Once again, we become the victim.

My sense is that many people are actually less concerned about the fact that the immigrants are illegal than that they got away with it. The best way to deal with that is with some form of restorative justice, such as required community service for undocumented workers.

An even better reform is to liberalize immigration. After all, our present policies have their roots in some of the most racist and xenophobic periods of our history. Consider this: if the immigration laws passed since the 1920s had been around when Europeans first landed, most of us would be the descendents of illegal immigrants. In fact, check with a native American for further thoughts on this topic.

In "Let Them In," Jason L. Riley writes: "Reasonable people agree that illegal immigration should be reduced. The question isn't whether it's a problem but how to solve it. Historically, the best results have come from providing more legal ways for immigrants to enter the country. Most of these people are not predisposed to crime or terrorists in waiting. They are economic migrants who would gladly use the front door if it were open to them. Post 9/11, knowing who's in the country has rightly taken on an urgency. But painting Latino immigrants as violent criminals or Islamofascists won't make us any safer. Nor will enforcing bad laws and policies, as opposed to reforming them. On the whole, immigrants are an asset to America, not a liability. We benefit from the labor, they benefit from the jobs. Our laws should acknowledge and reflect this reality, not deny it."

And the next time Lou Dobbs tries to scare you, keep this in mind. Cutting illegal immigration by half would be like someone offering you a two percent discount on something. Would you give up your Constitution and pay more taxes for that? Probably not.

Finally, there is the least important but silliest M War of all - that against marijuana. This has been an utter failure. And to what end? To punish those who dare to use a drug less dangerous than cigarettes and vodka.

The war against marijuana has been a vicious abuse of our young (and the once young), but more importantly has helped to lay the groundwork for other endless wars we are in against something or other. It was the drug war that convinced us to surrender our Constitution, and to waste money on militaristic, fatuous and futile police activities. In many ways the war on drugs helped lead us to the war on Mexicans and the Muslim world, to abandon reason and fairness, negotiation and compromise - in favor of a science fiction version of law, order and diplomacy in which nothing matters but the brutal power available at a particular moment.

There is only one sure result from such behavior: the practitioners become increasingly brutal and deranged, while increasingly failing at whatever it is they think they are doing.