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War

I think it's about time I got around to making my own statement on the war in Iraq. Such a thing scares me a little. Most of you folks know that I'm not much for keeping up on current events. I don't buy newspapers. I don't regularly watch the evening news or read news web sites. What I pick up about world, national and local events is usually by osmosis. As the song says, "Don't know much about history..." Therefore, when historical or topical issues come up in conversation, I usually just sit back and listen, half waiting for something that I can understand, analyse, and add a dollar to the value of the conversation, half because I'm afraid of sounding like a twit (or looking like an ignorant twit when asked about something I know nothing about).

But enough dissembling; lets hold this up to scrutiny and intelligent criticism and see how it holds together. I'll get started with a quote from Heinlein's Time Enough for Love: "I have misgivings about the ultimate usefulness of this war. But regardless of any opinion... the time has come to close ranks and move forward together." Like the members of the IMAGinewS group who've spoken their pieces, and, I think it's safe to say, those who haven't, I have misgivings about the usefulness of the war and the validity of the reasons that George W. Bush, Tony Blair and John Howard have given for deciding to commit to war without the backing of U.N. resolutions. I do not consider myself knowledgeable of the facts, or else I would expand those misgivings. However, these men are our leaders, and have made that decision. They are our leaders because we have, according to the systems of law and rule of our respective nations, chosen them to be. They have the power to make that decision because the systems of law and rule of our respective nations - that our ancestors established and that we continue to uphold (by choosing to live under them) and shape (through referenda and the professionals of law) - give them that power. Because we choose to give them that power.

I am not making a tacit criticism of those systems of law and rule. Here's another quote, from Spider Robinson's The Free Lunch: "I know our society isn't very smart, or kind... but it's the smartest, kindest one that ever was..." I accept that, when it comes down to it, we're only human; we can make mistakes, and we're afraid enough to convince ourselves that they're not. But I'm also willing to accept that the human condition is, by and large, better than it was (says the guy sitting in a nice house, typing on a keyboard and wondering whether he wants dinner now or in a few hours' time while millions starve or die of AIDS in Africa) - or, at the very least, I'm willing to accept on faith that we will be better than we are now. In the meantime, we can only keep on being who we are. As a society, we're not very smart, we're not very kind, but I'm willing to accept that we're the best we can be at this moment, and that we will get better. It might take ten years, it might take ten thousand (evolution is, after all, a slow process), but it will happen.

Part of that includes keeping and maintaining armed forces. I'm going to keep with pattern here and look at Star Wars for some allegory - and, believe it or not, I'm going to Episode II: Attack of the Clones. If I understand it rightly, Amidala was standing against the creation of an Army of the Republic because she could not believe an army could be put to any other use than to attack, and that attacking is wrong. I halfway agree with her, in that attacking is wrong, and that's probably the root of my misgivings about this current conflict. Never throw the first punch, even when it's guised as a "pre-emptive strike". (The translation of that is, "do unto others as you would have them do unto you, but do it first". The coalition of forces of which Australia is a member has thrown the first punch, and it's not much consolation that we were right about Saddam and his manufacture of biological weapons after the fact.) But I am of the conviction that, once the other guy has started the fight, you should be able to finish it. Armies are nation-sized fists, so if a nation is to defend itself from other nations, it must have fists of its own - even if it risks using them to throw the first punch itself.

I suppose that's part of the problem - risk. There's no such thing as absence of risk, no such state as "perfectly safe". Living is, in and of itself, a risk. The measure of an entity, be it a nation, a people or a person, is not that entity's attempt to avoid risk; it is that entity's acceptance of both risk and failure. I believe in our society and way of life, at the very least for its potential to become smarter and better, and I'm willing to accept the risk of having an army to protect it (says the guy sitting in a nice house, typing on a keyboard and wondering whether he wants dinner now or in a few hours' time while thousands are actually serving their nations in active conflict).

In my eyes, the current state of Human evolution entails accepting the risk of making flawed decisions. John Howard has decided to join Australia's forces with America's in attacking Iraq before the U.N. passed a resolution. It may be illegal, it may be immoral. Australia's people raised their voices against it beforehand, but our Prime Minister, the man we elected in the only true means our system of law and rule has of making our voices known, made the decision that the person occupying the position of Prime Minister is tasked with making. It's possible that he was privy to information that we were not. Regardless, he made the best possible decision that the human being known as John Howard could have done in that situation, at that time, in that position. Protest before, influence where you can, but accept that the buck has to stop somewhere. Right now, it stops at John Howard. The time has come to close ranks and move forward together, with our leaders (like 'em or not) and with the people who've chosen to accept great risk in order to protect our way of life, the men and women of our armed forces. It won't be easy, and it won't be pleasant, but it's the price we pay for being the kind of human being that human beings are right now.

And to close it off, I'd like to quote, albeit approximately, Christopher Reeve in his last portrayal of Superman: "... there will be peace. There will be peace when the people of the world want it so much that their governments have no choice but to give it to them." Sure, where we are right now sucks. But that doesn't mean we aren't on the way to something better. This is just part of the journey that we have to take in order to get there.

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