December 31, 2006
Listen to any hard core political activist or blogger in the United States and you'll likely hear a screed against the "other side;" that defined usually as the amorphous blob of Americans that oppose his or her point of view.
The problem with this is that "the other side" used to mean the enemy we faced in a war: not what the British call "the loyal opposition."
When Republican stalwarts heard Democrat Representative Jack Murtha of Pennsylvania advocate a redeployment of U.S. forces out of Iraq to some "quick reaction base" such as Okinawa, they howled with derision. And when rumors spread that the president was considering a "surge" of U.S. forces to quell the violence in Baghdad in order to give Iraqi forces more time before they shoulder the brunt of their own security, Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware said he opposed any additional U.S. troops in Iraq: before he was even handed a plan and a strategy to consider.
The discourse of public debate became so acrimonious within the United States in 2006 that we run the risk of defeating ourselves in Iraq: just as we did four decades ago in Vietnam.
You'll find other veterans that agree with this assessment.
In the December 31, 2006, Washington Times commentary section, former Marine James G. Zumwalt points to an al Qaeda document found by U.S. troops earlier this year. Describing al Qaeda's situation in Iraq as "bleak," the document cites Al Qaeda's own military losses and its inability to win over the "hearts and minds" of the Iraqi people.
In fact, an impartial assessment of the situation in the Middle East will find that Arabs are fighting and killing other Arabs and Muslims are killing other Muslims at a sadly alarming rate. In Iraq, Sunni's kill Shi'ites while the Kurds watch, mostly from the north.
But the Kurds are not safe either. Neither the Sunnis nor the Shia want to share any of Iraq's oil wealth with the Kurds and the Turks are deathly afraid that the "unclean" Kurds will flood across the Turkish border and upset their own democracy.
On the Mediterranean side of the Middle East, two groups seem engaged in a death struggle and the Israelis are not among them. Fatah and Hamas loyalists cannot resolve their own hatreds long enough to mount a united effort against the Israelis: the people both Fatah and Hamas say are the real illegitimate people in the region.
In Lebanon, the Iran backed Hezbollah became so powerful during 2006 that it cooked up a war with a sovereign nation: Israel; even though the host Lebanese country wanted no part of the destruction Israel ultimately rained down on Beirut and elsewhere.
The word for all this, heard more and more, is "fractious." Defined as "Tending to cause trouble; unruly. Irritable; snappish; cranky;" my own mind translates "fractious" into an imagined more appropriate root verb: to fracture.
What the people of the United States might start to consider is this: yes we have our disagreements here in the U.S. and there is by no means a consensus on foreign policy and the war on terror. Yet neither the Republican nor the Democrat party can claim a mandate or a landslide in any recent national referendum. That means we can still be winners if each side can compromise.
Because it seems to me that we are a lot more in unison here in the United States than those that want to do us harm seem to be in the Arab-Muslim world. We here in the U.S. still vent our anger with the arson of devilishly developed syntax. The Muslims who disagree with one another quickly, it seems, choose assassination, suicide bombings and other forms of terror to make their points: even against the people of their brother tribes.