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There now seem to be over 2000 US boots on the ground in Iraq, assuming that each of our soldiers still has two feet and all are wearing boots. So, let’s get beyond “boots on the ground.” While we are at it, let’s get beyond using “justice” as a substitute for “retribution” and “revenge.” The US Government has a host of international problems all of which would be immeasurably easier to understand if Obama could break himself of the habit of repeating things that he knows to be untrue and develop a new habit of sharing his real concerns and convictions with the public. On the international front, Obama is the best friend this country has – he is actually trying to define achievable results before putting the US war industry in motion to use its brute force to try to obtain loosely-defined and unachievable results, regardless of the death and destruction left in its wake.

These days there seems to be a complete aversion to seeking new solutions to old problems. From the eye-for-an-eye response to horrific murder to community outrage at the death of another young black man, the tape gets rolled again. Next up will surely be another school shooting or another US warplane shot down with all of the predictable thoughts, prayers, and anger focused on the same flawed responses as the last time and the times before that. It would be really nice to see something new.

How about opening a dialogue with “terrorists” for starters? The United States has had open diplomatic relations with some of the most reprehensible historic figures – the list is long, but Stalin, Franco, Trujillo, Batista, Duvalier, Pinochet, and Idi Amin come to mind. All tortured and killed their own people and imprisoned those who got in the way, and worse. Yet, this country and others around the world found a way to try to engage. Maybe talking with the “terrorists” won’t yield anything worth taking about, but how well has our strategic killing machine worked so far, even if only measured since 9/11 (with a quick nod to the Vietnam War and its 58,000 US dead, countless wounded, billions spent, and a victorious enemy in control when it was all over).

While trying to talk won’t miraculously end hostilities around the world, it might create an opening to better understanding, some kind of measured readjustment of priorities, and critical efforts to find common ground. To be useful, however, those doing the talking have to stop demonizing everyone who doesn’t agree with them, and threats to kill each other as the only reasonable response have to be shelved. To be serious, talks must be direct. [The Israeli’s and Hamas know each other so well that they should be on a first name basis, yet they can only engage in “indirect” talks, using the newest dictatorship on the block, the Egyptian government, as the intermediary. Would it really be so hard to leave the Egyptians out, tell the US to get lost, and talk directly to their enemies. It is working in Colombia, as direct talks to end that intractable and deadly civil war are now underway with meaningful potential to end the conflict. (See also El Salvador.)]

Dialogue will not achieve much in the short-term. But we do know one thing; it might be a start toward finding new solutions to old problems. Perhaps as importantly, we know for sure that over a decade of killing and providing the world with the weaponry to kill has produced only mayhem. Today, we are being told that we face a greater terrorist threat than ever before. How can that be after all the coffins that have come home and the battles fought in the “war on terrorism”? It strongly suggests that either we have lost that war or are losing it badly. Maybe it is time to try something new.

After a few weeks of wandering in the strategic dessert and praying on it, it appears that Obama is ready to lead the way to the McCain/Graham promised land of more war, savaging the savages, and protecting the homeland from 8’ tall Sunni extremists and their 50 American cohorts. I am sure the word “degrade” will be the new word of the day, and join “justice” as another synonym for killing. We will ask other nations to put their boots on the ground, they will agree, then they will defer. So US boots on the ground (those already there and those who miraculously appear in weeks and months ahead) will get sucked into the vortex, and another round of killing, coffins, and wounded warriors will begin.

I wish I believed that there was a humane way out for the US, but there isn’t. The US must leave the Middle East to its own cataclysm. Our military presence and our weaponry only make the situation worse. Yet, national vanity renders our absence seemingly impossible to accept as the better alternative.

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