Policy discussions: more history, less bombing

March 15, 2016

Despite being the opinion guy at the Royal Purple, I don’t talk about politics all that often.

Column by  Jake Prinsen  Opinion Editor

Column by
Jake Prinsen
Opinion Editor

It’s pretty easy to foresee a conflict between my own and someone else’s ideologies, and I tend to avoid those arguments. I’d rather smile, drink my beer and listen to the other guy sputter on about foreign policy with that special kind of bravado that accompanies the fifth or sixth beer.

But sometimes I hear things I can’t just let go. Sometimes I hear things that make my skin crawl, and I have to speak up. 

I work on a farm back home. It’s hard work, and my coworkers are some of the hardest working guys I’ve ever met.  They’re blue collar through and through. They earn their wages, and they’ll be damned if anyone tries to tell them how to live or how to think. I have a lot of respect for those guys and the lives they live.

But we were on a lunch break a couple months ago, still freezing cold and shivering from working outside in minus 15-degree weather. I took my lukewarm Spaghetti-O’s out of the dirty microwave, assumed my usual position at the table and tuned in to the conversation.

A younger guy, about my age, brought up the 10 U.S. soldiers that were detained by Iran in January. His brother is in the Navy, stationed near the area where the situation unfolded, and he was expressing his concern with President Obama’s lack of action.

One topic led to the next, and eventually the guys were talking about ISIS. They didn’t understand why the U.S. isn’t further involved – why we haven’t destroyed ISIS already. I tried to enter the conversation.

The conflict is more complex than just Syria fighting ISIS, I explained. There are different groups of Syrian rebels, ISIS and the oppressive Assad regime all fighting each other.

Then the formation of ISIS came up. Yes I said, Obama’s rapid withdrawal of troops in Iraq caused instability in the region, but the Bush administration’s overthrowing of a Sunni-led government in exchange for a Shiite one – in a country that’s overwhelmingly Sunni – wasn’t exactly a bright policy decision either.

You can almost hear decisions made during the Vietnam conflict echoing all over again, I reasoned. We’re always making the wrong moves, backing the wrong guys. There’s no way we’re going to win this decisively, I said. We hardly know why we’re there or what we’re doing.

“Well,” one of the older guys piped up between drags on a cigarette. “Maybe we should just nuke the whole place.”

That’s where the conversation ended for me. I wasn’t going to waste anymore of my energy trying to explain history, foreign policy or current events if this was his ultimate conclusion.

What more could I say?

Unfounded opinions like this are dangerous … yet they sound so familiar. I feel as if we’ve heard sentiments like this from a certain presidential candidate.

“I would bomb the s*** out of them,” Donald Trump said about ISIS at a rally in Iowa. “I would just bomb those suckers – yeah that’s right.”

Yeah, that’s right, Trump. Let’s bomb the s*** out of them. That worked really well for Lyndon B. Johnson during the Vietnam War. Does Operation Rolling Thunder ring a bell for anyone?

If not, Operation Rolling Thunder was, in a sense, President Johnson’s attempt at “bombing the s*** out of” North Vietnam. The end result was 640,000 tons of American explosives dropped on the country. Over 90,000 North Vietnamese were killed, 72,000 of which were civilians, according to historical records. Yet the war continued.

So now I must ask, at a time in history when we have instant access to historical documents and unlimited information from all over the world, why do we still choose the simplest, dumbest solutions to our problems? 

Have we become that lazy? Is our society’s collective memory really that short-term?

If this is the case, I’m truly worried for the future of our country.

I’m not going to tell you who to vote for, but I’ll sum this up with what’s becoming a pervasive theme for my columns this semester.

We have access to the sum of all human knowledge – it’s only a click away. Before you go to the polls in November, do some research. Let’s not elect a man whose idea of foreign policy is “bombing the s*** out of” another country.

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