In the midst of the sadness and hostility brought about by the shooting in the Orlando Nightclub this past weekend I have seen things on social media and in the news that concern me. Now I’m not talking safety or our ability to love those who harm us, though those are important issues. For me, it is shocking how many people from my generation specifically who form opinions about terrorists, presidents (or presumptive nominees), terrorist groups, and our actions as a nation across the world without researching facts and knowing history. Too often we rely on what our parents say, our limited knowledge of history, or simply what the media says about the past instead of searching for the facts. Here is the sad reality. What seemed like a good idea a generation or two ago can really come back to bite us. The only problem is that many people can fail to look that far in the past because many voters today weren’t alive then, and because they see an easy scapegoat in the present or recent past. Millennials are currently the largest voting age demographic in the states, and this next election is huge. But are we informed enough about what happened in the Persian Gulf region before we were born to not repeat history, and to stop trying to find a single person to blame for everything?
Now I do not want to spend time talking about the Orlando shooter, but he is really the spark that got this whole thing going. He got Donald Trump to call out President Obama and vice-versa. The funny thing is they used the social media equivalent of a subtweet to do so. Of course this little spat has caused many of the people that I am friends with on Facebook and follow on Twitter to share videos and links that bash one side and praise the other. Now I am not saying that they are not entitled to their own opinion, that their views are wrong, or that they themselves are uninformed, that would be very arrogant of me. However, with the types of videos that are shared, I do wonder how much my generation, the millennials, knows about how long the US has been countering terrorism, how it started, and who we can really blame for everything.
NOTE: I don’t love blaming people but my generation seems to. I just want to learn the facts for myself and then get them out so people can make informed decisions. I studied politics and political history in college, and I know that I don’t know a lot so I imagine that others are struggling as well.
To get to where we are today, it is best to start at the end of World War II. Starting with the Truman Doctrine, every president until Reagan had some sort of doctrine in relation to foreign policy, and they all had one thing in common. They aimed to stop the spread of communism across the world. This caused what came to be known as the cold war. From The Soviet Union to Vietnam, Korea, Cuba, Turkey, Greece, and even down in Central America with Nicaragua, American presidents vowed to contain and then rollback communism. Though all these countries had their own parts to play in history, to me none of those have had an impact on recent times than one other area: the Persian Gulf region and Afghanistan.
I think that it is ironic that so many people today are against the wars in the Persian Gulf region and are all set to blame George W. Bush for what started as a so called war on oil. They are so mad at him for that and other things that his Presidential Approval Rating according to the Gallop poll has steadily dropped to lower than 30% when he left office. While he never admitted it was a war on oil, people drew that conclusion and have blasted him for it. Yet in 1980 when Jimmy Carter announced in his doctrine in his state of the union address that he was essentially making it an act of war to get between the US and its oil interest in the Persian Gulf, his approval rating topped out near 60%, which is pretty high for a president in office. He explicitly told the American people that he was using their taxes and military personal to protect oil, and they seemed okay with that. So what’s changed? Why did Bush get slammed and Carter praised? I’m not here to give the answer I’m here to get you thinking. Oh and one more ironic thing, Carter is a democrat and Bush a republican yet they both still wanted that oil.
Let us continue on to terrorism and a president who most conservatives love and many have high praises for: Ronald Reagan. Now don’t get me wrong he was a solid president. In fact he has perhaps the highest approval rating upon exiting the oval office, just over 60%, though approval ratings don’t necessarily mean they were a great president. It just means people think that they were. Anyhow, that number is from 1989, and things have changed since then. See Reagan took Carter’s Doctrine, and continued it. In fact they expanded it to be a global doctrine intent on stopping both communism and terrorism. While this had worldwide implications both in Africa and Central America, I want to look today at Afghanistan. See the Soviets were pressing hard there to expand communism’s grip on the world but the US fought back. We defended that nation and the communists and terrorists that attacked it. Eventually the Soviets left and people were happy. But what kind of precedent did that set for the future? Did Afghans really want us in their country doing their work for them just so we could stabilize the region by stopping communism and thus keep our oil supply?
See the doctrines of Reagan, Truman, Carter, and others after WWII set a tone for the US as a world power. It showed that we would step in to defend what we thought was right and fight back when we were attacked both domestically and abroad, no matter where in the world an issue arose. But what started as a goal to stop communism and have America be a peace keeper (see the Nixon Doctrine and the nuclear umbrella), has been perverted into the idea that is personified in the saying “’MERICA **** YEAH!” We want to bring back the old America that kicked tail and just went and did whatever we wanted. Well the truth is that we haven’t just gone where we wanted; we’ve gone where we felt we were needed, and some say it backfired.
How did it backfire? Well you remember Osama Bin Ladin, the man who is often paraded around as the US’s trophy from the “war on terror”. Turns out he could have possibly been a part of some Muslim coalitions that supported and drew support from the Afghanistan Mujahideens that the Reagan administration funded either directly or indirectly. Whoops. Don’t worry Reagan lovers, he’s not the only president to have funded militias or other local armies to later have them turn around and have a problem with the US. That is what is currently happening in Syria. As forces sprung up to counter governments, other forces arose and the US aided some forces while countering others even though US allies wouldn’t help, and then some forces turned on the US. Basically it’s a big mess a long time in the making.
In fact, ever since WWII ended, it has become harder and harder to tell the bad guys from the good guys. After all, everyone thinks that they are the good guys right? It all depends who you ask and when you ask them. Even still, the people we see as the good guys today might turn around and launch attacks on us a decade from now. That might seem like a long time but in reality that is only a couple presidents away.
That makes this election huge! Fellow millennials, we will play a huge role in this upcoming election, and I hope that you will all get out and vote to make a difference. But I want you to be careful. We live in an age where an infinite amount of information is readily available at our fingertips. You could research everything you want about any president ever and form an opinion about them. So go do it! Don’t fall into the trap of listening to the media, your friends, or even your parents when it comes to voting. I know that last one sounds funny but your parents have their strong convictions too. Just like you don’t have to like the same music they do, you don’t have to like the same policies and politicians that they do. Things change. Your parents could be wrong, and like you they can have their own opinions. You are an adult now. Go get yourself informed about the past so you can influence the future.
NOTE: I touched on a lot of topics in this blog very briefly. That means that I left out details and didn’t expound on the ones I dd mention. Why? Because you could write a dissertation about any of the topics I covered. I encourage every reader to just Google anything I talked about. Search news websites, scholar databases, or heck go get a book, just go find reliable sources and learn as much as you can. These issues are infinitely complex and I don’t have the time to write in detail here, and I doubt anyone wants to read a 10,000 word blog post.