“Sic Transit Gloria Mundi”  (“Thus Passes all Earthly Glory”)
Posted Aug 22, 2006

Israel lost in the Lebanon, Hizballah won!”.

“Hizballah lost the war, they just haven’t admitted it yet”.

“America lost the war in Iraq!”.

“Iraq lost the war to the United States!”.

I have been hearing such statements from many quarters recently but I am cannot agree with any of them.

The most fundamental point I have to make is that NOBODY wins a war even if it is one-sided.

The “winners” lose because it does have a cost in terms of lives, money, material and a lot of moral capital…this last is often ignored or rejected in cases of “righteous” wars.

It is not possible to fight a battle or a war without losing some elements of one’s humanity, without losing some value of life for one’s neighbor (“our sacrifices!”) or the other people’s lives (“we killed xx000 of the enemy!”).

We do not look at the eyes of our children who have been dehumanized to the extent that they too, exult with us on the lost lives…ours as well as the “enemy’s”.
We avoid the eyes of our neighbors who actually did lose some of their loved ones.

We vow revenge because it is this cultivated hate that will keep us together and will help us fight another day…to more losses even if we “win”.
We buy more weapons at the cost of helping educate and provide health to those of us who are least able to help themselves.

All for “glory”, “security” and our “values”.

In the end, we never get any more protection nor are any of our goals served…whether we “win” or we “lose”, because in the long measure of Time, our victories and our losses are all transient…the “enemy” always wins.

Ask the Greeks, the Romans, the Ottomans, the Mongols, the British, the Spanish…ask any of the “Great” Empires whether they still believe they “won”.
“Sic Transit Gloria Mundi” (“Thus Passes all Earthly Glory”) is carved at the headstone of every empire…if there is still a headstone left.

The only true victory is one where former enemies are not preparing for the next confrontation or the next round of vengeance. In such a victory, the enemies are spending their capitals to help their people grow into healthy, educated and prosperous people who have more to gain (by any measure) by living together in harmony than they would ever gain by war.

Europe is busy providing us with just such a model; Switzerland has already shown us it can endure even when (three) different cultures and languages are joined together in one land. The Swiss demonstrated that land is not as important as humanity and the will to live together as equals.

This is true for Israel as well, not matter how hard the the Israelis and their blind supporters try to say otherwise.

I cannot believe that Israel has any chance of lasting unless the Jews live with Christians and the Muslims in one land, as equals. No amount of Camp David Agreements, Oslo Agreements or any other “Agreements” that the US can wrest out of the Palestinian leadership will ever erase the desire of a people to live in their lands with justice and in peace.

Unless all parties come to this realization, each “side” will be toasting blood and saying, “Next year in Jerusalem”.

There is nothing inimical about Jews and Arabs living together; once they have gone past peace and reconciliation cycles…perhaps even after a generation or two, all the piled-up and carefully nurtured hate and fear will be things to wonder at rather than live in.

To get there from here, both sides have to sacrifice their sacred cows.

Jews have to let go of the obsession that they can only live in an ethnically cleansed land for Jews only.

Arabs have to let go of the resentment and the desire to return to their old homes.

To be sure, adjustments accommodations and reparations must be made so people do not feel as if they were the sacrificial goats but this is entirely possible as long as we do not paint ourselves in a corner with our principles.

This is also true for America.

We cannot continue to “win” our arguments through a combination of threats, bribery and war. The toll in our human, material and moral capital is too great and will last too long.
The continuation of our imperial policies, set in motion as soon as this country was born, is creating another “great” empire that will be destined for the kind of fall that its predecessors have suffered…but we do not have to follow those ill-fated and misguided footprints in history.

Without going too far back in history…just six years, to September 11, 2001…

We lost 3000 lives (not all American) and a few billion dollars when the economy slowed down for a while.

In retaliation we launched an arrogant and costly set of invasions against hopelessly ill-prepared “enemies” while declaring yet another completely (to this day) undefined “enemy” and declaring a “war” that can never have an ending.

Our actions are responsible for over a million lives lost since that first day when we invaded Afghanistan, tens of thousands of homes have been destroyed, entire nations have been “pushed back to the Stone Age” as we promised in the heat of our vengeful passions and MILLIONS of people (men, women AND children) have been maimed for life.

WE are still spending over two billion dollars a month in the pursuit of our vengeance; dollars that would work literal miracles if spent within the United States and if spent even in part, to help alleviate the miseries of the world.

We have forsaken our freedom.
We have undermined our constitution.
We have greatly damaged our moral fiber.
We are MUCH less safe than we ever were in our history.
We have more enemies than we have ever had before.
We have traded the respect and admiration the world held us in, for fear and distrust.

No amount of flag-waving, international bullying or dollars can overcome these facts…and tomorrow is not looking any better.

America should realize that we are not in a situation that can be changed by “regime-change” here or overseas; this is not a Republican or a Democratic problem, this is a problem of national will and national character.

If we the people are unwilling to lead our leaders, they will continue to believe they are following the right path and we will continue in our headlong race to the edge of the abyss.

We…all of us, need to trade in our complacency for activism…not necessarily on a large scale but as small as ourselves.

If WE do not do this and fast, then we will doom our future generations and America too, will follow the path of other empires.

Someday people will look at broken-down monuments that declare the glories of this nation and will wonder how we went wrong.

Like the statue of King Ozymandias, our monuments will tell the viewer to “look around and admire the glory…” and even the desert winds will not send an echo back.