Sunday, July 03, 2005

When You Ride Alone, You Ride With Osama

During World War II, there was a strong effort to get Americans on the home front to conserve. Selfish materialism was considered unpatriotic. One of the most interesting posters from this era promoted carpooling with the line: When You Ride Alone, You Ride With Hitler.

It’s a very unsubtle message and just one example of how much Americans were asked to sacrifice for the war effort. I have to ask, where is that spirit today? Why have we been asked to sacrifice so little in our day-to-day lives to help the war on terrorism? Wouldn’t a strong push to conserve gasoline be quite helpful in ending our nation’s dependency on foreign oil—a dependency just about everyone agrees has direct and negative effects on our security?

A move to energy independence isn’t going to be painless. We need to start making the sacrifices now so the transition will be easier later. But where are the calls for us to give up a little for the sake of the nation? We’re at war. We should start acting more like it.


At 3:40 PM, Blogger AubreyJ said...

That’s the problem Alan… So many do not think we are at war.

At 4:49 PM, Blogger Maggie said...

My question, Alan, is what are you really talking about independence or war? Because while the two overlap, there is also a whole of lot singular space around these two issues. Energy independence isn't just about the political and economic implications of relying on an unstable part of the world for our energy, it is also about understanding that our current sources of energy are limited and a resolve to find other methods to fuel our lives and economy, without which not only do we face economic, political and physical dangers, but environmental ones as well. (Wow that was a long sentence and probably not gramatically correct!)

And what is with the link between war and personal sacrifice for every person in our country? I believe in a whole lot of noble causes and am very willing to sacrifice personally (emotionally and economically) to see progress, but war just doesn't do it for me. Selfish materialism was considered unpatriotic because we were fighting a war that we (the majority) believe to be noble. I'm not going to debate whether we should consider our current war noble, but the fact is a lot of people do not consider it so. So that is what has happened to the messages about self sacrifice.

Give me a strong leader who is going to take real action to make us safer, who is going to raise our position in the world as a country who treats people fairly and with respect. Give me a fight that is waged through political and economic sanctions and coroporate and self sacrifice, give me a method that elevates our resolve to abide by national and international standards of decency, then I'll happily sacrifice for the greater good. But I won't let people guilt me into sacrificing just because we are at war. I'm all for spreading democracy and ending despotic leadership, but I don't agree with the method currently employed.

I think in general we are a much too greedy society (and I think this simple fact makes us a target for terror and hate around the globe). So I'm all for personal, coroporate and political sacrifice, just not in the name of war. Let's do it in the name of basic decency, in the search for a personal moral center, in the understanding of our innordinate privelege and in our striving to improve people's standard of living at home and around the world.

At 5:24 PM, Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...


But we are at war. We were attacked on multiple occassions both at home and abroad and whether or not everyone agress with how we've responded, it's hard to say we aren't at war. It's obviously not a war like WWII, but it is a war and our security really is at stake. While the threat is different, it is just as real and vile as were the Nazis and all Americans should, I believe, really want to win and really want to help us win.

To be clear, I'm not talking specifically about Iraq here. I don't see how conserving oil will directly effect that war. But it does effect the greater war on terror and should be a component in any strategy.

Also, I totally agree energy independence is a multi-layered process that has as much to do with innovation as conservation. But I can't invent a hydrogen fuel cell car. I can carpool or buy a hybrid car or endeavor to live close to my job. And I don't think asking people to do those things is asking them to do anything that's not truly for the good of the nation.

As for greed, I don't think Americans are anymore greedy than any other people. I just think we have more stuff which makes us appear greedier. And, yes, a lot of people hate how well-off we are.

At 6:25 PM, Blogger Maggie said...


I don't take issue with the things you suggest we do, like carpool, buy a hybrid car, etc...but I do take issue with the reason.

I do not believe that doing those things will have any substantive effect on our war on terror. And I believe linking them is more about propaganda than it is about a true causal relationship. People don't hate us and want to kill us because we use too much oil and other non-renewable sources of energy. Terrorists hate our excess, our intolerance, and our arrogance. Changing who we are fundamentally is the only real way to lessen the terror threat against us. Our shows of force will never lead us to peace and neither will conserving energy.

At 11:44 PM, Blogger Robert Rouse said...


Here's hoping you and yours have a happy and safe 4th of July holiday.

At 1:56 AM, Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...


I have to disagree pretty strongly. It's my firm belief that substantially changing our culture won't make us one bit safer. It is the culture of radical Islam that must be changed. And to do that, the conditions in which it arises must be changed. Namely, the oppressive regimes of the Middle East. A good portion of those regimes are propped up through their sales of oil. If we no longer buy their oil, the regimes (like the Saudis) no longer have the means to stay in power and, assuming things go right, more democratic societies can arise (hard work for sure, but it's our best shot here).

That's the link between our energy consumption and terrorism. That's why we each should have a personal respobsibility to help reach energy independence, even in little ways. That's not propaganda. That's just acknowledging that we do have enemies and we have to take action to rid ourselves of them.

Yes, we should endeavor not to needlessly inflame hatered against us and I don't think large military actions should be the primary focus of this war, but the terrorists aren't looking for us to reduce our excesses or become more tolerant--they just want us gone or converted. Their excesses (the murder of innocents) and their intollerence (where do you begin?) is a far, far worse problem in this world. Our culutre is fundamentally good (even with its admitted weaknesses). The culture of radical Islam is findamentally bad.

It's about who they are. We must focus on changing them--reducing their power and influence in the Muslim world. When it comes to us, we just need to live up to our ideals and make sure we don't lose our way. Easier said than done, but we're in the right here.

At 2:34 PM, Blogger Maggie said...


Perhaps this is a discussion best left for when you get your ass back to SA. I think you and I want the same things, but we have different reasons for wanting them and I'm a bit unsure about how far apart we are in terms of methods to get there.

Looking forward to the chat!

At 8:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Alan—

This is - A Retired Marine Vet with A Mind

I’ve haven’t posted in quite some time – although I have kept up on most of the discussions.

Although, When I read the following:

"I have to ask, where is that spirit today?
Why have we been asked to sacrifice so little
in our day-to-day lives to help the war on

You know I read and watched a lot of War movies in my younger days too.

It pains me to have to say this – but with the cowboy herding this movement - This following quote immediately came to my mind:

"The trouble with America is that when the dollar
only earns 6 percent over here, then it gets restless
and goes overseas to get 100 percent. Then the flag
follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag."

The same man said:

"Out of war nations acquire additional territory, if they
are victorious. They just take it. This newly acquired
territory promptly is exploited by the few – the selfsame few
who wrung dollars out of blood in the war. The general
public shoulders the bill."

These words were from Major General Smedley Butler, USMC. And let me say to all the young folks here that Smedley knew well of what he spoke.

Bio-info on Gen. Smedley Butler

This IS the latest big business venture of the US in a long line of past adventures. It’s now "Policeman to the World!" Get used to it.

Also - If you really wish to have your eyes opened – If you haven’t already done so - I suggest you read a copy of American Dynasty by Kevin Phillips (a 4 generation resume of the Bush family). The sources that Phillips footnotes are worth the purchase price of the book.

C-SPAN offers a one-hour video speech by Phillips that would be a fine accompaniment to the book.

C-SPAN Video

There is absolutely no way to fully understand where we are headed unless you understand where we have been as a nation.

Thanks for this fine forum.

At 8:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keep in mind that the political calculus behind this war was that it would only have the support of the American people if it was waged without sacrifice. You do realize that despite the billions upon billions of dollars in costs the war has run up, we haven't paid one red cent for it? Instead, the administration has pushed it off as deficit spending so our children and their children will pay for this war. We get tax cuts so future generations get burdened with crushing tax increases. But, who cares? We'll all be dead then.

The sad thing is, the administration calculated correctly. Had the President done the patriotic thing and called for sacrifice and overturned tax cuts so we could finance the war today, he wouldn't have been reelected. It would have been the last straw for people who have a vague sense of unease about the man but who are cowed by his fear mongering that falsely conflated Iraq with 9/11.

Remember - the call after 9/11 was not "gird for war," it was "go shopping!" In other words, 1700 talented patriotic Americans are dead, but that's okay because I still got my tax cut.

Sacrifice? We don't understand the word. Only history will be able to tell future generations what their forebears gave up on their behalf.


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