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Dialogue

An act of war is how we "send messages." So the Trump hawks (this term may or may not include Donald himself) are thinking of bombing an Iranian nuclear facility as an act of punishment because Iran "has announced that it intends to deviate from the nuclear agreement signed in 2015 and to enrich uranium at a higher level than the maximum it has committed to within the framework of the nuclear deal."

This is all hush-hush, of course. War has to be planned in secret. The public's role is definitely not to be part of the debate in the lead-up process or to question the facts that justify taking action. Its role is to cheer loudly when the hostilities begin, fervently hating the specified enemy and embracing the new war as a necessary, last-resort action to protect all that we hold dear.

Its role is definitely not to question war itself or to bring up the inevitability of unintended consequences, whether that be the death of babies or the poisoning of the environment. Its role is not to suggest that creating peace is essentially the opposite of waging war, or to cry out:

"War-making must be renounced. It is past time for the paradigm shift. We have one planet and we must see ourselves as one and we must take a stand."

These are the words of Dud Hendrick of Veterans for Peace, and I pause here and let the words settle — in all their complexity — into the collective consciousness.

Striking back is the simple course of action, and jumping on its bandwagon requires ignoring the absolute certainty of unintended consequences that will result from a bombing campaign or an invasion or a cyberwar or the imposition of sanctions.

The absence of "we are one planet" voices at the highest levels of government guarantees that the government will pretty much always make simple, impulsive — wrong — decisions about national security. The absence of such voices in the mainstream media, at least in its geopolitical reportage, guarantees that there will be no long-term accountability for such decisions or any memory of the resulting consequences. Welcome to the 21st century: the century of endless war.

As Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies point out: "Whether in Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea or one of the 20 countries under the boot of U.S. sanctions, the Trump administration is using its economic weight to try to exact regime change or major policy changes in countries around the globe."

And The New York Times informs us that the United States and Russia are currently fighting a "daily digital Cold War" — each country playing nasty little games with the other's power grid. The Pentagon even has an arm called the United States Cyber Command, which "runs the military's offensive and defensive operations in the online world" — and it's getting more aggressive.

But now the American strategy has shifted more toward offense, officials say, with the placement of potentially crippling malware inside the Russian system at a depth and with an aggressiveness that had never been tried before. It is intended partly as a warning, and partly to be poised to conduct cyber strikes if a major conflict broke out between Washington and Moscow.

Somehow the existence of this crazy game doesn't make me feel safer. And the president, the story points out, doesn't even know about it: "Pentagon and intelligence officials described broad hesitation to go into detail with Mr. Trump about operations against Russia for concern over his reaction — and the possibility that he might countermand it or discuss it with foreign officials, as he did in 2017 when he mentioned a sensitive operation in Syria to the Russian foreign minister."

The U.S. government, I fear, contains a terrible void where it ought to have sanity.

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Contact Koehler at koehlercw@gmail.com. Leonard Pitts Jr. is on vacation.

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