Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Opening is Familiar

My 5 star rated book " Tranquillity Initiative" opens with a familiar situation - President in an unpopular war facing election needs to "win the war" and resorts to an illegal solution. This book has been likened to Robin Cook and Tess Garitson for it's medical thriller - I like it to John Grisham for the underlying politics.


Wars were the inevitable result of the destabilization of the Middle East. They were small wars as wars go; bloody, destructive, battles waged between ethnic groups in the wake of the American invasion of Iraq and its subsequent defeat at the hands of the insurgents. Even with the emergence of dictators, who kept their mutual hatreds and suspicions in check for a time, the differences between ethnic groups and religious factions could not be held in check forever. Now those differences emerged with new vigor.
The wars that were the creation of religious leaders hoping for bigger power bases, focused the people's attention on the grievances of their divisive past at the expense of any hope for a prosperous future. Brushfire after brushfire flared up throughout even relatively stable Middle Eastern nations. Before long, they had traveled up into the Muslim areas of the former Soviet Union. They spread in all directions, until they came at last to the sixteenth century Tartar strongholds in the ancient war zone that surrounded the historic city of Astrakhan.
The members of the European Economic Community and NATO, threatened by their own Muslim communities, were determined to avoid involvement at all cost. Burned by the War in Iraq, and wary of their own huge Islamic populations, they steadfastly refused to be dragged into the swirling vortex of ethnic dissention playing out in ever widening circles on their eastern flank. They chose, instead, to let the various factions settle their differences among themselves. The predictable result was genocide.
Then, ten years after the turn of the 21st Century, the bloody skirmishes took on a whole new significance. The Nation of Islam united, and began to ascend outside the Middle East. When it became obvious that the bottom third of the former Soviet Union was falling under the influence of the Iranian mullahs, Europe became restless. As the Jihad nibbled at the corners of the western world once again, Europe went on the defensive.
The United States became involved in what became known as the Astrakhan War, by increments. It had all looked good on paper; a UN Peacekeeping profile, with the support of NATO, doing the right thing to prevent world war. Americans joined their allies in an all out effort to contain the threat to the European way of life. There was worldwide agreement that something had to be done and, if done in concert, would naturally be victorious. Once again, American mothers sent their children to fight on the side of right. Once again, the leaders of the free world were dead wrong.
The concept of peace through war only works when the countries seeking to interfere in the affairs of another country are, and continue to be, committed to the fight. In a religious war, people who lack fanaticism are at a decided disadvantage. As the Astrakhan Intervention dragged on, the American population was once again faced with a test of its resolve. 9/11 was a distant memory, and without a similar catalyst, Americans could not see the point of protecting the citizens of a country thousands of miles from home. What had started as a firm desire to do the right thing, became a grinding intervention in the kind of civil unrest that would not go away. Taxes were raised, the balancing of the budget was put on hold, body bags began to flood into hometowns, and the people took to the streets.
It was now six years after America had stepped into the Astrakhan Intervention, and tear gas flooded American streets with increasing regularity. President Charles Boynton Anderson's election four years earlier had been the war's repudiation. Anderson had campaigned to end the bloodshed and bring the troops home. Americans had flocked to the polls and, despite the fact that polls showed that 63% of the electorate didn't trust his ethics, they had elected Anderson by a landslide. The American voter had spoken.
But ending a war without victory is a daunting task for a politician. Three years after his election, Anderson found himself bogged down in a bloody, costly conflict that would not end.
In January, Anderson had begun to face concerns for his own reelection. As early primary results came in, the President was made painfully aware that the American public, urged on by a stable of hungry candidates, was holding him responsible for the nation’s continued involvement in Astrakhan. It didn't take rocket science to figure out that if he did not take some drastic measure, he would be without a job in November. He needed a final solution to the Astrakhan War, and he needed it badly.

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