Thursday, June 09, 2005

Terrorism, The Cold War, and Everything

Rambling Post Warning!

This post was born of a conversation here. The board is decidedly liberal and there were a couple posts I couldn’t resist commenting on. I was fortunate enough to run across someone who could at least carry on a conversation. But the thoughts developed in such a way that I figured it might make a good post. I may start cannibalizing my comments more often just so I have something interesting to post on my own blog. That said, let’s get on with it.

Myth #1: Terrorism is born of poverty.

This argument neglects the fact that most of the terrorists on 9/11 were from Saudi Arabia, one of the richest countries on the planet. Should we send more aid to Saudi Arabia? Jordan? Syria? Egypt? What responsibility do we have as a nation to care for the poor in other nations? Why does it fall to the United States to care for everybody else? Especially when the poor we are talking about live in wealthy countries.

Secondly, in the case of most of the leadership, they are not even poor but rather the sons of privilege. Of course you don't see many of the leaders blowing themselves up for 76 virgins in paradise either.

Isn't it reasonable to assume that at least some of the problem stems from the fact that Islam is a religion based in violent conquest of anyone not willing to convert?

Their prophet, Muhammad ibn Abdallah, got the ball rolling in the year 630. With the notable exception of a peace agreement between Pepin the Short and the Caliph of Baghdad which survived from 762 until the Caliph of Egypt ordered the destruction of the Holy Sepulcher in 1009, there have been very few periods of peace between Muslims and non-Muslims. But even during that "peace" the Muslims continued to attack in other directions including Persia, Afghanistan, and much of India.

And the crazy thing about it is... they were rich nations at the time. The Arab portion of the world was one of the most civilized and advanced anywhere on the planet at the time. How is it that today we view poverty in some of the richest countries of the world as an excuse to blow up civilians at a hotel or a market, or to fly a plane into a skyscraper.

Myth #2: President Bush purposely allowed the 9/11 attack to occur in order to give The United States an excuse to interfere and take over.

Believing that ANY President, Democrat or Republican, would knowingly and willingly allow thousands of Americans to die in an attack in order to "justify" a war is patently ridiculous. Should we believe that Roosevelt knew about Pearl Harbor too? Should we believe aliens crashed in Roswell? And the CIA, Cuba, and the Mafia all conspired to kill JFK, right? But to address the argument seriously since I'm sure you would prefer that I take it seriously, if that is the case, why did we allow free elections in Afghanistan and Iraq? And why were we encouraging Syria to get out of Lebanon? Wouldn't it make more sense to keep Afghanistan and Iraq (especially the oil in Iraq), and use Syria's presence in Lebanon as an excuse to "liberate" them too? I don't think Bush "allowed" the attack any more than Clinton "allowed" the USS Cole attack or the first WTC bombing or Oklahoma City or the embassy bombings by AQ.

Myth #3: Western society is just as violent as Islam, and those who beat the war drums the loudest here are most like the mullahs.

The purpose of Islam is to spread the faith of the prophet Muhammad ibn Abdallah, peacefully if possible or by force if met with resistance. The United States of America actually prefers to be left alone. For over 100 years, the only wars we have ever fought have been the result being attacked or called for help. And in that time we have returned any captured territory. Name any other nation on the planet that can say the same thing.

The only war in our history (setting aside the American Civil War) which was initiated by us was the one we waged against the native Americans. Although I find that action regrettable, I also realize that it was probably inevitable. If it had not been the United States that removed them from their lands, it would have been the Spanish, Mexicans, British, French, or Russians. The native American tribes had the misfortune of being surrounded by more technically advanced societies at a time when everybody was in an imperialistic mode. Other than that, I have no regrets about any of the violent periods of American history.

The United States military’s sole purpose is to ensure that I can say whatever I like on this blog. The duty of the American military is to protect America. I do sometimes question whether we should even bother protecting anybody else in the world but I look at it this way: I was pretty big for my age when I was growing up. The bullies tended to leave me alone because they weren't sure they could take me. But they tormented my buddy mercilessly. Until one day I had had enough of it and stepped in to help him out. It's a difficult call... do you step in to a fight that has nothing to do with you or do you help out someone who is being kicked when they're down. I decided it was time to quit being afraid and stepped in.

Myth #4: The United States has a long history of unprovoked interference in the internal affairs of other nations, often at the expense of democracy, to wit: Iran, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Cuba, Haiti, Brazil, Chile, Zaire, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Korea, Venezuala, & Panama.

First Iran: Since 1501, Iran has had five dynasties. The Qajar dynasty lasted from 1796 to 1925. Between 1918 and 1920, Britain was using Persia as a route to interfere in the Russian Revolution, but really had little to do with the deposing of Ahmad Shah, the last of the Qajar dynasty. In 1924, a movement in favor of forming a republic began. It was inspired primarily by Reza Khan Sardar Sepah, the Prime Minister and former Minister of War. But the mullahs were still leaders of public opinion and associated a republic with the anti-Musli policies of the republic installed in Turkey by Mustafa Kemal. Reza Khan decided instead to replace the monarch instead of the monarchy. In 1925 Ahmad Shah was on a trip to Europe, but in November, the Shah's announcement that he intended to return hastened the deposition of his dynasty. Only four members of the Majils spoke in favor of Ahmad Shah. On 12 December 1925 Reza Khan became Reza Shah, and on 25 April 1926 he crowned himself in the Golestan Palace.

By 1941, Iran's position as a route into Russia played another significant role in international affairs. Reza Shah had entered into negotiations with Germany to supply it with oil. Iran was a lifeline for Russia, and Britain and Russia were not about to let Reza do a deal with with the Nazis. Reza was forced to step down by the British and Russians. His son, Mohammed became Shah.

In 1953, Mohammed's Prime Minister initiated a Nationalist coup and successfully ousted him. With support from the British SIS and the United States CIA, he managed to regain power, but almost immediately he faced another problem. The Soviet Union was supporting the Communist Party in Iran and causing serious problems internally. Mohammed abolished the multi-party system.

Now here's my point in all this. The contention was that the US helped the Shah overthrow a democracy. In a simplistic sense I suppose one could make that argument. But the story is much more complicated than that. We didn't just move a rook on the chessboard and then democracy was dead. Take a look at the timeline.

If anything, this shows that there are always unintended consequences... but the US didn't go out to get rid of a democracy. Mohammed was actually one of the best leaders Iran has had in recent history. He did a lot of positive things for his people. He wasn't perfect, but he was pretty good.

With regard to Vietnam, Cambodia and Korea, these actions were taken in direct response to attacks by Chinese Communist backed agression.

Panama was a situation were a strategic asset that we built needed to be secured.

Most of the other incidents can be attributed to the Cold War.

There is a line from Hunt For Red October that described the Cold War as a "war with no battles, no monuments, only casualties." For the most part, that is dead on correct. However, in a sense, the entire "third world" was the battlefield. Just about every place we were involved in the Cold War, so was the Soviet Union. The Cold War was a struggle not only for supremacy, but in the view of the participants, for survival itself. Right or wrong, that's what it was about and both sides believed it to be the case. There are several legitimate arguments to be made for not involving ourselves in that struggle, to wit:

1. It is immoral to use third world countries as pawns in a game between superpowers.

2. It is wrong to meddle in the internal affairs of another country.

3. It is wrong to assassinate, finance rebels, supply weapons, etc. to one side of an internal conflict in another country.

But all of these arguments ignore the fact that if we hadn't done these things, our opponent wasn't going to stop doing them. The result would have been that the Soviets were the only one interfering in internal politics in the third world.

Marxism/Leninism/Socialism/Communism has never been kind to the losing side. If 30% of a population aligns itself with the Soviets, kills the 15% that opposes them, and terrorizes the remaining population into going along... is that democracy since it was "chosen by the people"?

It's a dirty situation and no matter what you do there are aspects of it to despise. Would it have been better to leave Vietnam to the Chinese Communists? Should we have interfered with the Khmer Rouge? I don't know. But after the Vietnam debacle, there was no way we could have done anything in Cambodia. It would have destroyed what civility we had left here domestically.

In the grand scale of all the things we did, did we do some things clumsily? Absolutely. Did we choose the wrong side to support in some cases? You bet. Would we have been better off not getting involved in a few of them? Probably. Did anyone, anywhere have a crystal ball to tell us how it was all going to turn out? No.

What Now?

So, here we are in 2005.

There is no Soviet Union. China's sphere of influence is smaller than it used to be. Really, the only meddling in internal politics anywhere that is any threat to the United States at all is by Islamic extremists. I don't know what your thoughts are, but I see the extreme versions of Islam as a threat not only to the United States but to every nation on the planet. Should that "extremism" be permitted to interfere unchallenged, especially if it has been exported to a country that is not "extremist"?

This is where we stand today. What do we do? Do we interfere or let things progress however they will... even if it is not by the "choice" of the native population? Islamic extremism learned well from Lenin. It is dangerous to oppose them.

What is the right thing to do?

Is Bush doing the right thing or the wrong thing?

We probably won't know the answer for another thirty years. But he's doing something, which is better than we've done with regard to terrorism over the last 40 years.


Question: What gives us the right to interfere in other nations affairs as if it is all just one big game?

Most Americans could care less what kind of government somebody else has. Despotism can be good if the despot actually cares about his people. A legitimate argument can be made that some of the worst despots in the world were created by this game between the United States, Russia, and China. But given the circumstances of the Cold War, what choices did we have? Should we have allowed the Soviets free rein to steer third world governments toward Marxist/Leninism or should we have tried to balance their influence in an attempt to promote a democracy.

Maybe there should have been more strings attached.

"You want our help you gotsta play by our rules."

But how is dictating democracy any better than dictating socialism?

I freely admit that we interfered with the internal politics of foreign nations. The Soviets were intent on spreading Marxist/Leninism in the Western Hemispere because that is where "we" were. Is it right to allow a minority force to dictate to an entire population what form their government should take? To not interfere is to say "you are on your own".

Was that the right choice in Cambodia? Should that have been our choice in Yugoslavia? I mean there was no reason for us to be there other than the fact that people were getting killed. As it was, the whole "intervention" was mismanaged by the UN anyway. What's the point in helping anybody but ourselves?

I DO believe that a democratic republic is the best form of government.

I DO believe that capitalism is the most humane economy.

Marx taught that socialism was the logical endpoint and that capitalism was a stepping stone to that "perfect" society. Yet the people who have lived under socialism, as a whole, are worse off than those who live under capitalism. But with Republicanism/Democracy & Capitalism comes freedom. And it is difficult to DICTATE to people when YOU are free.

I don't pretend that geopolitics is easy. If I was king of the world I would give everybody the same freedoms we have here and then retire. But that will never happen. We won our freedom through war. It cost us dearly and not everybody in the colonies wanted it. But I believe it was worth the cost. You can't "give" somebody freedom that is not yours to give. But you can help them take it. Iraq has begun to close their hand around the torch of freedom. What they do with it can't be dictated, else they won't truly be free.

I'm NOT saying we have the RIGHT to play chess with all the other peoples in the world. I AM ASKING if the game is being played anyway, do we not have the obligation to at least make a few moves here and there? It's that, or tip over the King because all the white pieces are captured anyway. (Did you like how I made "us" the "white" pieces and hence the "good" pieces? I thought you might)


Blogger Norma said...

Very good post. Well thought out.

Also a Librarian (retired). Also from Columbus (OH)

We love the architecture in your city.

3:48 PM  

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