I was reading a Reuters article on President O’bama’s forthcoming trip to Europe. There are many important topics on the various agendas with top European leaders, including Middle Eastern turmoil, the unstable European economic situation, US missiles in Eastern Europe, Afghanistan, Pakistan and terrorism.
One point of coordination is withdrawal from Afghanistan. The US will start pulling troops out soon. Other nations also have timetables for withdrawal.
Essentially, Afghanistan is on its own. The withdrawal will be done to give the bastard democracy enough time to settle itself, but if it fails, that is an Afghan problem. The US and its NATO paw . . . allies . . . have done what they can to give Afghans a start, and if Afghans blow it . . . tough tittie.
Then we have Libya and Syria. Both are ruthless, dogmatic states whose leaders don’t mind shooting citizens in suppressing numbers. NATO is engaged in Libya to defend citizens there, but it is not engaged in Syria where civilian blood is flowing freely. That seems inconsistent.
Indeed, it defines the fine line between how far the US and western nations should to go to defend principles of human rights. It is clear that many Middle Eastern leaders do not subscribe to western ideals of free speech and don’t mind killing to close forever mouths that argue.
Does the US respect the notion of national prerogative over the notion of freedom of citizens within that nation? That is the seminal question, I think.
Since antiquity, national borders and authorities have been open to conquest by those nations whose perceived self-interest requires dominance over others.
The US is in a dilemma because it believes both in the right of nations to pursue their own course, and it believes in certain standards of human rights, including free speech and peaceful assembly.
If the US believed every closed, autocratic, ruthless state should be taken down, then Iran would be given the Iraq solution. But in Muslim countries, it is not clear that the people want to be assisted by “Satanic” countries that offend their religious beliefs simply by being. In Lybia, the cry for help is undoubtedly “transactional”.
Help us win, then get out.
And as an American, I am inclined to say, what’s in it for me, and why should my tax money go to help you fight your rebellion?
Here is my take on what I think the US position should be regarding Middle Eastern turmoil. I will set aside Pakistan and possibly Iran as warranting separate treatment because they have or are intent on getting the capability to launch nuclear attacks on the US. But as for the rest, including Afghanistan, I believe the US strategy should be: (1) to defend itself from terrorism, (2) to marginalize the disputes in each country by paying little attention and no money to them, and (3) to grant citizens of those nations the right to worship as they see fit, to be oppressed and to die if they cannot manage to overthrow the tyrants who kill them.
I think Libyan rebels could win if they were patient, collaborative, and skilled at fighting. But zipping around in pick-up trucks wildly cheering each little victory as if the war were won is not patient, collaborative or skilled.
Within the strategy of defense against terrorism and “hands off” independent states, I think certain principles should come into play that provide exceptions. One of the principles is “undue force” based on the weapons used.
If a nation uses tanks, missiles, bombs or artillery to shell population centers, the US and its allies are correct to use force to balance the firepower. It is not wise to let little Hitler’s roam free; it is not good for the conscience. Syrian authorities have killed citizens with rifles, but not (yet) with tanks. They have not yet crossed the line. So I agree with the stance taken on Syria; hands off. And I agree with the stance taken on Libya; create a reasonably level fighting field.
Another exception is nuclear power. Iran and Pakistan are direct threats to the US and each warrants a separate agenda, for US defense.
But Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Afghanistan. Spain. Let the citizens of those nations figure it out. In the modern era of worldwide communication, people are informed. They know what democracy means. If they really want it, they can have it. We (the US) don’t have to help them one dollar or one soldier’s life. Indeed, by helping, we give people a crutch. They need to walk on their own. Or fall.
When my son was two years old, he would fall down a lot as he learned to run and control his body. A parent’s natural tendency is to run over and help him up and say “poor baby”. But the better technique is to let him get up by himself. It teaches self-care. When he is playing soccer, he will not whine when he is knocked down. He will get up and compete. Or if his nation decides to oppress him. He will not weep or run about haphazardly seeking care. He will do something about it.