Ever since World War II was concluded and the Axis powers accepted the terms of unconditional surrender, there has been a gradual change in the attitudes of many Americans toward warfare. All is not fair in love and war anymore! Collateral damage is not acceptable as it was in WWII. Nuclear weapons are verboten. A secession of hostilities is sought rather than a formal peace treaty. Small organized groups of insurrectionists foment violence. Angry terrorists frighten the public at home and abroad. These unruly scoundrels are a breed of revolutionaries and trouble-makers that cannot easily be identified by invading foreign armies and eliminated in old-fashioned major military operations.
Hit and run guerilla type operations are now in vogue. The daring zealots are not intimidated by the potential consequences of being captured after killing adversaries and innocent pedestrians. These audacious renegades copy the drug lords in Columbia and Mexico, the pirates in Somalia, the members of the Mafia in Sicily, and the Jihadists from various Muslim countries. The bold threats of the leaders of minor countries like North Korea and Iran cannot be ignored. Such actions demonstrate the fearlessness and arrogance of leaders who have little regard for risking the lives of their people and the destruction of their infrastructure that could result from a belligerent alliance of their enemies.
Such alliances are difficult to organize, however, when most ordinary people do not want their children to “go to war.” Military action is costly in terms of human lives and armaments. Wars don’t always achieve their goal either. Meddling in the affairs of other countries is frowned upon by all local governments. Their primary mission is to defend their country’s sovereignty.
Besides, loyal citizens rarely want a foreign government dictating the rules for their behavior or invading their borders to alter the status quo, inhumane as it might be. Nation building is the modern rallying cry to create unity among outsiders who are upset with the tyrant in control of a neighboring country. Despite their good intentions, altruistic foreign activists have little idea about how to initiate the process to oust a tyrant peacefully.
Enter the NGO humanitarians, a new political force with financial backing eager to right wrongs in places where injustice, corruption, abuse, rape, and murder abound. These sincere care-givers fear genocide resulting from violence and the lack of food, water, medicine, and facilities for treating those injured in the conflict or the scuffle with the legitimate law enforcers. Genocide is not easy to prove even when the number of deaths in remote places would indicate that more of one group is being persecuted and slaughtered than another.
The infusion of mercenary UN peacekeepers, members of the Red Cross, Doctors without Borders, and those who dispense foreign donations of food and medicine continues unabated. Their presence in a country without an official invitation is unlikely to improve the chances of rectifying the empowered administration that governs the local people.
Even if a change in government is brought about somehow as it was in Iraq, there will be unintended consequences that were ignored or unpredicted by the advocates of preemptory military action who are only vaguely familiar with the local culture, religion, politics, history, economy, and urgent needs of the local citizens.
The latest effort by self-professed humanitarians to help the remnants of the Palestinians confined to the Gaza Strip in Israel is a good example of unsought interference by meddling outsiders. As humane as that effort was supposed to be initially, its mission failed thanks to the military intervention of the Israeli troops. The behavior of the leaders of the Muslim opposition in Gaza is unacceptable to the Israelis in power. No UN resolution has brought peace to that country since it was launched.
Our present mission is Afghanistan is equally unlikely to succeed because we are meddling with a poor country, where we know little about its people, its culture, its politics, and its economy. Americans refuse to understand and accept the fact that leaders in foreign countries can be brutal and unforgiving. The local citizens are aware that foreign occupying troops will eventually withdraw, and the people likely to take the reins of government afterward will be vindictive, scarred by the struggle, and ready to use their loyal following of zealots to settle “scores.”
How are the leaders of our country going to stimulate the broken economies of Afghanistan, Somalia, Zimbabwe, and Sudan when they are unable to replace the American jobs transferred to China and other countries in the Far East? Why not attend to the serious local problems in the US of unemployment, illegal immigration, and the importation and distribution of illegal drugs?
Whether we invade or ignore troubled countries, the immediate results will be the same. The local people will suffer either from the effects of war or from the abuse of their leaders like Chaves in Venezuela, Jong-il in North Korea, and Mugabe in Zimbabwe. Outsiders simply cannot effect a lasting, hopefully beneficial, change via diplomacy, sanctions, or military intervention. Only an “all out” war with an unconditional surrender has provided an opportunity for rebuilding a nation in the past.
Americans who want to help the down-trodden and exploited will be disappointed, but the truth must be recognized. Now that “unconditional surrender” is unpopular, change only comes from inside a country: the local people must become so dissatisfied with their lives that they are ready to risk imprisonment and death to alter their government.
What is the dilemma that modern society is facing today? Dealing with small groups of unhappy citizens bent on wrecking havoc, bombing, killing, and causing distrust and fear in society. There is no remedy yet for this “revolting development.” Identifying and capturing the culprits is not easy and ceding to their demands is unconscionable.
The lessons from the “Dirty War” in Argentina waged during the 70s showed that innocent citizens and young people sympathetic to the goals of the Communist insurrectionists became suspects. Those vocally against the military government “disappeared” without trials along with the instigators and terrorists.
Getting rid of the perpetrators of evil deeds anywhere has always been a challenge to local law enforcement agencies. However, it is one thing to accomplish that “at home” with the legal tools we have in place, and quite another to attempt to round up those with evil intents in a foreign location where we don’t speak the language, don’t trust the intelligence system of the foreign country, and don’t have the same shared interests as the citizens who live there.
Honest people will admit that collateral damage may end the lives of many innocent people. The question always is: Which effort to stem random violence will cause the least restrictions on personal freedom and the least number of injuries and death to those citizens who want to live in peace? It has been proven that hi-tech weapons are either too powerful or too “inhumane,” e.g. lethal gas and nuclear weapons. Still what other alternatives are there for arresting the ambitions of those who do not fear dying or who desire to die in a martyred way?
Considering every passenger boarding a commercial flight to be a potential terrorist is a very expensive and insulting way to attempt to keep would-be terrorists from flying large commercial jets into skyscrapers. Profiling and checking up on visitors entering the US with temporary visas is also very complicated and expensive.
The federal government has no serious plan in place to identify illegal immigrants and deport them. Law enforcement agencies in states like California do almost nothing to assist federal agents in “putting the finger on” and deporting illegal immigrants. The recent controversy over the new law in Arizona aimed at curtailing the massive entry of illegal immigrants to that state demonstrates how polarized American citizens are about how foreigners who enter this country illegally should be treated. But that is a topic for another musing.
The dilemma boils down to eliminating dangerous evil-doers in America or to taking on the role of “international policeman” for the rest of the world. Obviously, there isn’t enough money to do either. That fact alone ought to indicate to prudent American business and political leaders that we should to stay home and do a better job maintaining the peace here. Altruistic humans in this country will learn sooner or later that they can’t do everything they would like to do for the helpless.