Thursday, November 20, 2008

Do we care?

Consider this information that was gleaned from a single view of the AP wire on Wednesday:

- Katy Phiri, who is in her 70s, picks up single corn kernels spilled from trucks that ferry the harvest to market. She says she hasn't eaten in three days.
Rebecca Chipika, a child of 9, prods a stick into a termite mound to draw out insects. She sweeps them into a bag for her family's evening meal.
These scenes from a food catastrophe are unfolding in Doma, a district of rural Zimbabwe where journalists rarely venture. It's a stronghold of President Robert Mugabe's party, and his enforcers and informants are everywhere.

- Rebels took up arms in Sudan's western Darfur region in 2003, citing neglect and marginalization by the central government. So far, 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million have been displaced.

- A court in military-ruled Myanmar sentenced a student activist to six-and-a-half years in jail on Wednesday, a week after his father received a 65-year prison term for his own political activities and a decade after his grandfather died in custody. ...
In an intensive crackdown on the country's pro-democracy movement, at least 70 activists have received prison sentences in the past two weeks, many after being held for more than a year before being tried. The courts' actions would keep many of the activists in prison long past a general election set by the junta for 2010. ...
Amnesty International and other human rights groups say the junta holds more than 2,100 political prisoners, up sharply from nearly 1,200 before last year's pro-democracy demonstrations.

We've had a ridiculous embargo in place for decades against Cuba and now claim that going to war with Iraq was worthwhile because we removed a brutal dictator, but we do next to nothing about these humanitarian and human rights disasters. Should we feel a moral duty to do more in these areas, or should we continue with empty talk while thousands die? Do we want to be the world's policeman, or do we continue to pick and choose what outrages us enough to use force?



Blogger PRIguy said...

I agree with you that we don't need to be the world's policeman. It's something I've said for years.

You mention Mugabe, rebels in Darfur, and military-ruled Myanmar. None of these sounds like a pleasant place to be and certainly not a place where anyone gives a damn about human rights or dignity.

But I have to ask: since these areas are festering cauldrons of potential military and rebel violence just waiting to explode, what do we do should the need arise to exercise some muscle if for no other reason than to get these people some food or a fair trial?

November 20, 2008 at 1:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As Teddy Roosevelt stated " I will not do for Korea, what Korea cannot do for itself". If it is not in our national interest, then we should not ask one American family to sacrifice their son's live or their body, or quite honestly their time with their families.
Afghanistan was clearly in our national interest and Iraq was arguably (I would argue not) in our national interest. Myanmar is very much outside our scope of interests and most of Africa is also. The Sudan could be important depending on the rise of fundamentalist Islamic sects. Bismarck once stated that "The Balkans were not were the life of Prussian Pomerianian (Yes I know I misspelled it, it is late). The point is that smart foreign policy does not risk the lives of a nation's citizens and troops unless absolutely necessary for the long term interests and potentially the survival of the state. None of these areas will likely fit that criteria.
This is one of the problems that Obama will face with his high minded speeches. He has inspired those that would believe that this nation's purpose was the change the world (using the shining light argument). It is dangerous and could lead him into many foreign adventures if he is not careful.
The Clintons on the other hand would have been a much more careful foreign policy based on American interests as few are inspired by them in the same way. Much more practical streak in Hillary's thinking.

November 21, 2008 at 3:04 AM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

That is an entirely rational way of thinking about foreign policy and America's role in the world... however, it is not without its inconsistencies.

"I will not do for Korea, what Korea cannot do for itself"

The fact is, the US involves itself in situations (or rationalizes its involvement) based SPECIFICALLY on the fact that the situation cannot be handled by the host country. The rationale for Iraq is now that we have deposed an "evil dictator." Why is it OUR role to do the deposin' if the people of Iraq were capable of doing so? What is the argument against withdrawal? -that the country would fall apart in the absence of our influence. Clearly, Iraq cannot do certain things for itself, and that is precisely why we are still there. Your points centered primarily on the interests of the US in terms of security (from violence, I presume). However, as the world economy becomes more and more a single entity, economic security may pose a greater threat to national interests than security from violence. We have a great deterrent in our military. It is huge, powerful, and keeps sovereign enemies off our coastlines. We will always have to deal with guerrilla combatants and terrorists, but we will probably not have to wage a war like those seen in the beginning of the 20th century. However, as we have seen with Vietnam, the economic windfalls from stable and friendly governments in the oft-forgotten corners of the world benefit us immensely in terms of trade and production. And the ill-will that grows from the despair of impoverished and embattled regions can, at some point, pose a violent threat to our people. Imagine if the next big terror attack were perpetrated by a Sudanese refugee who watched his family starve while the US did nothing... I don't intend to sound like a jackass white jingoist, but there are two ways to train a dog... you can beat him to break him, or you can feed him and shelter him. Granted, I am comparing these third world countries to a desperate dog... but the point is, we created "terrorists" by ruining a country that wasn't all that good to begin with... shopkeepers joined militias when the falafel business went south due to roadside bombs and sniper fire... How many terrorists are we breeding by not interceding in genocides, plagues, famines, and political persecution? What is the perception of our action (or inaction) by those people whose quality of life could be multiplied exponentially by the smallest gesture on our behalf?

November 21, 2008 at 8:00 AM  
Blogger PRIguy said...

Our biggest enemy, al Qaida, already views Obama as a subservient, weak leader:

Talking and promising...that's easy to do, and Obama does it well. The leaders of these "enemies" are violent and willing to do whatever they need to ensure that their agendas come to fruition. Smiling, promising and gladhanding won't cut it with these people. It's going to be interesting to see how all this transpires in the next four years.

November 21, 2008 at 8:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Elipses, as I stated I did not believe that Iraq made sense, only that someone could make a reasonable argument in favor of it. I in fact stated that it was not in our national interest.
The idea that someone will attack our nation because we did not act is quite frankly fanciful. People see the demons in front of them. They act against them. By placing our troops into situations that did not serve our national interests long term (including economic) we created opponents (which is what you argued in fact)
The idea of the newly found global economy is funny. It been for centuries a global economy. The British maintained bases (along with the other European powers) around the globe for this very reason. The speed of the transaction does not change the fact of the transaction.
One of the most interesting arguments that have been made recently as is that the current economic downturn is the first global downturn. Tell that to anyone in Europe, Eastern Europe or the United States during the Great Depression. Britain suffered in the 1880's when our economic situation had a massive downturn also.
As a student of military history, I have also found it interesting when people argue that the era of major conflict is over. It was the argument that was made in the early 1900's previous to the first World War. The British remade their military based on that argument believing that all conflicts would be small like the Boer War or more likely the 1880's campaigns against the Sudan or the Mad Mullah. But when the major conflict happened, when the fate of the nation was at stake, the rules of warfare still applied.
Our military should first be designed to protect the nation state from destruction. Secondly for the police actions that fill the void between Great Power warfare and interaction.

Your ever present fan of the Weekly Recorder

November 21, 2008 at 4:00 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

LoL :-) The weekly recorder :-)

I think we agreed on most of that...except the part about the scope of future wars...

Why don't you sign?

November 21, 2008 at 4:22 PM  

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