Thom Stark on International Restraint   1 comment

Thom StarkLet me start by stating that, in your essay on the roots of Hitler’s rise, your phraseology sure made it appear as though you were saying he was 10 years old in 1918. You now have clarified the statement that juxtaposed Hitler’s name and your fictional exemplar of civilian privation in WWI as a reason for German support of Der Fuhrer’s rise to power. Let’s just say you could have put it somewhat less confusingly, and move on.

I don’t think starvation due to Britain’s Great War blockade was the principle – or even a major – reason for Hitler’s rise. Resentment of the onerous terms of the Treaty of Versailles, anxiety over the Weimar Republic’s hyperinflation crisis and the global economic depression, and the historical admiration of the German people for forceful, nationalistic leaders were, I think, much more important drivers of Nazi ascendence. But, let’s focus on more recent events, shall we?

The late Christopher Hitchens’ credibility as a geopolitical analyst can best be summarized by his vocal support for the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq, and his consistent championing of “Islamo-fascism” as a term of art. As anyone with even a passing acquaintance with the ethnic and sectarian makeup of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and its importance as a bulwark against Iranian imperialism could have – and constantly did – point out, the toppling of his regime was an obvious blunder of gargantuan proportions. That’s not even counting the repeated warnings of senior Pentagon generals that American troop strength was pitifully inadequate to effectively occupy Iraq post-conquest, or the entirely predictable consequence of turning that country into a magnet for would-be jihadis from around the globe – and the USA from a sympathetic victim of Al Queda’s 9/11 attack into a jingoistic bully, and legitimate target for international Muslim resentment.

Heck, I knew it was an epic example of neo-con stupidity when the Cheney administration first began beating the drums of war. Back in 2002, I predicted it would be as big a quagmire as the Vietnam War a year before our idiot government opened fire on Baghdad (on my 50th birthday, as it happened) – and that it had unstoppable momentum nonetheless, because our Congress was filled with credulous, imbecile politicians eager to cater to middle America’s obstinate determination to sock somebody in the nose in revenge for the collapse of the WTC, even though the chosen whipping boy had nothing to do with that attack. And posed exactly zero direct threat to the USA.

The use of the term “Islamo-facism”, by the way, is a reliable indicator that the person employing it understands neither fascism nor Islamism. Fascism is, by definition, a nationalistic, militarist political philosophy that adovcates a return to a (usually mythical) superior past era. Islamism is a pan-national aspirational movement that advocates the imposition of Sharia law on an otherwise-secular world. The first is expressly political in nature, the second religious.

I’m opposed to both.

As for American involvement in Ukraine’s Orange Revolution, the Guardian article you pointed to makes a lot of assertions without providing a trace of real evidence. At best, it indicates that a group of private, non-governmental organizations provided support and training to native Ukrainian democrats, rather than the CIA being responsible for plotting and financing the overthrow of Kuchma’s dictatorship. This is a free country, and we don’t prevent our private citizens from advocating freedom elsewhere – as long as they do so exclusively by peaceful means. Private groups (and the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute both qualify) are equally free to provide advice and support to those who advocate for democracy in other countries, just as they’re at liberty to advocate in favor of repression and authoritarianism. That’s what freedom of speech is all about. The important point is that those organizations are not, in any meaningful sense, instruments of the USA’s government, despite their connection with the two dominant American political parties – because those parties are not official organs of our national government. Instead, by law, they’re private groups, with no official standing.

Here’s the thing, though: rhetoric aside, we’re basically in agreement that active interventionism is bad national policy. I advocate keeping our overseas military presence in place only because I fear the destabilizaiton that its withdrawal would cause. Isolationism is not America’s friend – and, since the climax of the Industrial Revolution, it never has been. In a nuclear world, it’s tantamount to suicide.

A case could be made that, in the Cold War era, the CIA’s destabilization of legitimately-elected leftist foreign governments, and the U.S.’s support of authoritarian – but anti-communist – regimes was a necessary response to the Soviet Union’s determined program of exporting their corrupt, quasi-socialist dictatorship of the elites via every deceitful, underhanded means at their disposal. After all, it really was a time of existential struggle between Soviet socialism and Western-style democracy for control of the planet against an enemy devoid of conscience or scruple. So, just perhaps, there was some excuse (not actual justification, but at least an excuse, however thin) for our side fighting dirty, too. When your opponent resorts to hitting below the belt, you’re a fool not to respond in kind.

But now the Cold War is over. The USSR lost. There is no more legitimate excuse for us to use our military might to impose regime change on other countries. That’s just a stupid and counterproductive habit that’s practically designed to alienate a world for which we presume to set an example of democratic leadership. Instead, we should think of our international military presence as the equivalent of a black belt in kung fu: as a self-defense resource we have available, if and when it’s needed, rather than as a mechanism for self-aggrandizement.

Lela Markham Davidson Ditch CorrectedI think we can both agree that we have no business pretending we’re the world’s annointed policeman. In fact, in the absence of a direct, immediate threat to our national territory or the safety of our citizens, any use of American military might is an invitation for us to be rightly viewed as a geopolitical bully – especially given our propensity for kicking metaphorical sand in the faces of what amount to international 98-pound weaklings.

What’s needed in the brave new world of the 21st Century is restraint, wisdom, and leadership on our part, not bluster, intimidation, and self-sabotaging violence.

In short, it’s way past time that, as the last superpower standing, we grew the hell up, and put away our childish fixation on trying to fix the world by punching it in the face, like some nation-state, cartoon version of John Wayne.

We’re better than that. Or, we ought at least to aspire to be.

Thom Stark is the author American Sulla, an apocalyptic thriller series. Lela Markham is the author ofTransformation Project, an apocalyptic dystopian series. Both these series look at America following nuclear terrorism.

Posted May 7, 2015 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

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