Category Archives: Myanmar

Addressing War, National Interest, and Iraq-Part 1

On a previous post that I wrote, oddly enough one about Josh Romney possibly running for congress, a debate has broken out in the comments section about war and President Bush.  Anytime this is discussed between me and someone who wants us to withdraw immediately from Iraq, a few of the same arguments are made, two of which are stated in comment below, given to us by SLCondensed:

I guess my problem is I can’t honestly justify attacking a country for its oil when there are so many worse countries and regimes around the world. The situation in Darfur is much worse than it ever was in Iraq, and we don’t do something about it why?

I posted a fairly brief response to this comment, but feel that there is so much more involved with this comment that it justified a whole post here.  The first comment SLCondensed writes comes down an issue of national interest and this is what will be addressed in Part 1 (the comment about Darfur will be addressed in Part 2).  After reading that sentence there are a few questions that need to be asked: 

1. Why did we go to war in Iraq?
2. Did we go to war in Iraq for Oil?
3. Were there worse regimes and countries than Iraq?
4. Considering how much conflict there is in the world, what responsibility does the U.S. have to intervene?  What is the threshold for such an intervention? How should the U.S., being the industrialized world’s security provider, determine when military intervention is acceptable?
5. Does the reason we went to Iraq in the first place even matter to the situation today?

Regarding why we went to war in Iraq, there was not one single reason.  Sure, the Bush administration sold us that there were WMDs and that was really the only reason given, but it was so much more than that.  First, I need to remind the reader that EVERYONE believed Iraq had WMDs before we invaded, everyone (except Saddam).  The question wasn’t, “Does Iraq have WMDs?”, it was, “how much of a threat are those WMDs?”  So I don’t want to hear anything about Bush lied, what a crock.

Anyway, here is the list of reasons why I think we went to Iraq: 1. WMDs (9/11 was still fresh on our minds), 2. Surround Iran with U.S. forces 3. Oil and Gas, 4. Send a message to other despotic regimes (which worked magically, just about 9 months after Iraq started Libya gave up it’s WMD program, perhaps Bush’s greatest acheivement and solidified my vote for him in ’04), 5. Revenge against Saddam for trying to assassinate Bush ’41, 6. To provide freedom to the Iraqi people, 6. To finally force people to take Western threats seriously (I mean, how many times can you say, “you better do this or else” and never follow through-lookin’ at you U.N.), 7. To fight terrorists somewhere not named the United States.

Some of those reasons are more honorable than others, some are more realistic than others, some are childish, but ultimately I believe all of those things were considered by the Bush administration during the decision making process.  Of course, the Administration could not come out and say all those things, it would have been political suicide. No President, whether GOP or Dem, would be that stupid. 

Question 2 was answered in question one, of course the need for oil played a part in our decision to go to war in Iraq.  So what?  The need for energy and fuel is essential to any society, the whole reason we have any interest in the Middle-East at all is because of energy.  If they didn’t have oil or gas we would view them and treat them the way we do Mali and Sudan.

Question 3, certainly there were worse regimes in the world, but not many.  North Korea, Myanmar, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Somalia, and Haiti to name a few.   But this brings us back to national interest and it’s role in our decision making process, which I will discuss in full in Part II.

Question 4,  these questions have no cut and dry answer.  But I will certainly share my opinion.  The way I view the current world is I see the U.S as the world’s only superpower and essentially, as the military for Canada, Europe, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia, and New Zealand.   Each of these geographies, whether we or they like or not, rely on the U.S. predominantly for their security.  The reason they can get away with having such miniscule military forces is because they know the U.S. is there to back them up and we will so long as the reason is just.  This is a good scenario for both parties, it allows us to maintain our place in the world and grow and expand our economic interests.  It allows them to focus their more limited resources on providing for the people socially and economically.  The fact the U.S. acts in this role is precisely why the developed world blossomed.  Now these realities may upset you or you may like them, but the fact remains that this is the reality of the world in which we now live.

So, with the U.S. having such a large role in the world, both economically and militarily, it puts us in a place of responsibility.  How to use that responsibility is a question of great debate and the cause of much frustration and animosity, both on the part of America and the rest of the world.  The fact is, despite our current position as the world’s hegemon, we still have limited resources, we can’t do all things and we can’t be involved in everthing; nor should we.   Thus, all decisions are usually to be made based upon national interest.  Every country in the history of the world operates this way.

With the U.S. in such a unique and powerful position, we also have to show restraint.  Just because we have freedom and democracy does not mean that we have to force every other country to institute the same.  Forcing democracy seems like an oxymoron.  At the same time, the spread of democracy is in our national interests so we encourage democracy and try to demonstrate the value of it. 

Similarly, both because of national interest/limited resources and because we need to allow countries to largely work out their own issues, we just can’t and shouldn’t get involved everywhere.  Sometimes it is justified, but determining that justification is difficult.  I will address this much more in Part II.  Ultimately, though, the U.S. needs to make decisions based upon what is best for the U.S.

Question 5, ultimately SLCondensed’s comment basically was saying that we need to leave Iraq because we never should have been there in the first place.  Whether that reasoning is true or not, it has absolutely no relevance on the current situation.  The anti-Iraq people’s favorite argument against Iraq is this reason we are there thing and it is utterly ridiculous. The fact is, we are in Iraq, we destroyed their government, and we decided that we were going to help rebuild it and to provide freedom.  Essentially, we broke so we are going to fix it.

Why we went to Iraq in the first place does not change the fact that we are there.  Pulling out all of our troops and causing an even worse humanitarian crisis because you disagree of our original justification for the interaction is ridiculous, ignorant, and naieve.   Further, we are now winning.  Why are we going to pull out when victory and success is in our sights?

But you may say, what determine’s victory in Iraq? I would argue that victory is a country that is relatively stable, can provide for the basic needs of the people, and has a semblance of democracy.  We don’t need Iraq to be like the U.S. or even like Turkey right away, we need Iraq to just be able to largely support itself, defend its people from radicals, and provide an environment for continued economic development.

This leads me to briefly discuss U.S. history in war.  The United States has a large history of doing terrible in wars at the beginning but pulling out the victory in the end.  Let’s run down that history.  The U.S. had no business winning the revolutionary war.  We lost battle after battle and very nearly lost the war in the first year.  The war lasted about 8 years, in 1776 things were awful, yet by 1783 and ’84 we had come back and won. 

The War of 1812 was near disaster as well.  Our Navy was terrible and we lost many battles early on, but managed to pull it out in the end.  The Civil War is the perfect example.  From 1860 to 1863 the Union army was terrible, many people criticized the war and wanted us out.  had we listened to them the United States would be two countries. Fortunately we had a President that had resolve and refused to cower to public pressure.  Eventually, we won some big battles and won the war. 

In WWII the German military had the upperhand for the first year or two of our involvement, but again, American determination resulted in victory.  This takes us to Vietnam.  The reality in Vietnam is that when we gave up, we were on our way to winning, things were looking up.  The only reason we lost the War was because our politicians back home caved to public pressure.   We would have been outright victorious a short time later had we seen it through.

The only two wars that we haven’t been behind in were WWI, because we came in late and gave the Brits and French the boost they needed to break the stalemate with the Germans, and Iraq I, we faced a ridiculously weak military and only required Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait.  (By the way, that was a War that was solely for oil, I wonder where all you were then?).

Today, we are going through a similar pattern to what we SHOULD be used to, except for the fact our people are historically ignorant.  The first 3 years of the “war” (I don’t even consider it a war, it more a peacekeeping and stability mission, we won the war when the Iraqi Army collapsed and Baghdad fell) were disasterous.  We made a lot of mistakes, just like the Lincoln administration did in the 1860’s, but year four has been a resounding success and year 5 is starting out much the same; even the Political situation is starting to stablize.  Yet so many of you still want us to throw in the towel.  It makes no sense!

As a result, the only conclusion I can come to as to why you want us to give up actually has nothing to do with Iraq or the realities there, it is that you hate and despise President Bush and want whatever it takes to bring him down to occur (short of assassination of course).   I am confident that had Kerry won in 2004 and followed the exact same path that Bush has taken in this second term, today you would be loving Kerry.  The reality is that so many of you are so blinded by your vitriol for Bush that you fail to recognize that the fastest way for us to get out of Iraq and the best way to ensure that a humanitarian crisis will be averted is by finishing the job there.  It reminds me of a common phrase our training instructors told us in Air Force Basic Training, “the fastest way out of here is to graduate.”   Things are going well in Iraq, sure they aren’t perfect, but they are still going well (you can tell that by the limited coverage Iraq gets in the media).  Give it a chance and try to look at the situation realistically.

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Filed under 9/11, Air Force, Anti-War, Army, Congress, Conservative, Democracy, Democrats, Election 2008, Genocide, History, International Affairs, Iraq, Liberal, Liberalism, Marines, Media, Military, Myanmar, Politics, Progress, Progressive, Senate, Terror, terrorism

Myanmar Exemplifies Catch-22 for World Powers

 

The recent history and current situation in Myanmar is among the most tragic in the last century.  It ranks right up there with Sudan, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, Zimbabwe, and North Korea among others.  But Myanmar’s, like Lebanon and Zimbabwe in some ways, is not tragic because of Genocide, for we are far from that, but it is tragic because of the fall of a culture and productive country.  Prior to the rise of the military Junta in 1990, Myanmar was fairly democratic and was a “shining star” in SE Asia.  They had a strong economy and a great and historical culture.  It is among the most beautiful countries in the world and has incredible architecture, and now it is all thrown away.  The military Junta, like all military controlled governments, will eventually turn the country into a garbage pile. 

The events of the last two weeks have been fascinating and frustrating to watch.  What a great sight it was to see thousands of Buddhist monks and their supporters stage massive protests against a repressive regime.  At the height of the protests I wondered how the Junta would handle it.  They could ill afford a Tiannanmen Square incident.  The military leaders had to know that mass killings of monks would cause massive outcry in the world community, an outcry that may force the world to act with stronger muscle than usual.  Monks are the human embodiment of peace and oneness, regardless of if you believe in buddhism or not.  They come across as pure, pious, and innocent, the world would not stand for well-publicized mass killings of such a people.

 Sadly, the Junta was aware of this and played their hand extremely well.  They allowed the protests, allowed the people to get most of it out of their systems and then instituted curfews and prohibited gatherings of people; pretty standard for authoritarian states.  Once the media and world attention lessened a bit the violence started, first just in short bursts – nothing more than a few beatings and occasional killing of an out of hand protester.  But the Junta had a larger plan.  They new that the real problem were the monks, the people were loyal to the monks and would follow them.  So what how do you keep power if you don’t have loyalty?  You make people fear you.  And that is just what they did.  Over the last few days the Military cleared the monasteries and temples of monks that were the harbingers of the protests and killed many of them in brutal fashion.  Reports are that thousands have been massacred

Why is there no outcry? no outrage?  Because the American public no longer cares.  It was exciting and fun to watch for a day or two, but we lose interest in world events pretty quick.  Why concern ourselves with different looking people in a land that exists somewhere in the world called Myanmar when we need to find out if Britany is losing her children.  And because there is no public outrage there is no government action.

But then again what are Western governments supposed to do?  This is the same catch-22 that we have in dealing with Sudan, Rwanda in the ’90’s, Congo, etc.  We have no vested interest in these countries.  We have limited resources.  Because of international accords, we are expected to respect the territorial rights of a country, etc. etc.   Myanmar is no threat to the U.S., no threat to Britain or Germany or France; militarily or economically.  Not only that, but China is a close ally of the Junta.  If we press to hard on Myanmar, we may have to deal with China.  What if China decides, because of our actions against their ally, that they are going to fully reclaim Taiwan militarily.  Then we have world war.  Certainly this scenario is unlikely, but not out of the realm possibility.   On the other hand, don’t countries like us and France and Britain who have freedom and democracy at least supposed to stand for human rights and protect those who can’t protect themselves?  We have an obligation almost.  How can we stand by and allow a mini (or perhaps soon to be major) genocide occur, regardless of the circumstance behind it.   This is the catch-22 for our country.   Usually, in these situations we deal with it through sanctions or other economic penalties. But all this does is hurts the people who are already being oppressed.  Sanctions can only work if all major countries are on board, but with China supporting the junta, they are a waste of time and will only draw Myanmar closer to China.  The currently policy against Myanmar is not working and will not work unless we get China on board, which won’t happen.  Unfortunately, I don’t know what the solution is (although I have a few ideas).  But that is the job of the policy makers and they will probably screw it up.  

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Filed under Britain, Burma, Democracy, Democrats, Election 2008, International Affairs, Justice, Law, Military, Murder, Myanmar, People, Politics, Republicans, Terror, terrorism, War