It is always good to revisit ideas of facts if they help to clarify things:The 2003 Atlantic Monthly The Dark Art of InterrogationThe most effective way to gather intelligence and thwart terrorism can also be a direct route into morally repugnant terrain. A survey of the landscape of persuasion by Mark Bowden falls into this category as the meja turn incessantly to the business of extraordinary rendition. We cannot help thinking also of the words proxy and war, turning back to the days of South and Central America in the 70s and 8s, when even the death of innocent nuns stirred few politicians enthusiam as the the business of ensuring no Left-leaning governments took power and therefore control of business with the States. The attitude of some in the States to Chavez is another way to relive the ruthless way America dealt what it perceived to be threats to its economic activity in those days.
The big question is: Has America's intense preoccupation with its economic supremacy led it away from its supposed role as a beacon of freedom and democracy. Though everyone knows America did not join in the war against Nazism solely because it wanted people to be free: it also felt it might have its means of earning a living threatened too.
Have various people around the world a justification to hate and disrupt Amrica's way of life? Certainly its massive porn industry, its violent films, its junk food are nothing to be proud of exporting to the rest of the world. It would be an insane person who proudly showed you one simple fine object in a corner of his living room and asked you to judge his charecter, temperatment and values on that rather than on the it and the sum total other items of inexcrable taste with which he furnished his room.
There can be a tendancy to revert to the old sides in these issues. This is not always a good idea. It is much better to be carefully reasonable is assessing what is going on and why. If we take the way the U.S. has responded to the threat from international terrorism in recent years we might fall into simply discussing its methods. This would be a grave mistake if we wanted to completely grasp what makes Americans tick.
Using the threat from its south in the 70s and 80s as an example, we can now look at the draconian way it set about dealing with what it perceived to be its enemies from a more balenced viewpoint. Begin by asking what they might have asked. What sort of a threat is this to us? Logic will have dictated two choices: a slow and measured response or a hard-hitting one. The various pressure groups withing the U.S. will have bombarded the government with requests to deal with it quickly because of the various companies fears for their profits. A natural reaction.
A government presented with such demands might see it to be more sensible to hit first and ask questions later rather than patiently build up an answer to the question : What sort of threat is this? Is this a big threat or a little threat? The American government had as its example the Russian involvement in Cuba (malign) and the knowledge that Left ideas were being spread into greater South and Centrall America (Ché killed while on a doomed expedition) and into Africa if we remember how many Cubans were sent to fight the various proxy wars going on in Africa a tthe time.
it was simpler to destroy the Left in South and Central America in case they were a threat to Americans interests than wait to see exactly what sort of threat it was. The price of this was long standing anti-Americanism. But it must have been considered and deemed a price worth paying. The very reactive anti-Americanism which is so commonplace in today's world has its roots in th way the U.S. has operated to protect its interests (ruthlessly) since the second world war. This is not to say that Britain, France, Netherland, Belgium, when top-dogs, didn't behave as ruthlessly against people and countries it though threats to their empires, big or little.
In the current debacles ranging from terrorism through Afghanistan to Iraq and the rumblings in Iran and Syria, the same swift method has been employed: round up possible enemies , treat 'em mean, find out the degree of threat. The fact that many people are being secreted around the world to be interrogated and tortured is not a sign of America's strength but its weakness: it is a demonstration of how much it fears what degreee of threat is out there.
A less fraught attitude might be to say that it is unlikely that international terrorism, however effective, is going to completely disrupt America and other western countries trying to go about their everyday activities. Leaders frequently make speeches saying they believe this. But their real beliefs are exposed by their acts not their words. They do not know what this hatred and violence is going to amount to. So they chose to act very harshly just in case it is a very serious threat.
The Israelis have always used the same logic. It has proved successful, but piled up further hatred of them. This ought to have told the Americans a more slow and measured approach to the threats to it might have been more effective in the long term. But they have been unable to repress the fear and anxiety of waiting and watching. They chose to hit out hard and it will in the end create more problems than the original threat. Of course all countries who feel a threat continue to use diplomacy of sorts while hitting back hard at the same time.
You would need to be very stupid to believe the resources of the richest country in history could be beaten by the piece-meal donations of millions of disaffected people from the Third World and the millions handed out by mischevious Arab states. Though in a sense these resources might in the end become larger and larger as the disaffection grows. But how do you stop people handing over a few crumpled notes to a charity when they probably know it ends up helping terrorists? Bend over backwards to be nice and kind to them? Help them to get out of the poverty which fuels their hatred of the rich and powerful. And how do you do that? Export more capitalism? Or do you work harder to give away more of your taxes to make them love you for being kind?
memories of a childhood in Iraq in the 1950s * thoughts on events in the Middle East