I have long held the belief that we, the United States of America, as the preeminent world super-power, must do our best to protect the world. There is a certain honor in the biggest guy on the block protecting the 99 pound weakling from the bad kids. I served my country for ten years, and I wasn’t a pencil pusher. I did a job where I literally put my life on the line for our country and our way of life. I am still proud of that service. I will always remain that way because I also think there is honor in serving something greater than yourself that you believe in. I believe in America, and that she is a great country. I fought for you, not for the Presidents that I served. And I would do it again.
My belief that we should do our best to help protect the world has not changed. Some views have. Some of you had a part in that, which I thank you for. The recent discussion in “A Soldier’s Point of View” showed that I am for a completely defensive posture and intervention only when another country is both attacked without cause and said country has asked for international assistance. But I think I was pretty clear that the military dominance that we exert on many countries is not any longer in line with my beliefs. I won’t get into all of that again here. Another time perhaps. But tonight I am going to take a position that is not going to be popular, but that is OK. Because I think this is a worthy discussion and my taking this position will certainly spur some conversation.
What I want to discuss is our position on the “evil” countries out there. Last night, North Korea launched a missile as a test. Our government has stated that this is the first step towards North Korea having the ability to hit Alaska with a Nuclear missile. The international community is up in arms over this missile launch and a UN Security Council Emergency meeting has been called to discuss further sanctions on North Korea for conducting this test. Now, I don’t know what North Korea’s intentions are. Maybe they are doing what the international community, led by the US, believes. Maybe they aren’t. I don’t know.
I do know that over the last 50 years we have seen an increasing amount of instances where the United States government, in the interest of protecting the world from rogue states, has taken steps to stop sovereign nations from pursuing certain measures. Here is a list of the countries currently listed as under US sanctions, along with their most recent review date, according to the Department of state:
- Balkans (March 4, 2008)
- Belarus (February, 23, 2009)
- Burma (January 15, 2009)
- Cote d’Ivorie (Ivory Coast)(September 19, 2006)
- Cuba (March 18, 2009)
- Democratic Republic of the Congo (March 4, 2009)
- Iran (January 22, 2009)
- Iraq (September 16, 2008)
- Former Liberian Regime of Charles Taylor (May 23, 2007)
- North Korea (June 26, 2008)
- Sudan (Darfur)(July 31, 2008)
- Syria (July 10, 2008)
- Zimbabwe (November 25, 2008)
And those are just a single list. There are others. Many more with lesser sanctions. Even more that are under UN sanctions driven by the United States. A couple who have recently had their sanctions lifted because they agreed to US demands (Libya comes to mind). I know that some of you are looking at that list and thinking to yourself, “good, some of those countries are horrible and need to be on that list in order to keep the world safe/better.” I also am willing to bet a week’s paycheck that Black Flag isn’t one of those saying that 🙂
Let’s get to my points. North Korea is a bad country. I acknowledge this to be true. I lived in Seoul, South Korea, for a little over a year. The South greatly fears the North will attack at any moment. We keep 30,000 troops there just to help prevent that from happening. The leadership in North Korea is appalling. They are killing their people through oppression. Their military gets all the money and food, leaving the people to starve. We have sanctioned them to death for their evil. And for the record I have never been colder in my life than the Korean winters.
Iran has earned our ire. I will give them that. The hostage situation in Iran was a bad move for them. It ensured that a generation of Americans will always fear them and hate them. They claim to not be pursuing a nuclear weapon. I personally believe they are full of shit when making that claim. They are pursuing a nuclear weapon. And if they get it, they very well may sell it to the highest bidding US/Israel haters. And that is if they don’t launch a strike on Israel on their own. They love to call us the “great Satan” and tell us that “first chance we get, you US assholes are going down.” They also, according to Human Rights Watch, have the leading rate of juvenile executions in the world. Juveniles can be executed once they reach the age of “majority” (9 years old for girls, 15 for boys).
Cuba is well documented. A brutal dictatorship taken by force and subjected to rule by the Castro brothers for decades now. They certainly would side with the Russians (and did in the past, hence the Cuban Missile Crisis). In fact they would side with anyone who opposes us. What is happening in Sudan, specifically the Darfur Region, is horrible and it certainly doesn’t make me warm and fuzzy when thinking about going there again. Syria is certainly not one of my favorite places either. I am surprised that I do not see a couple of other countries on the list. Venezuela certainly acts like idiots these days. Some of you know that Somalia is at the top of my list of countries I wish no longer existed. It’s personal.
More than 100 sanctions were applied between the end of World War II and the United Nations embargo against Iraq during the Gulf War. The United States took a leading role in approximately two-thirds of them. For the United States, economic sanctions were a major foreign policy tool during that period. They continued to be used during the Clinton administration (I know that hurts your feeling liberals, but facts are facts, lol), when the United States imposed more than 60 sanctions, more than half of all U.S. sanctions in the 20th century. Examples include those mentioned above as well as sanctions against Russia and India for selling missile technology and sanctions against Myanmar (Burma) for human rights abuses. As of mid 1998 the United States had sanctions in effect against more than 70 countries, and the U.S. Congress was considering 30 additional sanctions.
My argument is not that these are not bad or that they are not willing to do bad things. I believe that some of them are. But I propose to you that we are missing the point when we make the statement that they are bad countries. That point is that they are countries. Sovereign nations. What right do we have to tell a sovereign nation what they are allowed to do or not allowed to do? I ask you whether you would be OK with Iran putting trade sanctions on the United States because we have shown ourselves to be an aggressor in the past (because we certainly have a lot more aggressive history than Iran, unfortunately)? Would it be OK for them to tell us whether we have the right to pursue nuclear technology?
I didn’t think so. I am at the point where while I understand that there are those in government that are looking for these sanctions with the best of intentions, we are not within our rights to tell any other countries what they can or cannot do. We would never stand for them returning the favor.
We have had the discussions on this site about how our federal government seeks to limit the right of Americans to own and carry guns. We were all in agreement that this was a bad thing. We have a right to our guns, after all. And while I am grateful that the Constitution guarantees that right, it didn’t give me that right. I already had it, regardless of what the Constitution says. And as I espoused in that argument, the biggest reason that we have as a belief in why we need them is that they are the only thing standing between us and an out of control government.
Think of the US and UN as an out of control government for the world. Every citizen (Country) needs to be armed enough to stand up to the government. Think about how differently we treat those countries that have the ability to use nuclear weapons against us: Israel, Russia, China, India, Pakistan… I think you get the point. They armed themselves well enough for us to not think we have a right to jump in and dictate to them what they should or should not do.
Iran, North Korea, and Cuba should have the same ability. If they decide to develop a nuclear program, what right do we have to tell that they can’t? I have to admit that if I was a leader of some country in the world and the United States rode in and told me I couldn’t pursue nuclear power, I would give Obama the middle finger and tell him to zip it unless he wants to be the first to know when I have it.
If Sudan, Bosnia, and North Korea want to kill their own people, it is a horrible thing. I despise it. And I do so wish that the WORLD decides that this is wrong and stops it. But I struggle with whether we have the right to tell them what to do in their own country? And to put sanctions on them for it seems reasonable. But would we stand for it if China told us that we had better get a grip on this whole black on black crime thing? It has gotten out of hand and if we don’t stop it from happening they are going to blockade us and sanction us. What if the world told us that we were way out of line with WACO or the storming of the Mormon compound and sanctions were forthcoming?
We laugh off these examples because we are a world power and we know that it cannot happen to us. But what if that suddenly were not the case. What if India and China, with their 2.6 Billion people, got together and decided they were going to start telling us what to do? Would Americans stand for it? Do you really think we could stand up to them with our 303 Million people?
I started to think about this the other night as I read the discussion about Muslims in one of the other articles. There was a claim that they are an inherently evil people with an evil religion. This was followed with a belief that we should not let them live here, or anywhere else other than their own countries. I chose to stay out of that argument because those in it seemed to be handling it on their own. But I do want to say a thing or two about the sentiment I saw there.
We must be careful to not de-humanize what we do not know. If you have never spent time in a muslim country, no amount of reading or hearing accounts from friends can tell you what things are like. There are bad muslims out there. Of that there is no doubt. Those are the exceptions, just like the bigots or religious zealots are exceptions in our christian culture. But I have spent a lot of time in muslim countries, and one thing I learned quickly is that they are just people, like you and me. They get up, try to make a living, worry about their children, and have all the same wonderful things and flaws that we have. Their children are no less cute. Their adults are no less polite or caring.
200 years ago, white Americans thought that blacks were less intelligent, closer to being wild animals, and heathens. Only familiarity over time because of a forced civil rights movement has shown us what a bigoted and flawed belief that was. Believing that “muslims” or “buddhists” or “hindus” or anyone else is less of a unique person or less of a human being than we are comes from simply not having that familiarity. I have been fortunate to have gotten familiar with them all and it changed the way that I look at the world.
When you finally awaken, and realize the humanity that exists in every one of the 6 Billion people of the world, in every country, in every religion, in every belief system, in every political party…. how can you deem their rights or their beliefs any less important than yours? How can you justify treating them differently than you would allow yourself to be treated?
With all of that said, I return to the issue of America policing the world and telling sovereign nations what they can and cannot do. I simply don’t think we have the right to do that. When they take bad actions, I submit that we should hold them accountable. In that vein, when genocide occurs and the “world” sees it, perhaps there is a cause for action to stop it (and that does not mean punishing one side or the other, it means stopping it). But when it comes to the pursuit of nuclear capability, I don’t see why we don’t see this in the same way we see gun control in the United States, just at an international level. Let them pursue what they want, let them have what they want. But if they attempt to use that nuclear weapon, ensure that then there are consequences for their actions.
Am I wrong?