I find most of my fellow citizens’ patriotism often delusional.
We believe in equality, but that equality stops at our borders.
We don’t like the idea of Iran or Korea having nuclear warheads and an unstoppable delivery system, but let’s imagine the other point of view for a few minutes. We have had nuclear weapons since 1945 when we targeted the civilians in two cities and dropped Hell on them. For over seventy years we’ve held this inconceivably dangerous threat over the heads of the rest of the world … and refused to disarm. We even backed out of the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty!!
Ah, but we’re benign, you say. By whose standards? By what laws?
What in the world makes our government better than the government of Kim Jong-Un from an outside perspective? Yes, his people are starving – mainly due to actions by the United States. We are starving the North Koreans, not Kim Jong-Un, because we’ve imposed drastic trade sanctions upon them. We’ve got ICBMs and miniaturized warheads in vast numbers. I know. I was a nuclear weapons custodian.
We’ve said to the Third World, over and over, in many ways, “We are better than you. Our religion is better than yours; our democratic process is better than yours; our people are free; our cause is just; and you should become more like us if you want us to be friendly with you (as inferiors, of course).”
We didn’t originate this self-satisfied attitude. It trod heavily on the “New World” (which wasn’t so new to the existing population) for five centuries and counting. It spawned the Crusades — both Islamic and Christian — as well as making the “good idea” of a racist Jewish homeland reality. This bullying of other, weaker peoples is the reality behind the slogan “Make America Great Again” attached to both Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump.
What’s delusional is the belief that we are benevolent in our foreign policies; that we, of all the peoples of the world, deserve the trust and admiration of the rest of the world.
The problem isn’t our intentions. We want to do good. We DO good some of the time! We think we’re doing good most of the time. Even dropping the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were thought to be good in that they provided a quick end to the Second World War, avoiding a much worse outcome if we were to invade Japan.
Of course, we didn’t actually need the unconditional surrender of Japan. Had we left them alone in the first place, they might still be an isolated medieval empire. We forced modernization on them by invading their country and threatening their sacred imperial palace. Had we just forced them back to their islands in 1945, they might never have messed with us again.
The real reason we nuked those two Japanese cities was the Russians, our Second World War ally and rival bully to the rest of the world. The Korean War was already on the horizon and we feared they’d get more colonies than we would. Chang Kai Shek was our stooge in China and, with our military bunkered in Japan, we had Stalin stopped and were set to push him back up the Korean peninsula.
Conservatives don’t want the government spending money on making life nice for our citizens; they want the government spending enormous amounts of money making life intolerable for the Third World. Oh, we call it “foreign aid” and “defense,” but it is the kind that maims and kills and, in the case of Claymore mines, does it indiscriminately.
We, the voters, can’t see the bigger picture.
Trump makes a policy of nonintervention in Syria and then makes a hugely popular strike on Syria’s national airport. I understand Assad is an abusive tyrant, but so is the guy we would supplant him with. We started fighting with surrogates in Afghanistan against the Russians — al Quida — and ended up fighting them ourselves. We keep shooting ourselves in the foot and think we’re doing these “poor” “ignorant” people a favor by killing their neighbors or their current oppressors only to discover that our cure is worse than the evil that spawned it.
We had a whole bunch of invalid and foolish reasons for invading Iraq. And when we did, the President’s approval shot through the ceiling. Many years and lives later … we have a lawless Iraq whose moderate middle class has fled to overpopulate and destabilize surrounding countries. And we’ve oppressed the Middle East to the point that radical Islamic terrorism is flourishing. People would rather die than live under our rule in that part of the world.
We have been fighting for the antithesis of freedom and democracy. We haven’t done anyone a favor unless you count Haliburton, DuPont, and the arms industries; not Iraq; not Iran; not Syria; not Jordan; and certainly not the taxpayers or the service persons sent on this fool’s errand.
The problem isn’t “right” and “wrong.” The problem isn’t “them” or “us.” The problem is, in a nutshell, our belief that violence or threats of violence will somehow eradicate violence. It doesn’t. It really doesn’t. Furthermore, when we export violence overseas, we might expect the loyal citizens of the countries we invaded and brutalized — no matter what our reasons or rationalizations — to resent our armed (and ignorant from their perspective) interventions in their affairs.
Our nuclear arsenal is on submarines all around the world, a couple hundred miles away from these other countries. We don’t have to imagine how we’d react in their shoes. We know. When Cuba accepted Russian nuclear missiles, we went berserk! We threatened all-out nuclear war to stop facing what they face daily and have faced daily for decades: the threat of nuclear war and the contamination of the food supply and gene pool.
We believe, falsely, that nuclear weapons keep us safe and free. We believe that these ungodly weapons of mass destruction keep us in charge. But from their perspective, the United States is a bully and a terrorist state. The US believes in its exclusive right to subjugate the rest of the world through this unspeakable weapon we have created. The Death Star of Star Wars fiction is a fitting analogue. The weapon not only kills thousands, it pollutes the ground for millennia, making it unfit for any type of life.
The “war on terror” should start at home. If we want to stop terrorism, we have to stop terrorizing. We must stop exporting the terror of atomic weapons by returning them to the United States and decommissioning them … unilaterally. We cannot expect a North Korea, besieged on all sides by belligerents with nuclear weapons, to disarm unilaterally. It’s unrealistic. But we can. The biggest threat we face today is guerrilla terrorism. And it’s easy to stop. We just stop bullying others. There will be no incentive for someone to kill themselves to demonstrate their hatred and opposition. We’ve already backed down. And the best way to stop Putin is to give him no military opposition … to let his bullying and terrorism stand on its own against world opinion rather than mirror his misbehavior.
Intervening in foreign wars is generally a fool’s errand. Maybe we did a good thing in World War II, but if Hitler had won, he’d be dead by now, one way or another. Like the dissolution of Communism in Russia and China and, to some extent, Vietnam and Cuba , change will happen naturally; faster, perhaps, if we don’t rise to the bait and stick our noses where they aren’t wanted and can only do harm.
In any case, our nuclear weapons aren’t doing anyone any good anywhere. They are an offense to the rest of the world. While North Korea and Iran shouldn’t have them, we shouldn’t have them either.
Furthermore, these weapons are a threat to us. Sooner or later, they will be captured and used to threaten us. There are dozens of scenarios I can think of where they could be used against us and none I can think of when they benefit us in the long run. I remember the eighteen nuclear missiles I was in charge of maintaining. The security keeping them safe was a joke and the “logic” of authentication codes and secure arming plugs foolishly naive.
North Korea cannot be trusted with nuclear weapons. But neither can we. We showed our true colors to the rest of the world by electing Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump and abrogating the treaties that tried to keep the world safe. If I were in any other country, I wouldn’t trust the United States to do the right thing. Actually, I’m in this country and it’s been many years since I last expected the United States to do the right thing.
Many, many years ago, a young but wise philosopher suggested a plan to oppose the dominant military establishment: humility, kindness, charity, and concern for others. He gave us the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I think it fits today’s world perfectly! What would Jesus do with a nuclear bomb? What good could he provide the world with such power?
There are many who say that war is inevitable; that it is part of our nature to create armies that steal from and subjugate others. I, for one, don’t find it in my nature, but I had an international childhood and was introduced to the rest of the world at an early age, so I’ve never considered them “other.” I think that this false illusion of an “us” and a “them” enables greedy people or their agents to manipulate us into fearing people in other countries.
When I was a boy, my neighbors and friends were all hot and bothered by the “Red Menace,” an amorphous grouping of religious fanatics supposedly trying to take over the world from the wealthy and give it to the poor and middle classes. All that was needed was this one label to send my neighbors into paroxysms of hatred and fear … even when it was poor rice farmers with no navy or air force in an isolated part of the world 8,000 miles from our homes.
For a while, it was threats of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq.
Now, it’s radical Islamic terrorism. We don’t evaluate the situation with any clarity or insight. Like in church, we take all this at face value and ignore the underlying causes and dismiss the obvious cures.
We created radical Islamic terrorism. In the last century, we stole Palestine from the Arabs (OK, 11 or 12 percent of the population were Jewish and maybe 8 or 9 percent Christian, but 80 percent were Islamic Arabs) and we gave it to Americans, Europeans, Russians, and Germans. Along with our allies and enemies, we destabilized most of the Arab world, such as helping Kuwait slant drill under their border with Iraq, providing modern weapons to monarchies and dictatorships, and intervening frequently with our armed forces in the region.
They weren’t enemies before all this. We helped liberate them from the Germans — twice — except for the few colonies we took and the strategic positions we kept in the region. And then we got too interested in the “black gold” of the region and too greedy. We created wars such as the 3-day war called “Desert Storm” which retook our colony, Kuwait, back from its traditional country, Iraq by lying to Saddam Hussein, promising a false neutrality in the dispute.
Then we punished Iraq for ten years with “no fly zones” and economic embargoes for falling for our ploy. Finally, we concocted false accusations against the Iraqi leadership and unilaterally invaded the country. These stupid, ruinous decisions cost taxpayers and servicemen greatly, as well as creating the huge problem we find in the Middle East today.
We caused this! They reacted to ruinous decisions the United States made. We are the ones at fault, yet we persist in seeing their reactions to be the problem, not the original and ongoing injustices we perpetrated upon them.
There are many kinds of greatness. The “greatness” we claim today is mean-spirited and petty. It bullies and taunts weaker countries. It takes what it wants from those who cannot oppose our superior weaponry. And it plants and nourishes the seeds of war all over the world.
©David N. Dodson, June 2017, November 2019