Monday, September 16, 2002

From time to time I have been encountering the Chomskian America had it coming argument from Chomsky himself, from the British left wing newspapers, and from acquaintances in London. American foreign policy is devious and therefore S11 was America getting a taste of its own medicine blah blah blah. I have never had much sympathy for this point of view. (Actually I am outraged by it). This sort of argument usually gets back to conspiracy theories, and I think that conspiracy theories are for losers. (I have a recollection of Bruce Sterling making this observation in an article in Wired or F&SF or somewhere in about 1995, which I would link to but I cannot find the quote). American foreign policy can be really dumb at times (See War on Drugs, The) but is it especially devious and full of sinister reasons for fighting? The answer generally is no. America generally does things for the reasons it says it does. And when I think about this, what always seems to come into my mind is the American intervention in the former Yugoslavia. Here we had a nasty vicious war in Europe. The Europeans failed to do a thing about it. Eventually America came in and stopped the killing. Why did they do this? Because it was the right thing to do. There is really little more to it than that. Even then we only got sniping from a lot of quarters on the left. We got very little gratitude from countries in Europe right on the doorstep of the killing. Yes, America could have come in and stopped the killing earlier. And yes, there have been other human rights crises in other parts of the world where America could have taken action but didn't. (I rate the lack of action when genocide occurred in Rwanda to be the worst failure of the Clinton administration. This lack of action was to some extent a consequence of the reaction to the quagmire that American forces got themselves into in Somalia, so I sort of understand how it happened. However, the delay in appreciating that Rwanda was on another scale rather than just being another African war was a terrible failure. It was a case of an administration screwing up and failing to act, however. No conspiracy ). However, you must give credit where credit is due. The intervention in Bosnia and Kosovo was an example of America doing a very fine thing. America deserves a great deal of credit for this one. It can be observed, and it has been observed, that America was in this particular instance protecting Muslims against Christians. This is true, but it is not the point. America was simply stopping people from being killed. If there is a war between Muslims and Christians, then America was not taking sides in it. Europeans allowed the atrocities of Bosnia and Kosovo to take place in their own back yard. America stopped them. When I hear arguments about who is morally better than who, I cannot but see the events of this particular war as exhibit A.

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