Friday, November 16, 2007

Never Intervene Again

It's astounding to learn that U.S. military commanders in Iraq are wringing their hands over what they describe as the "intransigence" of the Shiite-dominated government. What did they expect? Moderate European-style liberal democrats crawling out of the rubble they made?

The real fact of U.S. intervention since 1945 has been that whenever the United States has meddled in another country's politics, that country's ideological spectrum has polarized into two irreconcilable extremes and the centrist, compromising, moderate middle has fallen out.

Chile was a model democracy in the 1960s until the CIA, through the program of Jesuit Roger Vekemans, decided to intervene, destabilizing the centrist, moderate Christian-Democratic Party and ushering in first, in 1970, socialist Salvador Allende, who was never quite the Marxist-Leninist his successors painted him as, and then in 1973 the draconic right-wing regime of Gen. Cesar Augusto Pinochet.

In 1970 Cambodia was a neutralist peaceable country run by an ancient monarchic dynasty until the USA decided that it was time to plug up a supply line of the Viet Cong and bring the Vietnam war into its neighbor's territory. Prince Norodom Sihanouk was overthrown by a CIA-led military coup, in turn overthrown by the Khmer Rouge, who killed an estimate 2.5 million of their own people.

Much the same had happened with South Vietnam, which was run by a neutralist, Ngo Dihn Diem, overthrown in 1963 by the CIA simply because he was perceived as not being rightist enough, although he represented a moderate, Catholic elite that was Western-oriented. We all know how successful that turned out to be.

What did they expect in Iraq when they removed Saddam Hussein? After all, he was the only figure who -- through admitted utter ruthlessness -- held together the three major segments of the Mesopotamian territory dubbed Iraq by the British in the 1930s.

Of course, the Shiites are intransignet. Of course, the Sunnis would love to slit their throats. Of course, the Kurds would like independence. Of course, the middle class, secularist professionals have all fled, by the millions, to Jordan and elsewhere.

What did anyone expect?

Until the United States learns to be more subtle, more agreeable to compromise, more respectful of other nations, there's not a snowball's chance in hell that any U.S. intervention, however well-meant (and this one was not), will succeed at really contributing peace and stability to any other region of the world.

Perhaps we ought to make a national pledge: never again intervene. Never.

1 comment:

jen said...

When I was in Cambodia a few years ago I saw the aftermath of our intervention. El Salvador, too.

The years of destruction are hard to comprehend. and for what? greed? power? oil?

I'll take that pledge. Too bad it doesn't count for much.