Sunday, November 6, 2011

Post #45 - Crusader Mentality

Crusaders besiege a town
"Thou shalt not act unjustly in judgment... with justice shall thou judge thy neighbor. Thou...shalt not rise up against the blood of thy neighbor: I am the Lord your God....and thou shalt love they neighbor as thyself; I am the Lord." (Leviticus19: 15-18)

Some statements by officials of our government and other political  and even religious figures have given the clear impression that the sooner the rest of the world looks just like us, the better. Whether what we are promoting is democracy, the Judeo-Christian tradition, or Western values, our stance appears to be “our way, or the highway,” except that there is no highway off our planet for those who opt not to conform. At least the crusaders of the eleventh century eventually went back home. Today's crusaders are there to stay – in the Caribbean and Central Asia, in Europe and the Pacific; permanent bases, prolonged U.S. presence, persistent irritation, leading to perpetual conflict.

Crusaders: soldier, priest and trader
Can anyone ask in all seriousness “what would Jesus do?” and come up with these kinds of answers: torture to obtain intelligence, “collateral damage” in the form of civilian deaths, the laying of land-mines and the dropping of cluster bombs in civilian areas?

Prof. James A. Bill is a professor of government and director emeritus of the Reves Center for International Studies at the College of William and Mary [full disclosure:  I am an alumnus of the College], and author of the award-winning The Eagle and the Lion: the Tragedy of American-Iranian Relations, and Roman Catholics and Shi’i Muslims: Prayer, Passion and Politics. In an article that appeared in the William & Mary Alumni Association magazine (Spring/Summer 2003) he wrote:

"The heavy American presence in the [Persian] gulf region has increasingly alienated many citizens of the Middle East…It has become increasingly difficult for American citizens to walk the highways and byways of the gulf states. This is seen in the travel advisories that warn Americans…against traveling or living in the gulf. It is a sign of the times that American diplomats and military advisers inhabit embassies that resemble concrete fortresses surrounded by sensors and computerized barriers. It is ironic that the United States, the sole global super-power, finds itself in a situation where its citizens must increasingly step carefully and cautiously in many important areas of the world…
"Washington must question the preoccupation with force and the glorification of war. Delicate social and political problems cannot be bombed or “missiled” out of existence…
"The United States would do well to develop a foreign policy that is rooted in a sense of morality…United States policy-makers, if informed and sensitive, can do much to improve the situation. If, on the other hand, the United States replaces astute diplomacy with the heavy club of military power, if it fails to think strategically and misunderstands the people and politics of the region, then it may find itself trapped in the midst of the firestorm, a conflagration that will spread with time and that has already begun to spill over into the United States itself."

Again, from U.S. in the World:

Returning from the Crusades
"There are no good military options for solving this problem. The disastrous costs and consequences of military action would far outweigh the partial, temporary benefits. Taking excessive risks for uncertain rewards isn’t smart – it’s reckless…There is no justification for considering the use of nuclear weapons against Iran. Leaving this option on the table inflames anti-American extremism and costs us the trust of vital allies. Words and actions that make us less secure in the long run don’t belong in a smart security strategy… We need to learn from our experience in Iraq – lessons about the limitations of military force and the risk of unintended consequences."

Perhaps Prof. Vali Nasr, who has been both a professor in the Department of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School, and an Adjunct Senior Fellow of the Council on Foreign Affairs, put it most succinctly. In a March 26, 2007 interview on PBS' WideAngle program, he discussed the minimal pay-offs derived from U.S. attempts to pressure or manipulate Iran. After having reviewed recent events which have made so many aggressive options either untenable or unsustainable, he said: “If our coercive ability is limited, we should not continue to rely upon it. There must be a wider array of tools in our strategic toolbox.”

Unfortunately, as Chomsky points out, our approach has been to demand one set of actions from other nations, while holding ourselves to quite different standards. We bring cases to the World Court when it suits us, but claim exemption from its mandate if the Court seeks to constrain U.S. interests. The "rights of man," "law of peoples," "international human rights," "or the "Nuremburg principle" all have variable and plastic meanings in their actual application by U.S. leaders. The fact that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights sought to have oversight of the legitimacy of Guantanamo detentions scarcely rated mention in the U.S. press. Chomsky cites Stephen Zunes, head of the Peace and Justice Program at San Francisco State University, on the "growing bipartisan hostility to any legal restraints on the conduct of the United States and its allies beyond their borders, particularly in the Middle East."

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