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  • What's right
    • John Bayko (no login)
      Posted May 4, 2006 10:53 PM

      "[...] America continues to be painted as the "bully" of the world because we pick up the gauntlet and do whats right."

      "What's right" may be the problem, as U.S interventionism has a history of producing very bad results very often.

      What the U.N does first is negotiate. It's a slow process, and a lot of misery often continues while diplomats yak, but when it's concluded, the results are usually long lasting and successful.

      I guess it comes down to whether you want to do it fast, or do it right. Doing something fast and wrong is not necessarily the wrong way to do it, if you will have a chance to fix it later. This tends to be the prevailing American attitude in many things, and it's a very large part of the reason the U.S has come to dominate the world economically and technologically.

      However, that attitude is less successful when it involves many-sided and poorly defined positions of civil, political, and international problems. In that case, many situations have a number of "tipping points" in which events cascade out of control faster than anyone can react to them. The best way to do things in that case is usually to act carefully so that none of these tipping points are triggered. Once they are, the effort needed to fix things is multiplied.

      That doesn't mean caution always works. Rwanda is a good example of a tipping point that tipped before the U.N reacted, resulting in a mass slaughter through an entire country. It's tricky to know how well intervention would have worked, but some interesting computer models indicate that even a small force, spread out, would have been enough to stop the killings.

      But looking at these problems superficially is like looking at a minefield. Only it's the locals who suffer when the mines are stepped on. Most Americans don't pay any attention to what happens to those people - if anything, they consider it normal for people elsewhere in the world to suffer, and don't notice whether it's caused by U.S actions or not, possibly thinking they'd be suffering for one reason or another anyway, so it's not made any worse by U.S involvement. If it's not famine or AIDS, it's CIA trained death squads or tsunamis - all the same. I could be wrong about this, but I think this is the only reason Americans can hear about world events (if they do at all - they may be watching Idol instead) and not be outraged that their government is harming so many people in their name.

      Those people who it's happening to, or their neighbours or friends, they do care what the U.S is doing. And other developed countries who see this and, it not being their own countries doing it, are safe to feel outraged at both the results, and the amoral reaction of Americans to those results.

      The U.S government doesn't suffer, so they don't mind stepping on those "tipping point" land mines in order to get something done quickly and leave - in fact they think it's better ("what's right") to get anything done right now, rather than wait for the U.N to inch their way through detecting and disarming those mines with endless negotiations, agreements, studies, and counter-proposals.

      So I think that, in a nutshell, is the conflict in attitudes between the U.S superpower, and the rest of the world when it comes to intervention. I think what the rest of the world wants is not for the U.S to intervene on its own, but to intervene in co-operation with the rest of the slow moving, cautious world. So the "damned if we do, damned if we don't" complaint is really two different complaints - damned for acting alone and causing more damage, damned for not acting when wanted by the other leading countries.
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