Thursday, June 15, 2006

When to use military force

Kevin Drum (yeah, I'm just catching up on the Political Animal - I've been very busy) has recently turned the screws on Peter Beinart and now the foreign policy wonks of the PPI.

He fundamentally agrees with what these guys propose, but complains that "I feel sort of stupid for saying something so obvious, but the argument is about when to use military force. Or, more accurately, I would feel stupid about saying something so obvious if it weren't for the fact that both books seemingly go out of their way to avoid addressing this question. For all their talk about allies and restraint and soft power, would these authors support military strikes on Iran? North Korea? Darfur? How about special ops attacks on terrorist camps? Should we have crossed the border into Pakistan during the Afghanistan war? Should Russia withdraw from Chechnya? How long should we stay in Iraq?"

I don't know the answer to his specific questions and I'm not advocating war right now, but I'm declaring that I am 100% behind using military force to depose the government of Burma (Myanmar). There seems to me no clearer case of when American involvement is justified and warranted. In 1990, free elections were held for the first time in almost 30 years, but the landslide victory of the NLD, the party of Aung San Suu Kyi was voided by the military, which refused to step down. So we have a popularly elected government ousted (or never let into power) by the military. How has that dictatorship done in the last 16 years ruling the country? How about some reports the BBC?

"Another man became equally animated when I asked him about the secret military informants who lurk around ever corner. 'They're like a virus - a disease ripping this country apart,' he said. 'They are everywhere, and they see everything we do. So many of my friends have been caught and jailed over the years - some for doing hardly anything. So many lives have been ruined.'"


"'I hate my life here. I'm just surviving one day at a time,' a Burmese taxi driver said sadly, as he stopped to pay a bribe at yet another roadside checkpoint. 'Everything's so difficult. Prices keep going up, and there's too little fuel and electricity. There are so many restrictions on everything I want to do... and so much corruption,' he said."

Maybe those anecdotes don't motivate you, but what about genocide against the Karen people of northern Burma? Or supplying 213 metric tons of heroin to the world market annually? Maybe that their is state-sanctioned rape and torture doesn't sit well with you? Does slave labor bother you? Are you moved by absolute and complete suppression of the freedom of speech and other political freedoms? Don't forget a complete restriction of freedom of the press and free association. Don't even get me started on arbitrary executions, arbitrary detention and involuntary disappearances, deprivation of livelihood, and complete disregard for rights of the child, women, and ethnic minorities.

I'm not saying that I know who we go after, when we do it, what the game plan looks like, or how to fight another war in Southeast Asia, but I certainly know why. If America is anything (and it is!), it must stand up for those seeking self-determination, but who are unable to because of massive differences in firepower.

So Mr. Drum, that's when I go to war. When a democratically elected government is overthrown and then the dictator proceeds to attack everything I hold dear. I'm against genocide, drugs, rape, torture, slave labor, restrictions on freedom of speech, press and association. I also think it is worth fighting against arbitrary executions, detentions, kidnapping, depriving people of jobs, and indifference to the rights of children, women and minorities.

I know that gurufrisbee and other Doves will go apoplectic at the idea that I would go to war when Jesus says to turn the other cheek. They might have good reason, but I'm equally filled with rage when I see such overt and incredible evil done to "the least of these brothers of mine".

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