Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Why, oh why don't our enemies like us?

Via Yglesias, Josh Foust on the destruction of an Afghan village is disturbing but important reading.  Foust touches on an important issue here, which Yglesias does not go far enough in drawing out.  Foust rightly claims that both 'the assumption of good intentions' (namely, the assumption that civilians in occupied territory will accept that the US means well in itas actions) and the 'gullibility of Americans' (namely, the belief that because the locals act glad to see them, they actually are, rather than merely behaving in a self interested manner) are questionable (or simply false).  Yglesias suggests that the prevalence of these two false beliefs is a large part of the problem inherent in pro-military attitudes in the US, as:

"There’s a historical narrative about the United States being a force for good in the world whose military prowess is critical to the preservation of freedom that simply has nothing to do with the historical experience of large portions of the world. Nobody ever liberated Yemenis, or Pakistanis, or Venezuelans from Hitler or anything."

I think the problem goes even further.  It expands to include not only the people in immediate contact with the US military in various parts of the globe, but also erstwhile US allies, who buy into the assumptions about how occupied countries will react to occupation to a much lesser degree than does the US.  Part of the reason it was hard to get other countries on board for the invasion of Iraq is this type of concern.  Encouragement of UN led missions is at least arguably propped up by a wish to prevent the kind of worries that arise from unilateral military action.

So the US is operating under a false set of beliefs, and in doing so, is setting itself up to be seen as the bad guy by (largely) the developing and undeveloped world, while the developed countries who refrain from unilateral interference gain credibility and international standing.

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