Last night on the way home, the Kid asked me about war. It started with the number of soldiers in Iraq, then it moved on to the number of Americans killed in Iraq every day. For comparison’s sake, I explained to him about the number of Americans who died on Omaha Beach, and the number of Marines who died in Okinawa.
The kid listened intently and asked pretty good questions. When the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki came up, I explained why the bombs were dropped and told him some stories my Japanese students had told me about their preparations for the American invasion that the bombings prevented. I didn’t sugar coat the bombings – how they were horrific attacks that killed hundreds of thousands but saved millions. I moved on to Japan’s takeover of China, and the rape of Nanjing in which men, women and children were slaughtered.
I told him about a book on one of our bookshelves – Japan At War – that tells the stories of Japanese Imperial Army veterans – and said that when he was old enough, he could read it, but he was too young now.
He asked me if such genocide happens today. I told him about Darfur.
“Why don’t we send soldiers there to stop it?” He asked.
I told him I didn’t know.
I could tell him that we aren’t the world’s policeman, that it’s not our business to save the world. But then I consider our nation, our history and our ideology. It’s much more radical than anything Marx wrote, or Lenin proposed, or Khomeini issued in a fatwa. Like good radicals everywhere we have always worked to spread the word – through Manifest Destiny, or through the efforts of private citizens to fight fascists in Republican Spain during the 1930s, and on to today where we are attempting to remake the face of the Middle East by bringing democracy to Iraq.
We are an idealist people, one that has a hard time accepting the suffering of others around the globe. We send aid to tsunami ravaged Indonesia, try to make peace between Arabs and Jews, Irish and Unionists, and Turks and Greeks. We should intervene to stop the genocide there.
Then reality hits me: I know why.
Is Darfur worth sacrificing a single American kid over?
It’s a cold-hearted question, but nevertheless it’s one that our pol’s have answered – “No.”
And I can’t say I disagree with that. My globalist ideals are waning towards isolationism, which is the default condition of Americans. Recent polls in Indonesia show that all that aid and effort we sent that nation didn’t change their hearts and minds about us: They are still convinced we are out to divide Muslims – and 80% think that Osama Bin-Laden is an ok guy.
Granted, he’s one that doesn’t shower their country with aid in the immediate aftermath of the tsunami, is intent on truly dividing Islam by wiping out the Shi’a in Iraq – but he’s an ok guy nevertheless in the eyes of those who weren’t washed out to sea on Christmas eve 2004.
Whenever you intervene to protect someone, you make an enemy from someone else. Intervene on behalf of the Bosnians in 1995, and you upset the people massacring them – the Serbs. In the Arab world we have somehow managed to intervene to protect Iraqis from each other – and we get grief from both sides.
Machiavelli once said:
Just look at the Anti-American attitudes of nations like France and Germany. Thousands of American soldiers are planted in their soil, yet we’re the bad guy.
Would the Darfur residents do the same? Would they welcome our protection our would they eventually complain about our neocolonialist policies and influx of McDonalds fast food restaurants?
America needs to fight battles against its enemies. The people of Darfur, Tibet, Burma and other places need to rise up on their own. We should send them guns, but not American young people.
That’s the answer I needed to tell the Kid. It’s not the answer I want to tell him, but it’s the truth. Is he ready for that? I wonder.