The Not So Hidden Fist

For globalization to work, America can't be afraid to act like the almighty superpower that it is. The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonald's cannot flourish with McDonnell-Douglas, the designer of the F-15, and the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley's technology is called the United States Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

The above is a candid Thomas Friedman gracing the op-ed pages of the nation's paper of record back in March 1998. My one quibble with Friedman is that the fist isn't so hidden. Those of us who are from the developing world have felt it at one time or another. I am always perplexed at moments such as this as to why the so many of the American people are so prone to jingoism and why so many fail to see to the threat of American militarism to American democracy. Reading the US press today was a horrifying affair. Here's one of the most jingoistic, that of Fred C. Iklé of the Washington Post whose op-ed is entitled Kill the Pirates which leaves little doubt as to his ultimate solution happens to be.

With the rescue of American Richard Phillips from the hands of pirates yesterday, there was a blip of good news from the Indian Ocean, but it remains a scandal that Somali pirates continue to routinely defeat the world's naval powers. And worse than this ongoing demonstration of cowardice is the financing of terrorists that results from the huge ransom payments these pirates are allowed to collect.

What's scandalous in my mind is that the Reagan Administration dropped a half billion dollars' worth of weapons on the country to arm a notorious butcher, Siad Barre. Then again, the US keeps on doing this the world over in the face of disaster after disaster. I might suggest the strategy isn't working.

Then there is the Wall Street Journal which writes in an editorial:

White House and Navy officials say President Obama had issued a general authorization to use force in these circumstances, and that is to his credit. With all the world watching, the U.S. Navy couldn't afford to be long stymied by sea-faring kidnappers. No doubt Mr. Obama would have been criticized in some quarters -- though not by us -- had Captain Phillips been killed once the order was given to shoot the pirates. But that is the kind of decision that has to be left with commanders on the spot. The pirates made themselves potential targets of deadly force under the law of the sea the second they took Captain Phillips hostage.

A fourth pirate was captured, and we hope the Justice Department tries him under U.S. laws rather than transfer him to Kenyan control. Better still if he's transferred to Guantanamo and held as an "enemy combatant," or whatever the Obama Administration prefers to call terrorists. Reuters quoted a pirate it called "Hussein" yesterday saying that "The French and Americans will regret starting this killing. We do not kill, but take only ransom. We shall do something to anyone we see as French or American from now on." This may be bluster, but the U.S. will reduce the chances of it happening if pirates know they risk death or spending their lives in a U.S. prison.

While praising the rescue, Mr. Obama added yesterday that "we must continue to work with our partners to prevent future attacks, be prepared to interdict acts of piracy and ensure that those who commit acts of piracy are held accountable for their crimes." But since the Navy can't stop every hijacking, some kind of military action against pirates on land may be needed. The Somali gangs operate openly in the port city of Eyl and claim "shares" in ships held for ransom. The willingness of the Saudis and Europeans to pay ransom is one reason the pirates have become so brazen.

Somali pirates are turning the high seas into a state of anarchy not seen in a century or more. They'll continue to terrorize innocents until what we call the "civilized world" demonstrates that they will suffer the same fate as the pirates who made the mistake of kidnapping Captain Phillips.

Not a word about corporations run amok who are dumping toxic waste or illegally fishing the territorial waters of Somalia. The problem is the pirates, not the underlying problems of a failed state and one with a cache of weapons to last a century courtesy of Ronald Wilson Reagan. And it is not that Reagan wasn't warned, he was, but on the theory the enemy of my enemy is my friend the US jumped into Siad Barre's arms and closed its eyes. Just how many times are you going to do this? Or better put allow it to be done on your behalf? I'd be very cautious about the looming failure in Pakistan, but that's me.

At the very least, Secretary Gates was more measured and analytical in his response. "There is no purely military solution to it," Mr. Gates said at the Marine Corps War College. "And as long as you've got this incredible number of poor people and the risks are relatively small, there's really no way in my view to control it unless you get something on land that begins to change the equation for these kids." The Secretary is correct, there isn't a military solution to this, only a political one.

Somalia is today a land torn asunder but the northern part has two viable states, the Republic of Northern Somaliland and the Republic of Puntland. If recognized and provided with assistance to build the edifice of state, then in the future these might form the basis for a reconstituted Somali confederacy.

The south for now is lost in anarchy but the south isn't where the pirates are launching their vessels. These pirates come from Puntland. But the US and the Europeans seem to be insisting on a restoration of a central government in Mogadishu. In the meantime, Puntland lacks the resources to tackle the pirates and impose a rule of law on and off shore.

But beyond the issues surrounding Somalia, I am struck by pervasiveness of American imperialism. I am not even sure if Americans realize that they have an empire. Over at Taylor Marsh, an erstwhile liberal, she and her crew is relishing the victory over "thugs".  Ms. Marsh and her crew are the poster children of American stupidity demonstrating a fatal lack of intellectual curiosity. Rather than ask pertinent questions, they take for granted what the media and the government tells them to think. The media calls the Somali pirates thugs thus they are thugs. Asking why there are pirates in Somalia seems too difficult a task.

I belong to the Truth Movement that believes that knowledge is fundamental to cause of liberty. An informed citizenry is core to the proper functioning of a modern democratic polity.

While America may have been nominally founded upon liberal principles and "democracy," there is no doubt that our country has not lived up to these ideals. What we have now is no more than a shell or veneer of a democracy.

Deconstructed, the American promise of "freedom" is more of a freedom FROM thought rather than OF thought. Americans are conditioned from an early age NOT to question or doubt any of the fundamentals--our government, our economic or social system, ourselves. This is the antithesis of what our country is supposed to stand for.

The basic American message is, "Don't bother being informed or trying to govern yourself. It's already taken care of: we're the best, most open, free society in the world." This is the American Myth and it is tantalizing because it offers to relieve us of the very grueling processes of self-doubt and self-determination: "Kick back and be an American, we'll take care of everything else."

I know that the people who read this blog are very well-informed, especially about domestic issues. I encourage you to save your democracy before it consumes mine. Just today comes word that the United States wants to put a military base in my native Colombia.

The United States confirms it is looking into the possibilities of moving its military capacity to Colombia after the closing of its base off the coast of Ecuador.

"I am not going to deny that we are talking about this possibility," U.S. Ambassador to Colombia William Brownfield stated.

He went on to say that the United States is not looking for a new partnership with Colombia, but seeks to build on the existing relationship. "Colombia and the United States are working together in efforts against illegal drug trafficking and international crime. Part of that collaboration, without a doubt, calls for access to military bases in both countries, which requires an adjustment," Brownfield said.

Nevertheless, the air base will continue to be under Colombia's control and jurisdiction, he assured.

This consideration in Washington echoes a statement made March 3 by Colombia's Minister of Defense offering the United States the option to expand its facilities in some of the military bases in the area.

Since 2000 the U.S. has contributed a total of US$5.5 billion in economic and military help in Colombia's fight against drug trafficking and leftist guerrillas. The Ecuadorean Government want the U.S. air base -- used for the drug war -- out of Ecuador by November.

Please don't. Not in Colombia, please don't. If you want to turn Colombia into another Venezuela, try putting a base there.  Put a military base in Colombia and you will re-ignite the FARC. Honestly, how many bases do you people need? The more you tighten your not so hidden fist, the more people the world over will resist. And all if Thomas Friedman is to believed to make the world safe for McDonalds.

Tags: Colombia, globalization, Neo-Imperialism, Somalia, US Foreign Policy, US Militarism (all tags)



psh, i say kill the pirates

worked for the british in the 18th century

by theninjagoddess 2009-04-13 11:41PM | 0 recs
Madman theory of warfare

We must appear to be completely irrational and dangerously unstable/revengeful- any slight or injury will be repaid tenfold in misery in collateral damage.

Richard Nixon pioneered this modern response to unconventional threats in this, his "madman theory of warfare".

Understood in that light, many US actions unexplainable by other means make perfect sense.

by architek 2009-04-14 06:03AM | 0 recs
Re: psh, i say kill the pirates

The British (and the Dutch) were the pirates.

Henry Morgan, Blackbeard, Francis Drake. Pirates. English or Dutch. A few French later.

The most notorious pirates of yore were the Bugis of Sulawesi. The word "boogeyman" is derived from Bugis.

by Charles Lemos 2009-04-14 07:01PM | 0 recs
Re: The Not So Hidden Fist

Sure it worked.  You're just not looking at the situation like a imperialist would: you need to ignore lives lost and the conditions for the people who live there.

The only place where that strategy is really threatening to rebound is Pakistan.

by Jess81 2009-04-14 02:12AM | 0 recs
I know what you mean...

about the jingoism.  It affects all of us...

by Ravi Verma 2009-04-14 08:20AM | 0 recs
Re: The Not So Hidden Fist

I've heard somewhere that the Founders of the US thought that it was a bad idea to have a standing army.  Wow.  That's radical stuff.  I realize that isn't possible in today's world (a world that we helped create).  But still, it does not seem to square with the omnipresence of the American military oversees.  I think the title "Defense Department" is one of the most incongruous titles for any government institution.  Given what it does, calling it "Defense" really is only a quarter-step away from calling it the "Peace Department".

by the mollusk 2009-04-14 09:11AM | 0 recs
Re: The Not So Hidden Fist

That's true. The US had very small army prior to WW II. That experience changed everything.

by Charles Lemos 2009-04-14 07:03PM | 0 recs


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