When is a first strike not a first strike?
When it's Anticipatory Retaliation.

October 12, 2004

The Sad Story of "Never Again"

Bravo Romeo Delta

People seem to be entirely ready to hoist the flag of battle to prevent atrocities and step in with force of arms, if necessary, to prevent genocide.

And that’s it – they seem to be ready. In their heart of hearts, very few people, very few people indeed, really are genuinely willing to be a warmonger of the sort that Never Again truly requires.

Chamberlain’s claim of "peace in our time", following his Munich talks with Hitler, is held aloft as the final word of weakness and appeasement. But when it gets down to cases, is there any person who reasonably believes, particularly when the brutal efficiency of the Wehrmacht was demonstrated in Poland, in France and at Dunkirk, that any collection of countries would have waged war with a major industrial power over concentration camps?

Given the current pandemic of general genocide and appalling atrocities that seemingly define large swaths of the African continent, why does the world sit and wag it’s finger reproachfully? Or where is the will of the world community to step in and enforce peace in the West Bank or Chechnya?

Hitler is to have said, regarding political repercussions of the Final Solution, something to the effect that nobody really gave a damn about the Turkish genocide of Armenians a few decades back. Tragically, I think he was right on some level in his assessment. Before anyone goes too far with that statement, the images of the Holocaust are indelibly imprinted in our memory – the ancient horror of mass murder fused with brutally relentless efficiency created images that are seared into the collective consciousness. But the will to prevent a repetition is not similarly ingrained in our minds.

For example, consider that North Korea operates one of the most ghastly prison systems to have ever marred the gruesome face of history. Is there anyone at all who has even gone so far as to wage an anemic and ineffectual political campaign at the United Nations, let alone even discuss the prospect of actual military action? Some people who have opposed the Iraq War will note that they can’t understand why we worried about the liberation of Iraq, when horrors such as those in North Korea continue unabated. To those people, I would reply by asking if we can’t get international support to free a nation of some 25 million people, whose dictator may have killed a million of his own countrymen, what makes one think that we would have a shred of support for something that didn’t have 16 resolutions, constant cease-fire violations, and a whole pile of various causus belli above and beyond the prima facie evidence of atrocities? If the South Korean people think that the best they can do to put a halt to the unending litany of the murder of their brethren across the DMZ is to engage them with a cheerful “sunshine policy,” what makes people believe that the American people are going to support putting paid to Pyongyang with precision guided munitions?

Fine, North Korea is much more difficult, given the proximity of Seoul, and the complicated political environment, and alleged failures of diplomacy. Fine, whatever. I’ll let you run around rationalizing inaction and ongoing genocide. But what about Iraq? Was Iraq not sufficiently bloody to rate as worthwhile in the world’s moral calculus? Is the death of a 1,000 young Americans too much for 300,000 in mass graves? If the 1:300 ratio weren’t sufficient to justify action, would it have been justifiable if only 500 Americans had been killed and half a million Iraqis been found dead? Is 1:1,000 the magical ratio at which letting women, children, fathers, brothers, infants, daughters, and mothers be put to death now unacceptable? Given the massive protests leading up to the war, and the unrelenting hostility that the US still is encountering over Iraq, I would argue that the answer is that Never Again really is but a pipe dream.

For if the deployment of armor and gunships in Somalia was deemed too “provocative” and a butcher’s bill of 19 men was deemed too steep a price to pay, what makes one imagine that we would have fought World War II to stop the Holocaust itself?

There are many who decry the United States, because the US asserts its support for such noble ideals, but fails to deliver. Fair enough. But given the horrors that befell South Vietnam when it fell, and the ferocious opposition to the United States in that war, can you reasonably assert that we live in a world where we can even get support to let our own soldiers die to prevent another Holocaust?

If you believe we can get that support, could you please explain why we’ve gotten such lukewarm support in Afghanistan, and such outright hostility in Iraq? Could you also please explain why the whole world was adamant that the US not go to Baghdad in 1991, after the liberation of Kuwait?

Oh that’s right – I had forgotten about the importance of alliances and coalition building. That’s right. That self-same international community that has responded to Darfur by issuing a resolution suggesting the threat of sanctions. Or that decides that when a private military contractor brings peace at a minimum of cost in a place like Angola or Sierra Leone (or even helps in a place like Iraq) is met with responses ranging from contempt to outright hostility or is dismissed with a callous “screw ‘em.”

Even the efforts to impose peace, when we get around to it in our incredibly half-assed way, have been anywhere from absolutely feckless to outright detrimental. Witness the ongoing disasters that have marked British efforts in Sierra Leone, or French efforts in Cote d’Ivoire. Or the slow-motion nightmare that is Haiti. Even in those cases when we had an absolute ability to put paid to the cycle of violence, we respond timidly. Bombing Kosovo, but lord knows we wouldn’t send in ground troops. Let alone actually change the regime in Belgrade.

I could be persuaded to only focus on post-World War II genocides, since the notion of Never Again was implanted most strongly by the events of World War II. Since then, we might also be willing to note that there are some cases of genocide such that an effort to wage war to stop the murder could have very well resulted in a nuclear Armageddon. Even after these exceptions, we still note that not only does the world at large fail to do anything more than wring its hands at Darfur. Or for that matter, no discussion of Zimbabwe or Congo is had at all. South Korea reacts to the charnel house to their north by suggesting that they need to be nicer to the butchers. Or that an effort to stop the Ba’athist murder in Iraq has been met by overwhelming hostility from around the world.

For that matter, there are a large number of people who feel that war and halting mass murder are not mutually exclusive tasks. I suggest the counterfactual notion that diplomacy could have prevented the Second World War - and that the 6 million that were killed in concentration camps would have been replaced by far, far larger numbers of dead, left to die in isolation under the heel of the Nazis.

No, as much as it pains me to say it, America doesn’t always intervene when it should. But it pains me even more that the folks who complain about such hypocrisy themselves indulge in a much more cynical exercise in self-delusion. For not only do they decry America’s failure to protect people around the world, they actively hinder the US when it does try.

No, it seems that Never Again really means Never Again Until Next Time We Say Never Again. Ask the Rwandan peacekeepers in Sudan about that.

Launched by Bravo Romeo Delta at October 12, 2004 11:45 AM

Retaliatiory Launches

Food for thought definitely, but the premise that America is the great liberator is flawed. The liberation of kuwait was no more than a battle for oil. Kuwait was not exactly a beacon of democracy prior to the Iraqi invasion and as far as I'm aware the lot of the average citizen has not improved much since the liberation. If it were not oil rich, do you not honestly believe that Bush senior would have cared a tot?

As for the Iraqi people, who poses the greater threat, Saddam Hussain or some religious Taliban like zealot? Saddam is incarcerated and his vice like grip has been replaced by anarchy while the zealots arouse the passions of the people. Meanwhile the poor allied serviceman/woman fight an enemy it can not easily distinguish in an environment where the locals looks upon them as invaders.

It is all well and good to cite the humanitarian grounds and the self righteous indignation about such conflicts, but they just dont cut the mustard. It is pretty apparent that US intervention is based on a country's wealth rather any other considerations. In other words if you have oil we'll support you if you dont,we'll pretend that you dont exist. Your government may be telling you that they are doing the right thing, but as a citizen of the US do you ever wonder why it is that there is so animosity and resentment to the policies of your goverment?

Posted by: James at October 12, 2004 11:50 AM


Carrying your argument to its apparent absurd end, the only time that actions of liberation are allowed is when everyone agrees and there's no underlying basis aside from pure altruism?

Iraq has oil. Kuwait has oil. The US is still the largest consumer of oil in the world. Granted, all. But Kuwait was invaded by a murderous tyrant (just how murderous, we're still learning, even in today's news), and the UN told him to get out. The US is part of the UN, and took part in the enforcement of UN resolutions in freeing Kuwait, which Hussein chose to ignore. He did it again, for the intervening 12 years, and the UN became more and more worthless as an organization.

The US decided to continue to enforce the UN resolutions, since the French, Germans, Russians, Chinese, and other bribed states were unwilling. The US did so, at great cost, but will have had no effect on the worthlessness of the UN or other future international organizations which can be so easily bribed.

And if you think it's because of the oil, think again: We could have easily bought oil from Hussein, for a whole lot less money, if we were willing to see the rules that bind the world together be continually disdained. Our government chose otherwise.

And that, sir, is the reason that I, as a citizen of the US, don't give a fat rat's ass why it is that there is "so animosity and resentment", on your part or any of those among your gutless fellow travelers.

Posted by: Patton at October 13, 2004 08:01 PM


This is the same old hackneyed self righteous clap trap responce that I have come to expect when I make the occasional post! Or as your compatriots say. yada yada yada. America is not the last bastion of virtue and light and do not delude yourself in to thinking that its motives are selfless. By all means continue to love your country but do not deride the countries of others. You might think of yourself as a patriot but the nationalistic, jingoistic tone of your posts suggest's otherwise. Xenophobia is not a particularly nice trait, but then I'm sure you dont give a rat's ass?

Posted by: James at October 14, 2004 11:07 AM


I guess the way I slice it is this: Hussein weren't a nice guy, wasn't spectacularly civil or democratic or even that snappy of a dresser. All said and done, what's with the fundamental gripe about trying to install a democratic government.

I mean it seems to be getting to the point that it is not only required that the motives be pure, but that one also must lose out in order for any recognition of net positive benefit. Heck, if folks copulated using that model, we'd only have oral sex.

I don't think the rest of the world are necessarily these evil, venal people, but I would appreciate it if the rest of the world would get of my dick and quit telling me how evil and venal Americans are.

I don't reject the notion of calling a spade a spade - it's really one of the more effective ways of getting things done. But when it gets to the point that when we do anything nice, there's an automatic assumption that we're out to screw people. Take Somalia or Kosovo for instance - those engagments cost a lot more than they were worth, so an occasional pat on the back for something like that would be appreciated.

At the end of the day, I think a lot of people feel the same way about their country. I just wish that folks would take the time off from foaming at the mouth to recognize that folks on this side of the pond may feel the same way too.

Or not.

Posted by: Bravo Romeo Delta at October 14, 2004 04:18 PM

BRD......it is not up to the American government to install its version of democracy upon another state. That is not to say that there is anything wrong with the American model. I dont know the statistics but if America decides to champion the cause of democracy throughout the world, then it can look forward to a lifetime of wars and terrorist attacks. I despise totalitarianism but accept that dictators will always exist. Saddam was a monster, is a monster but he is by no means unique nor will he be the last of his ilk. China and Iran have pretty odious governments but do you think the world would be a safer place if Bush decided to go for regime changes in those countries? I dont think it would. The message would be wrong.

I am not suggesting that America is responsible for the woes of the world nor do I believe that Americans are "evil and venal". When I state America or Americans I refer of course to the president and his administration and not to the country as a whole. So when I write disparaging remarks, they are not directed towards the people of America but rather the president himself.

9/11 was indeed a terrible crime and the perpetrators should face justice. But 9/11 as dreadful as it was, does not give America carte blanche to do as it pleases. The war on Saddam was launched on dubious intelligence, an oxymoron whilst referring to the FBI and the CIA. That aside do you think the world is safer because saddam is behind bars? I dont, and I think it is only a matter of time before bin laden or some other group pulls off a "spectacular" such as 9/11. And all this is going on at a time when that Nazi bastard Sharon is doing his damnedest best to level the Palestinians.

What more can I say? I think the single greatest threat to world peace is another 4 years of George Bush

Posted by: James at October 15, 2004 11:16 AM

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