It is worth your while to view some of the podcasts on TED. There are many that are awesome. The one by Thomas P M Barnett is particularly spectacular. He has some strong suggestions on how war and peace should be tackled. His presentation, on the USA and war, is called The Pentagon’s new map of war and peace.
He starts with the premise that the world has politically bankrupt countries in which the ordinary citizens are raped, murdered, disenfranchised, tortured and starved to death amongst other horrific fates. With other words countries such as Zimbabwe, Sudan or Burma have governments whose actions against their citizens go even beyond what one considers crimes against humanity.
These are countries where the powerful few, often supported by the military, have terrorised the population to such an extent that the people are incapable of helping themselves out of their situation. Today’s article in the Independent discusses the plight of Burma and its citizens. The list of atrocities against the people is horrific.
What does the world have access to, to stop this? The United Nations can discuss, vote, send through written condemnation, and possibly gather together a few peace keepers to deploy where outright fighting is happening. It might even consider some sanctions against the country, which will of course harm the ordinary people more than the elite who have stashed their money away in safe havens. None of the actions has any teeth to move the accused politicians towards better behaviour.
Inevitable the world tends to look towards the USA to move troops in and topple the evil government, with the wish of bringing fair and equal democracy to that country. Time and again, the citizens of countries are pleading for intervention. Recent pleas have been sent out by Zimbabweans or displaced people from Darfur living in dreadful conditions in refugee camps. In the past, the United States has been critisised for not stopping the genocide in Rwanda.
So what has gone wrong in Iraq and what is happening in Afghanistan? Both countries were politically bankrupt and required help. In both instances the people were thankful and happy that the United States and Allies intervened and toppled evil governments and supported democratic elections. Yet in both cases the prospect of peace has long disappeared and the local folk now hate the States and its Allies.
This is where the solution, as presented by Thomas P M Barnett at the TED conference is worth considering. He maintains that what is expected of the USA armed forces has been delivered in that they win wars, and very quickly. However, what the USA is not as good at, is guiding the transition periods towards peace in the country. This results in the USA being hated and vilified for being occupying forces rather than peace keepers, rescuers and rebuilders of nations.
Dr Barnett quite rightly points out that the US army is not trained or equipped to take over the transition or set up the systems and processes required for peace. The suggestion is that a people’s army so to speak, moves in to rebuild the country as quickly as possible at the same time ensuring that proper political and humanitarian processes are implemented and maintained.
This force that moves in after the malfunctioning political system has been overthrown, should include specialists from a range of disciplines such as food relief, health care, administration, construction and other build services. This would be an army that is totally equipped to rebuild a country, not only repairing what was ravaged by the war effort, but also what was destroyed by the previous political dispensation.
In the case of Zimbabwe for instance an entire economy would need to be rebuilt, farms taken care of, financial aid provided so that the country could again buy electricity and oil. It would probably not require a huge military effort to overthrow Mugabe. A week’s work by a unit of the American army would do the trick. The redevelopment of a shattered economy would require more effort and of a different kind to what the military might offer.
Do yourself a favour and listen to this excellent talk on TED. The topic really could do with some strong debate. After I had listened to it, I must say, it was the first time that I had a feeling of sympathy for President George W Bush and the war he has gotten himself into in Iraq.
However, having said that, the talk did not quite persuade me that it is right to interfere with the use of a military super power in the internal politics of a malfunctioning country. That does not mean that I could possibly condone a government, as for instance in the Sudan, that has allowed 250 000 of its citizen to be killed in the last 15 months or so sat back and watched a further 2 million become refugees.
What’s even worse is the fact that I cannot offer a better solution. I just think that too many innocent people get killed, during any war, adding to hardships suffered by the population. Collateral damage is just not something I can live with either. But what can one do to stop leaders such as Mugabe, Senior General Than Shwe and his militia and Pres al-Bashir committing crimes against their own people? It’s a huge question, to which I do not have a humanitarian answer. I’m just not sure I would want to send a killing machine in. You may view and listen to podcasts on http://www.ted.com.
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