What do you do when you lose a leg to a land mine, or the Coalition Forces bomb your village and you lose half a hand, or you're born with physical disabilities and you live in a nation that can't even provide simple infrastructure like railroads or regular roads, let alone health care services? You probably come to see your life limited to such a degree that the value of living is greater than simply ceasing to exist. Why not become a suicide bomber in a place where the insanity of nearly thirty years (the insurgency began in 1975) of constant combat have reduced any semblance of hope.
But what got me thinking today was what I read by Meacham in this week's Newsweek that suggests that America is a conservative country at heart. This was the quote that got me:
Eight years of Republican rule have produced two seemingly endless wars, an economy in recession, a giant federal intervention in the financial sector and a nearly universal feeling of unease in the country....I got incensed because it's the failure of the fourth estate (the media) to report KNOWN FACTS that has gotten us to this place in the world. There have not been two wars during Bush. The war in Afghanistan has been covertly and overtly fought by the United States for 30 years. The war in Iraq began during dubya's father's administration in 1989 and has continued through today.
Wha?! I thought we left Iraq and then returned 10 years later... Yes, the American tanks left, but the bombings continued sporadically. And you're missing the point: the sanctions were economic and financial warfare.
I've been reading Unrestricted Warfare, a document that seems to be a lit. review published by the Chinese military discussing warfare in the 20th century (at least so far as I've read, I'm still reading it). What's jumped out at me is their perspective on how the U.S. has been waging war. The purpose of their work is to stress that warfare, as fought by the U.S., is going to continue to be visited on its enemies in a number of creative and deadly ways (because America's still great at innovating).
Sure, there's some kinda odd stuff about George Soros being some sorta financial warrior (I'm trying to be generous and assume they are being hyperbolic with Soros for the sake of making their example more clear to the audience). But their description of economic warfare starts to really make sense when I started thinking about what the War in Iraq looked like to the rest of the world during the 1990s.
We in the U.S. were told the war in Iraq was over and that it had been mostly a success - we "liberated" Kuwait (a country where 90% of its residents are not considered citizens). We were told that there were economic sanctions in Iraq, but the popular understanding of sanctions is pretty sanitized in the U.S. I, for one, have thought sanctions meant no cigars are imported from Cuba to the U.S. and Cubans don't get American tourist dollars - no big deal. But the sanctions imposed on Iraq were a big deal. Perhaps a crime on humanity big deal.
More than twice as many children (just children) died as a result of the economic warfare put to Iraq during the 1990s (Please see my other post for the numbers and links to back it up).
Never mind that the near majority of Iraq's entire population has been under the age of 16 since 1987. That means that since 1989 America has been fighting a country dominated by children for going into 20 years.
If America is interested in reducing the number of people who feel marginalized and in search of a community (those who would become terrorists) - it should begin by stopping its war against children. In Iraq, an estimated 2.5 million children simply stopped going to school - their parents lost 88% of their income. That means not only can these people not read, they also know next to little about the outside world other than what the world has been dropping (bombs, depleted uranium, propaganda, and relief agency provisions) on them for the majority of their lives. Odds are that two generations of Iraqis have been living with simply no hope. What hope can you have in that situation? Look at how miserable so many Americans are when a hurricane messes up their gas supply; now imagine every aspect of your life was that messed up. Let's further assume that the next generation of Iraqi children will be raised by the above-mentioned crushed people.
What kinds of questions do you think they will be asking their teachers? What kinds of answers do you think their parents will have?
Better still: what are our children and our children's children going to tell them? America needs to begin to develop answers to these questions because the search for answers to these questions is going to provide the contours in which the world will be defined for the next several generations, just like the end of the colonial era resulted in the World Wars and the Cold War.
Expanding the definition of warfare to include economic/financial warfare is going to do a lot to equip us in the 21st century as we seek to understand how to minimize the destruction wrought by America's foreign policy.