Contemplating Disengagement

I think one of the better posts I’ve written over the past five years has to be “Disengagement” and its sequel. Reading it over, more than two years later, it is discouraging how relevant the posts remain.

As much as we would like to clean up the mess in the Middle East, the fact remains that the reach of our military is limited. And as big as our bombs are, and as good as our personnel are, the sword the Middle East wields will always be bigger. They control the grease that keeps our economy moving. I like this as little as the next person. It is wrong that a country which refuses to let women drive and bans red roses on Valentine’s Day should have such control over our way of life, but that’s not going to change easily, and it’s not going to change with bombs. Our interference has typically only made things worse. Our best solution may be to walk away. Remove the control these countries exert over our economies, take off the kids gloves, and push for real democratic reforms.

Recently, I’ve detected an upsurge in boisterism and blinkerism by some of the individuals who remain hawks in the War on Terror. Some of these people wish to alter the nuanced (and more accurate) statement that we are at war with a fringe group of radical Islamic fundamentalists by removing the words “fringe”, “group”, “of”, “fundamentalists” and “ic”. They persist talking about the conflict in terms of a full scale war and they see those who question this approach as somehow blind, stupid or cowardly.

And some of these guys are a bunch of hypocrites.

As I said in my two posts, I am fully aware of the threat we face. I’m also fully aware that support for said threat does come from sources within countries that are ostensibly our allies, like Saudi Arabia. Questioning the merits of invading Iraq does not make me pro-Saddam. Likewise, I am not a fan of the political realities within a number of the countries within the Middle East, but there are things we can do short of the military conflict some hawks seem to salivate for.

Indeed, if as some of the hawks suggest, we are heading down the road towards a major and unnuanced conflict with the entire Middle East, why are we propping up our potential enemies with our gold? Why do we continue to purchase oil from Saudi Arabia? Why do we continue to trade with dictatorships at all, and not just within the Middle East? Why don’t we tell Walmart to get its butt out of China?

This is a question I put to a few hawks almost a year ago in this discussion on Stageleft. They initially tried to duck the question, and then one person gave me this answer:

But if you’re willing to commit our troops to fight terrorists overseas, then you should be willing to refuse to purchase any oil from countries cited for human rights abuses in the Middle East (such as Saudi Arabia).

No, we’d invade Saudi Arabia, throw out the religious extremists, and seize the oil fields, pipelines, and terminals. Fortunately, politics is the art of the possible.

So, will you advocate a complete boycott?

I’ll let the sanctimonious fools advocate cutting their own noses. My solution is to develop the alternatives, and then change use patterns. There’s no point taking a different fork in the road until we have a destination.

Very interesting. Very, very interesting. This individual would happily commit troops to invade Saudi Arabia, but when it comes to making economic choices which stops propping up the monarchy there, he balks. He is willing to ask the highest sacrifice of our soldiers, but he doesn’t wish to contemplate actions that would raise the price of the gas he pumps into his tank.

You know, the Second World War was not just about our brave soldiers storming Europe and blowing up Nazis, it was also about the sacrifices our men and women made at home, rationing their eggs, flour and gasoline, giving up their cars and taking public transit to work, accepting shortages in consumer goods as well as wage and price controls, engaging in rubber and paper recycling drives and socking away every last penny in victory bonds (loans to our government to fund the war effort). In short, transforming the entire Canadian economy into a machine to aid the fight overseas.

I almost never hear about what we can do economically to fight the terrorists and the groups that support them. We can still have a considerable impact short of soldiers on the ground if we would only change our purchasing choices; if we stopped propping up dictatorships both explicitly through our foreign policy, and implicitly by pumping Middle Eastern oil or buying goods made in China. Take away our money, remove the power these interests control over our economic wellbeing, invest those funds instead in developing democratic nations (like India), and the blow we deal in the name of democracy and freedom is great indeed.

Any hawk in the war on terror who advocates this approach has my respect, and support. Anything else is hypocrisy; a macho posturing that belies an unfortunate tendency to run home with one’s tail between their legs when such sacrifices like $2/L gasoline are called for.

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