Perhaps never in the history of human civilization has there existed a
circumstance where a group of peoples not only retained a position of
ultimate power, but did so benevolently and peacefully, as the Western
Europeans and the United States* in the last half of the 20th century.
These nations reverted from previous acts of colonialism and domination
to a sudden freeing of their vassal states the world over. Within the
West, there was never such a tightly knit international force for peace.
- This statement is made with acknowledgment that some reports calculate
over 6 million “silent” deaths (i.e., those not related to a direct
state of war or police action, as in Viet Nam) occurred in foreign
nations under the guiding hands of American and Soviet interests,
however, these deaths are not official.
The West stood as a shining beacon of democracy and freedom, especially
placed against the harsh rule and growing threats of Soviet and Chinese
Of course, no system is perfect. The sudden dismantling of colonial
states resulted in massive power vacuums, leaving pre-industrial,
largely tribal, societies to erect their own devices of state. The
states themselves were often poorly divided between ethnic groups, drawn
for convenience instead of balance. In the best cases, popular monarchs
were left in power of a slightly democratic assembly. In the worst
cases, idealistic or military leaders rose to power, to be supported or
executed by either the United States or the Soviet Union in their
international game of chess. Each regime change brought increasing
tensions between groups on all sides, and increased hostilities. The
post-colonial nations were wholly inadequate to support themselves
politically, economically, and socially.
This is the part where, some may suspect, I would rail against the West
for its complete lack of responsibility in interacting in foreign affairs.
Instead, I’m going to rail against the West for its complete lack of
responsibility in NOT interacting in foreign affairs.
It is a common enough “moral dilemma” – having your neighbor’s house on
fire, and knowing they are trapped inside, do you run in and save them?
Or any other of a number of “philosophical” choices (flip the train
switch to kill a person you know instead of 5 you don’t, selectively
kill 1 person to prevent the killing of 20, etc).
I break off at this point and cede the floor to a man named Romeo
Dallaire, formerly of the Canadian Army, and the man who oversaw the UN
mission in Rwanda that saw the genocide against the Tutsi people. He
wrote, while undergoing therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder after
returning from the disastrous mission:
Sobering, and unrealized. Almost as silent as the cries of people the
world over. As ignored as the piles of reports generated by humanitarian
NGOs, which frequently have better data and ground-sources than the
United States, because so little energy is put into hearing them. In
fact, more energy is put into willfully ignoring them.
Sudan. Rwanda. Somolia. Liberia. Congo. Croatia. Bolivia. Colombia.
Nigeria. Bosnia. Nepal. Timor. Myanmar. Pakistan. Burundi. Laos.
Lebanon. Uganda. Afghanistan. Peru. Indonesia. Cote d’Ivoire. Iraq
The list goes on. And those are only countries with ongoing armed
conflict between groups, political and/or ethnic. If you want to throw
in the countries where there are mere human rights abuses, it becomes
Where is the Coalition of the Willing? Why is Western Europe, on its
perch of moral superiority, so tame? Why, in this one point in history
where so many nations can actually work for global peace together, are
we so divisive and ignorant?
Why is the United States unilaterally pursuing conflicting isolationist
and imperialist paths?
Why is the United Nations so toothless, in both giving aid (medical,
educational, industrial, agricultural, etc) and enforcing peace?
Why is there no volunteer corps willing to fight for these people?
Why is the media deafeningly silent on all these issues?
Why, at the prick of a needle, do we as a global society withdraw?
Why are we so cowardly?