This morning’s Boston Globe has a column by a fellow named Micah Zenko, “a research associate at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and a doctoral candidate at Brandeis University.” In his piece, Mr. Zenko has a simple solution to the world’s problems: an immediate end to all military occupations everywhere. He suggests that the US announce that this is the new cornerstone of our foreign policy, and we are withdrawing from Iraq immediately to demonstrate our commitment to the idea.
My head hurts at the mere thought of this notion. No average moron could conceive such a plan. Something this stupid can only come from someone far too educated.
First of all, let’s look at the examples Mr. Zenko cites: India in Kashmir, Morocco in Western Sahara, Turkey in northern Cyprus, and Israel in Palestine. I don’t know much about two of those, but the dispute in Kashmir is more of a territorial dispute, while the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is far, far more complicated than a simple “occupation.” For one, Israel tried not occupying Gaza, and look how well that has turned out.
Secondly, let’s look at a few “occupations” that Zenko omits mentioning. Let’s start with Syria and Lebanon. Syria insists that it is only there at the invitation of the Lebanese government, neglecting to mention that the government is mostly made up of its puppets — and a good chunk of those are members of Hezbollah, the terrorist group that has the blood of hundreds of Americans on its hands.
Thirdly, I find myself wondering just how Mr. Zenko considers enforcing his edict. After all, the standard final answer to such demands is force. The ultimate force is to invade and overthrow the government, then occupy the nation until a new (presumably friendlier) government is installed. Mr. Zenko is saying that we can’t do that any more.
Of course, Mr. Zenko recognizes certain exceptions to his plan:
There should, of course, be exceptions to a non occupation doctrine: international peacekeepers or foreign militaries authorized by the UN Security Council, peacekeeping or stability operations recognized by the consensus of international organizations such as NATO, short-term humanitarian interventions intended to prevent future mass killings such as the British intervention in Sierra Leone in 2000, and deployments welcomed by the recognized government of a state.
1) “(A)uthorized by the UN Security Council.” We saw with Iraq how easy it is to bribe the various member states of the UN Security Council (France, Russia), or how one nation can stymie the efforts of the rest to protect its own interests (China).
2) “(P)eacekeeping or stability operations recognized by the consensus of international organizations such as NATO.” Um… other than NATO, what organizations exist that could do such a thing? More importantly, what organizations exist that could do such a thing without the United States playing a key role?
3) “(S)hort-term humanitarian interventions intended to prevent future mass killings such as the British intervention in Sierra Leone in 2000.” As I recall, that was how the US involvement in Somalia started. Or how the French shot up a crowd in the Ivory Coast in 2004.
4) “(D)eployments welcomed by the recognized goverment of a state.” Ah, there’s the rub. As I pointed out above, Syria’s occupation is with the blessing of the recognized Lebanese government. Likewise, the US occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq are also with the acceptance of both recognized governments. Hell, back in World War II, the Nazis set up a puppet government (filled with all-to-eager-to-collaborate officials) in France. It’s standard operating procedure when you invade: set up a government friendly to your goals among the natives, and do your dirty work behind and through them.
A nice fantasy, Mr. Zenko. Pity it bears so little resemblance to reality.