Guest Post: We’re Not In (Ar)Kansas Anymore, Hillary!
Submitted by Chindit17
We’re Not In (Ar)Kansas Anymore, Hillary!
As the US is on the verge of generating yet another self-inflicted wound in the Middle East, and another worldwide blow to its already depleted moral authority, many will wonder what prompts this sort of destructive behavior. While most everyone has a view, and while it is likely such easily predictable disasters stem from a combination of factors, there is one that is often overlooked. What is that one?
Somewhere along the way America’s various Administrations starting humming that irritating song from the Disney studios, “It’s a Small World After All”. It’s NOT a small world. It’s a damn big world. It is not just literally night and day on opposite sides. Oddly, it is also a kind of Schrödinger’s World, in that it is both smaller and larger at the same time. Modern communications, especially the internet, have shown us in immediate ways just how far apart we are.
US Administrations tend to think we’re all cut from the same cloth, and that one man’s desire is Everyman’s desire. US Leaders think that logic is logic, not considering that logic may well be the world each culture creates based on its own false assumptions.
How are cultures different? There are innumerable ways, but key is the differing views on religion, leadership, and the various political ideologies the world has embraced.
To give a quick example of just how completely culturally insensitive US Administrations are, consider the pre-Iraq invasion predictions of Neocon Paul Wolfowitz, a one-time Deputy Defense Secretary. Wolfowitz argued that the war would pay for itself via Iraqi oil sales. A trillion plus dollars later says his calculations were off, and that he misjudged the Iraqis' willingness to pay for their own destruction.
He said that Iraqis would welcome Americans as their liberators, with rose petals and garlands, though to be fair he probably did not know the term “IED” before Shock and Awe. He stated that the invasion would be the first step in bringing democracy to a wide swathe of the Middle East. Even if that last prediction is true, I’m not sure Wolfowitz remains such a fan of democracy, as “their” people’s choice is often not his people’s choice.
That’s the example, just to set the foundation. To be more illuminating in this description of cultural insensitivity, it is useful to compare cultural differences in the key planks of society, so that it might become clear why one size does not fit all.
One can start with religion. East and West could not be more different. In the Far East it is believed that whatever comes to a person in life is fate or retribution for something done in a previous life, though no one remembers either his offense or his glory. The rich deserve to be rich, the powerful deserve to be powerful, and the poor and impotent are equally deserving of not having what they do not have. It is of no importance how one achieved wealth or power; the mere fact of its existence is proof it is deserved. Hillary called one far Eastern junta immoral, which perplexed the junta because Hillary didn’t seem to realize the junta wouldn’t be in charge if past life acts hadn’t led to leadership as reward in this turn of the Great Wheel.
As for the poor and oppressed, they earned their current lot, but are encouraged to do better this time so that when the next iteration comes, which none will remember, things will be to their favor.
Westerners, of whom Americans are an integral part, built their worldview on an entirely different philosophy, which is best described as having been granted something called “dominion” by their god.
Westerners then go out and try to take control of whatever they can, believing that is what their god expects of them. They also only get one shot, and get either Door Number One (good) or Door Number Two (really bad) at exit time. Unlike in the Far East, there is no “better luck next time”.
There is a Third Way that falls somewhere between these two, where a person gets but one shot, but also gets immediate feedback. If a person does something and his god doesn’t immediately strike him down, then what he did obviously was not wrong, but rather the will of his creator. The perpetrators thus become their god’s instrument. These kinds of guys take chances. They engage in jihads, and the very fact that they do something and do not immediately burst into flames upon doing it (e.g., cutting someone’s head off on the internet), then their god must have willed it to be so.
By the way, and as an aside, Buddhism as practiced in the Far East is a religion, not a philosophy. Well, it is a philosophy to Westerners who embrace it, but to those brought up in it, it is every bit a religion. Buddhists go to the pagoda to pray for all the things they are not supposed to want, like wealth and power and material possessions that will impress the bejesus out of their friends and neighbors, and bestow lots of “face”. Some amongst them even seem to try to bargain and negotiate, as if they are saying, “Buddha, I know all this desire for wealth and power is wrong, but how can I be truly sincere in not wanting it if I haven’t had at least a little taste of it? I promise you I’ll come around to that Noble Path thing, but I think it is better to know for sure what I shouldn’t desire.”
Next to consider is the difference in views on leadership. In some parts of the world, especially areas where the US so often attempts to impose its will, rulers fall on a spectrum that runs from Brutal Strongman to the Callously Divine. To be fair, the Callously Divine shares some attributes with the Western God of the Trailer Park Tornado, or the God of the Bangladesh Cyclone, or the God of the Asian Tsunami, where there is Master Planning involved in what on the face of it appears horrific. The subtle difference is that the Eastern Callously Divine does things simply because it can and may well be acting out of spite or impishness, while the Western version supposedly has a mysterious hidden agenda.)
The West’s view of leadership operates on an entirely different spectrum, running from the Woefully Incompetent to the Assholishly Self-serving. It is this view, which the West refers to as “democracy”, that the US is intent on exporting to the rest of the world. It is clear why it presents problems, except, of course, to US Administrations. For them it always comes as a complete surprise when, for example, Palestinians choose Hamas, Iraqis choose a Sunni-hating Shi’ite who lives solely for revenge, or Egyptians choose the Moslem Brotherhood. It puzzles them further when the mob simply will not accept that “democracy” means majority rule (where majority is based on the collective net worth of Party voters and its willingness to drop some of that wealth into campaign coffers in exchange for a greater level of “equality” for the contributors), so that if enough people are angered by the majority’s decision, the angered can take the society back to Square One, aka Tahrir Square, and do it all again until the most aggressive can impose their own brand of democracy onto the majority.
Getting back to Paul Wolfowitz, it obviously did not occur to him that the removal of an admittedly bad strongman would unleash ten thousand years of pent up tribal rivalries and hatreds that merely took on a new name a millennium and a half ago as Sunni vs. Shi’ite.
Not only Wolfowitz, but everyone from Bush to Hillary to Kerry to Obama believes others are anxious to have rulers operating on the same spectrum as Western leadership. They simply are incapable of putting themselves in the position of these other cultures, nor use the logic of these other cultures, nor see that what Hillary-Wolfowitz-Obama et al view as desirable is simply not part of the mental lexicon of those the US arrogantly seeks to improve.
Now on the cusp of playing Einstein’s Idiot and doing it all again, with very predictable results of creating more enemies, losing more money, dramatically raising oil prices at a time when that will further hobble an already weak world economy, putting more domestic pressure on non-democratic allies who sit on a good deal of the world’s oil, and most important likely to cause more innocent deaths, the US is considering striking in Syria. This is to save some of the US’ enemies from other of the US’ enemies, for doing something whose end result (death) differs little in its finality from the hundred thousand souls who have already perished in Syria’s civil war, and which the US sat and watched as it all happened. The US lives by an odd calculus where gas is bad, but cluster bombs, depleted uranium, drones and Agent Orange are okay. Additionally, the US’ corrupt way of life (endless Wall Street bailouts, failure to criminally prosecute major campaign contributors or banks, Congressionally-allowed insider trading, repeated violations of the Fourth Amendment) is the paragon of virtue, while Assad’s corrupt regime is the opposite. We’re fighting for freedom over there so as to take attention off of the need to fight for it over here.
The Obama Administration believes military action will send a powerful message. In that, they are correct. Where they are wrong is in what message it will send and in what way that message will elicit a response. In much of the world where people share the religion common to much of Syria, the message will be: America attacks yet another Moslem nation. In the rest of the world, where governments have already declined participation in any message-sending action (except for the one exhibiting the quintessential Napoleon Complex), the message will be: there they go again, doing something they would never want done to them, and demonstrating that they alone think they can decide what deaths constitute a moral obscenity and what constitute mere unfortunate collateral damage.
Others will question why the US can tolerate, for example, two million needless deaths from starvation in North Korea without producing a military response, but is chomping at the bit to engage militarily after the sad deaths of a few hundred in Syria. This last point suggests it is not cultural sensitivity alone that prompts US action, but this writer will leave that discussion to someone else.
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