Wednesday, July 09, 2003

David Adesnik makes sense. As always.
Consider the closing sentences of the Post's editorial:

In a world where "failed states" and regions of perpetual conflict are breeding grounds for terrorism, Africa is no longer as far away as it once seemed. Like it or not, its conflicts are now America's problem, too.

Now try this: strike the word "Africa" from the first sentence and replace it with "Southeast Asia", "Latin America" or any other place on earth. The sentence will still make just as much sense as it did before.

Why? Because the war on terror is global. And in a world with one superpower, nowhere is off limits.

There is more good stuff like this. However, the whole exercise smacks to me of an interesting study a saw a while ago. The work claimed that unlike an old adage, people actually learn from their successes, not their mistakes. When you succeed in something you look to repeat the conditions for this success. When one fails, next time a situation comes up there is a chorus of "it's different this time" which may, or may not be true. A simple example would be in order. USA (and UK) succeeded in demilitarizing Germany and Japan, turning them into prosperous democratic countries. Thus, it would make sense to try to duplicate such conditions in Afghanistan or Iraq -- flood the countries with soldiers, protect people who cooperate with the government, limit self-government until new democratic forces emerge and find popular support. And so on. Instead, we take a lesson from success of WWII -- overwhelming military force crushes enemy's army and graft onto the disaster of Soviet Afghanistan and our own Vietnam -- leave the governing to the locals, do not try to be occupiers, example of the "goodness" of the System (Soviet or American) will somehow transform the conquered country overnight.

It is pretty clear that drawing analogies from any to any event in history is possible. The trick, as always, is drawing the right analogy. I will be the first one to admit that it is not quite clear to me what can be really done about the root causes of Liberian, and West African in general, wars. If overpopulation is the problem -- how are we going to solve it? If it is improperly drawn borders -- we are not even planning to address that. We can convincingly argue that unabated poverty is a definitely major problem, but what can we really do about it? Industrialization is not an option at this stage of world development, eco-tourism will never sustain such large and rapidly growing populations, self-sufficiency does not work very well in the long run. I certainly do not have any answers, but I do think that asking proper questions is a requirement for drawing proper analogies.


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