Friday, 9 September 2011

America should have acted like the bigger man

9/11 (2011) approaches and I am rather hopeful that our actions after this 11th September are significantly different to the last time that we had a year that ending in a "1".  

I am hoping they are different because I believe our actions were disproportionate, arguably wrong and unethical. Why so?

It would be disrespectful of me not to say that 9/11 was probably the worst crime, certainly of my generation and it should have been dealt with accordingly. The terrorists responsible should be prosecuted accordingly and if that means locking them up for a long time, then so be it. But ask yourself this, did the actions of that day really deserve two international wars, trillions of dollars spent on fighting an increasing number of insurgents, thousands of allied soldiers dead and far too many innocent Muslims dead or tortured. We not only over reacted, but the reaction was wrong.

I am going to explain why it was wrong or disproportionate, using a well known playground analogy, I hope you follow. In this analogy, I am the terrorists attacking the west, you are America/western world being attacked and the teacher is the peacekeeping UN. So metaphorically speaking, if I (the terrorists) approached you looking for attention, looking for a fight, so let’s say I poke you in the arm - in the real world, Al-Qaeda did this to the west in the form of 9/11. Under Bin Laden's vision of "Jihad", they attacked America's heartland, proclaiming that we want to be Holy warriors in Bin Laden's Holy War. They showed their frustrations that western forces are in so many of our Muslim countries, commonly killing innocent family or propping up corrupt regimes. 

You (America and the west) are now faced with two choices - in the form of human psychology or rational choice, what would you pick (hopefully rational choice)? Human psychology would be to fight back; nobody wants to be embarrassed in front of the rest of the playground (in this case the rest of the world). Or, more rationally and as we get told to do by parents and teachers, walk away and don't retaliate. Don't give me (the terrorists) what I am so clearly crave, attention and then a fight.

Sadly, and I think wrongly, America and rest of the west went on instinct or human psychology, and did what I would hope you or I would not. America retaliated on a massive scale, with what now looks like a rush of blood to the head. Within a month, America and the west had declared war on Afghanistan, fast forward two years and America and the west had declared another war, Iraq.  By declaring war, America has given Al-Qaeda a fight in the form of a Holy war and given them ten years of attention. It seems as though they didn't think to walk away and think about the next steps, not giving the terrorists a fight. They didn't listen to the teacher (UN), and walk away, refusing to be provoked. They didn't act like the bigger man.

However there are a couple of things to note. Firstly, Afghanistan and Iraq did continually provoke the west and it would have been very hard not to go to war. Afghanistan admitted to hiding Bin Laden but refused to hand him over. It could be argued that this forced America to go and find him. Did they have to declare war though; could they not have found him like they did in may? Iraq also provoked America to an extent. Saddam Hussein refused to let UN inspectors in and continued to ignore UN sanctions. Again though, he always maintained he never had nuclear weapons and to our current knowledge, he never did. The only evidence that ever said he did have weapons was found to be fake - see earlier post on Valerie Plame affair - Secondly, in my opinion the UN is not carrying out its role, if a country, even of America's stature, can declare war without approval. As a collective decision making body, the UN has a responsibility to stop countries retaliating irresponsibly. They should question the decision, like a responsible adult questions a child's decisions. Are you really sure you want to do this? Do you really want to get yourself in a very expensive, bloody fight that the opposition wants? The UN did do this for Libya, and the result was a so far, successful Arab spring.

To summarize, the reaction to 9/11 was always going to be difficult. 9/11 was so shocking and awful, that is was bound to cause a shocking reaction. No one likes to be attacked in their own backyard. But I think we over reacted (declared war. Our actions were irresponsible and reckless for countries claiming to be the world’s leading democratic nations

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