Thursday, March 24, 2011

Another War

I was accompanied by snow on my route these past few days. Monday's flakes were especially big, fat and sticky. I tried to enjoy them knowing that it could very well be the last of winter's white blanketing of our lawns and cars. Also, last weekend featured what the press was calling a "supermoon". While it was certainly full and looked rather large when low on the horizon, I didn't think it was as impressive as others I have witnessed since my recent purposeful awareness of my environs. Perhaps all the hype took away from the pleasure but the supermoon was not as spectacular as billed. For me, the best show was last Saturday's moonrise which I saw as I travelled with my son to bring him home for spring break.

As if we weren't engaged in enough military expressions, President Obama decided to join (some might say form), a coalition of western allies to attack Libya. Our old friend, Muammar Gadhafi has been killing his own people as they rise in protest of his authoritarian rule. Like the wave of freedom-seeking protesters that has swept across the Middle East these past few months, those in Libya are expressing their anger at decades of poverty and pain for the people while the comforts of oil money stay in so few hands. It is a scenario, with or without the oil connection, that is playing out in Egypt, Yemen, and Tunisia among others, and has implications for any eastern or western nation where the young have awakened to their plight.

While I understand that, in this case, the Libyan leadership was using more modern weapons at their disposal to quell the unrest than did some previous dictatorships, I have to wonder why we didn't intervene, militarily, on the side of any of the other citizen protesters. Perhaps because we dislike Gadhafi more than Mubarak in Egypt? Perhaps because there is oil in Libya but none in Tunisia? If the same type of protesting began tomorrow in an African country, would we call on the United Nations to intervene? If it happened in Saudi Arabia, would we create a no fly zone and shoot down the Saudi's American made planes?

I am glad that I am not in President Obama's shoes. I can only imagine the pressure he was under to "act" in support of the Libyan protesters or face the usual political pundits who would claim his hesitancy reflected a "deer in the headlights" reaction typical of his presidency, at best, an outright hatred of freedom at worst.

For me, I can't quite grasp how it is so easy for us to justify killing others in the name of freedom. And, even more baffling, how the winner in these conflicts is always in the right, as if they are divinely blessed. For all the millions of people who have been slaughtered throughout history by superior military forces, it must be difficult to swallow the realization that they were killed by the grace of someones god.

Perhaps this has been suggested already, so I don't want to assume I didn't hear it somewhere in passing, but it occurs to me that this wave of protest is a reflection, not of our military excursions into Iraq and Afghanistan, not a result of President Bush's drive to bring democracy to the world, not even because current President Obama has reached out to the Muslim world in a way that no previous president.

I think these protests, driven mostly by the young, are due to the power and pervasiveness of social media. Yes, it is Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerburg and Jack Dorsey whom we should thank. In the last 20 years, their creations have spread the concepts of freedom and self determination, and the rights for all human beings to enjoy those freedoms more quickly than in the previous millennia of human existence.

So, perhaps rather than spending $850 billion on defense and the military, the United States should spend, lets say $10 or $20 or even $50 billion dollars instead towards supporting the continuation of the flow of information. Then we will have more than enough money for proper funding to fix the infrastructure of our country, and to maintain the many other domestic programs we cannot fund due to the incredible cost of waging war.

Yes, while we will have to put up with U-tube videos of stupid pet tricks and celebrities gone wild, we will also provide the millions of under 20's who reside in these suppressed countries the means to experience our freedoms. It is only a taste that they need, their youthful energy and vigor will provide the rest. After all, where previous totalitarian regimes always sought to repress newspaper, TV and radio, they now target Facebook and Twitter instead.

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