In the aftermath of the war in Iraq, the U.S. is still seen as the world police and the defender of human rights. Since we have a history of removing corrupt dictators, many expect us to intervene against Gaddafi in Libya. Although we cannot condone his regime, now’s not a good time for us to get involved in yet another budget draining war. We are in one of the worst recessions since the great depression, unemployment is at 8.9%, public sentiment towards getting embroiled in a war overseas is weary, and as we have learned from our recent involvement in Iraq, war can take an awful long time. Once you get rid of an evil dictator, you still have to rebuild the country and deal with local terrorists who deeply resent outside intervention. Though his regime may be unjust and there is a large portion of his population who want him gone, Gaddafi still has many loyal subjects and control of powerful weapons.
On the subject of human rights, China still carries on infringing on its citizens’ free speech, torturing and arresting political dissidents and ruling over the internet with an iron fist. There is little we can or will do about that, as China is still the largest foreign holder of our national debt and a force to be reckoned with. And though the country has plenty of coal, it does not promise to be an abundant source of oil. As we have already seen in Tunisia, Egypt, and now Libya, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Morocco, enraged citizens fighting for justice sparks a powerful chain effect. If we did get involved in the Middle East and North Africa, we would be in it for the long haul, and chances are, we wouldn’t be able to stop at helping just Libya. Our country is already mired in fear and suspicion; our border security is at an all time high and Arizona has put racial profiling into law, as we try to combat the devastating impact of terrorism and illegal immigration. Pregnant women are being frisked at airports, the Patriot Act allows the government to monitor almost all aspects of our lives, and citizens of Middle-Eastern descent are often regarded with a measure of suspicion. All of these measures may indeed prevent another 9/11, but it also creates increased hostility and negative sentiment, both in potential terrorists and even our own citizens who resent the intrusion on their privacy.
Although it might seem a touch far-fetched, and though the veracity of his stories have been largely questioned, I believe Greg Mortensen’s message still provides an insightful proposition. As detailed in Three Cups of Tea, his mission is to promote peace (and thereby fight terrorism), by educating kids in Pakistan and Afghanistan who might otherwise be recruited into a school where they would be indoctrinated to become jihadists. Of course humanitarian efforts have their limits and sometimes military intervention is the only course, but the indoctrination of young minds is a very powerful weapon. Take for example Hitler’s youth. Young people are passionate and easily swayed. Just as they can be molded into a weapon of destruction, they can also be mobilized to be advocates for human rights. As in Tiananmen Square, the youth showed immense courage and conviction in the face a formidable and ruthless government. Maybe as the designated world police, the U.S. needs to expand our outlook. Instead of just waging a “War on Terror” maybe our strategy, like Mortenson’s should embody “Promoting Peace” by supporting humanitarians like him in building schools for the impoverished and the marginalized to prevent them from resorting to desperate measures.