Many years ago, I recall listening to a pundit’s warning on the PBS McNeal-Lehrer Report that a time might come when the world would look back upon the simpler days of the cold war when all the United States had to worry about was Soviet containment. Once the shadow of the Russian bear disappeared, he said, smaller nations would feel free to reopen old grudges against their neighbors, particularly in Yugoslavia and the Middle East. At the time, I remember thinking his prognosis was absurd. What could be worse than the threat of a nuclear holocaust?
In hindsight, we should have paid more attention to the man’s warning. As writer Michael Kinsley points out, since the Soviet Union’s dissolution the United States has failed to replace containment with a new global policy, one that can deal with the revolutions, uprising, and rebellions that have jarred the planet in the 21st century. (“The Fire Every Time,” Vanity Fair, 9/2014 pg. 216) So far, our response has been to send drones to affected areas rather than boots on the ground. Sadly, the effect of using that technology has been to inflict more pain upon civilians rather than upon the enemy. By way of example, in World I the estimated ratio of deaths between soldiers and civilians was 1 to 9. Today the figures are reversed. In Iraq and Afghanistan alone, 9 civilians die for every 1 soldier. (Ibid, pg. 216.)
But drone attacks are not the only way civilians suffer. Sanctions take their toll, as well. And isn’t that the point of sanctions: to make civilian miserable in the hope of causing an uprising? Unfortunately, the power to affect change rests with the elite who have weapons and can buy their way out of sanctions and so only the powerless and the innocent suffer. (Ibid pg. 216)
Despite our good intentions, the United States is like an elephant trying to keep the peace in a glass house. What we do best is blunder and we’re getting pretty good at it. Waging war on civilians is insane. Kinsely’s right. We need a new strategy and I have one. Let’s buy the Sarah dessert and rename it Jhadic Park. We’ll invite anyone with a grudge or a hate, or with an ethnic or religious prejudice to go there. We’ll agree to provide an unlimited supply of arms to each participant and invite these folks to blow out each other’s brains. We’ll let the sands of the Sahara bury them and the rest of us who want to stop hating can live in peace.