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Let's back the wrong guy

Waiting outside of Crazy Arnie's Propane Barbecue Filling Station on Long Island, NY, I could not keep my mind from wandering to the subject of the combustible nature of Yugoslav politics. And not just the Balkan mess, but the crumbling of the Soviet Union and all the other political instability in the world.

People don't like instability. On some kind of basic level it frightens them, and it keeps them from predicting the future -- a painful torture for political columnists.

I think it is for this reason that some considerable wonderful global revolutions have received some condemnation and a whole lot of bad press lately. Once supporting the uprising of the Baltic states in the Soviet Union and the Kurds in post-war Iraq, the Bush administration has begun to back repressive forces that can maintain stability over smaller insurgent groups that match the United States' political bent. Issuing a wishy-washy statement opposing the independence movement in China and the Yugoslav republics, the Bush administration had to flip-flop to avoid political embarrassment. For whatever reasons, the present administration refuses to risk backing the wrong horse. Political analysts conveniently agree.

No one much questions the rationale for this policy, and it's a good thing, too, because none exists. Order mongers are quick to cite three sniveling reasons for helping out the bad guys: We can't get involved, we can't let instability flourish or it will lead to war, and we can't back the little guy (i.e., the loser) or we will damage relations with the bad guys.

Isolationist sentiment, while innocent and quaint, never really works. If we do not choose to involve ourselves in the affairs of other nations, we lose out -- in trade, in defense, and in global political concerns. Even worse, we set ourselves up to become the friendless victim of imperialist states, and aloof, selfish, ethically bankrupt global citizens.

The fear that sovereignty disputes and independence movements will lead to global war is my favorite sniveling excuse for order mongering, mainly because, like the best oppressive doctrines, it is universally accepted without justification. The argument goes something like this:

[el.5l]

1. Natives get angry at King.

2. Natives get restless.

3. Natives try to overthrow King.

4. [ix]Natives steal nuclear device from King and detonate it over King's palace.

[xi1]

5. Russians think Americans did it.

6. Russia destroys America.

7. America destroys Russia.

8. Everyone destroys everyone.

[el.5l]

The fundamental assumption people make is that just because the United States and the Soviet Union have large arsenals, they would be quick to intervene not only in foreign disputes, but with each other with little justification. With the world as unstable as it is, superpower leaders could not possibly be dumb enough to initiate global war on hunches or suspicions. While orderly Cold War society lived with hair-trigger tensions that could have easily ignited conflict, contemporary superpowers are more cautious. With more players now entering the global political game, the superpowers have to be cautious. While the chances of low-intensity conflict may be greater now, the chances that these skirmishes will escalate into cataclysms have nose-dived.

And this brings us to the last great reason to support the world's Hitlers, Saddams and Stalins -- to make sure that relationships with the bad guys are not damaged by helping the good guys. More a rationalization for doing nothing than a political doctrine, this assertion states that it is better to abandon a growing rebellion than risk the disapproval of the tyrant state. Better to applaud the massacre of students in Tiananmen Square than to anger the Chinese government.

Not only is this policy ethically unsound, but it subverts foreign policy to the actions of another nation -- in effect allowing another nation to extort support for its nastiness. The United States, under the banner of peace and stability, has allowed itself to become victimized mainly by the Chinese

and Syrian governments, two bodies who seek to counter US interests at every available moment, but whose support the United States believed it needed to fight the Persian Gulf war.

Fortunately for the lazy, biased appeasers who flaunt the peace and stability doctrine, this prophecy is self-fulfilling. By refusing to help a rebel party, they often guarantee its destruction. Order mongers often become not impartial observers, but the tools of the oppressive foreign regimes. In the rare event that the rebels win without our help, they, like the North Vietnamese who asked for US support in defeating their French rulers in the 1950s, will come to detest us with a passion.

The UN forces could have taken Baghdad, with or without Chinese and Syrian support, but didn't. The United States could have terminated Saddam's command, but didn't. The United States could have helped the Kurds win, but didn't. To the Bush administration: Don't excuse this obvious screw-up with calls for peace and order.

who

Matthew H. Hersch, a sophomore, is associate opinion editor of The Tech.

Isolationist sentiment, while innocent and quaint, never really works.

The Bush administration has begun to back repressive forces that can maintain stability over smaller insurgent groups that match the United States' political bent.

For whatever reasons, the present administration refuses to risk backing the wrong horse.