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US policy failure: Puppet Governments vs. Culture change

One of the unfortunate realities of being the world power is that the disillusioned of every other country in the world will blame you for their problems. Unfortunately, when a world power acts like a playground bully – as the US has been doing on the international scene since the end of the second world war – they simply create more issues – and more real issues. The US has made it a policy to topple governments they don’t like – both by open war and by covert and subversive methods. When the puppets that are put in place stop following the US lead, they are simply overthrows as well. This is the reality of world power politics, and it is unlikely to change.A major bungle that the US has made in more recent history is the change from simply trying to force in governments that will do things our way to actually trying to change the cultures in the countries that we try to control. This is particularly problematic in the mid east, where the dominant culture is, from our point of view, misogynistic, barbaric, unchristian, and backward. By attempting to force western values and lifestyles on the mideast, we have greatly reinforced the religious fundamentalism that has created the current crusade against the US. Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and most of the rest of the mideast has always had some resentment of the role the US has played in controlling their governments (as does much of central and south america), but has always more or less tolerated it. They didn’t have much choice, because of they didn’t, the US supported government would simply squash the troublemakers. In rare cases, such as the US bombing of Lebanon, the US would act directly, but this was rare. As long as the US was the “man behind the curtain” our role was tolerated – not liked, but tolerated.

Once the US moved to center stage, we became the only target for dissatisfaction. Before this action, the puppet governments were the main target for revolutionaries and the local dissatisfied populace. Instead of assassinating the local puppet, suddenly the Puppet Master was highly visible and targetable. Not only were we setting up puppet governments, we were now open about it, and even worse, we were publicly condemning the cultures of the countries we were controlling. Through rhetoric and policy, the US has very successfully demonized muslims. Terrorists are identified by the muslim sect they belong to, and this propaganda creates the illusion that the muslim extremists are representative of all muslims. Imagine if the extreme christian right were viewed as the “norm” for christians in the US. Bombing abortion clinics would be OK. Gays would have no rights. Women would be home barefoot and pregnant. This is exactly the action that the US has taken with muslims. By making the connection between muslims and terrorists, we have, by default, made the assertion that all muslims are terrorists. In our attempts to create a “them” to fight against, we have associated an entire culture and religion with terrorism. The parallels between the Japanese in world war two and Muslims today are scary. US detention camps for Japanese americans in world war two were not all that different from Forced exrtaditions and Guantanamo bay. World war two propaganda against Japanese could be the templates for current US propaganda against muslims.

Having made the mistake of associating an entire culture with terrorism, we indicated that the culture itself was part of what we are trying to change. During the first gulf war there were countless stories of US female soldiers ignoring the local customs and laws. After all, they are US citizens and soldiers, so who cares what the local laws, customs, or morality requires? By the time the US administration realized this, it was too late. We had made it clear that we simply didn’t care what the local culture was – after all, we’ve got the big guns, so what can the locals do about it? Unfortunately, we have discovered what they can do about it – as proven by the constant stream of filled body bags that are sent back from Iraq and afghanistan.

By making it clear that the US was not willing to recognize the local culture, we also made it clear that if the locals cared about their culture, they had to make sure the US left – and left before they could force culture change. This meant that the tolerated US interference with local government took on a whole new meaning. Instead of a puppet government that was meant to ensure US oil supplies, any US puppet government became a threat to the local culture. Puppet governments were no longer a distant force that made no real difference in day to day life, they were a threat to every aspect of the local culture and religion. So when the US built a puppet government in Iraq that left the one muslim sect with almost complete power, it is absolutely no surprise that the nation broke down into a civil war. Of course, the “terrorists” that were (and still are) fighting against a US puppet government further fuel the US propaganda. After all, those “terrorists” are all muslims. And they must be terrorists because they are not just killing US troops, they are killing other muslims. Of course, when the police and military forces of the puppet government enter a neighborhood and wipe out a bunch of civilians that are member of the “wrong” sect of islam, it’s OK – at least by US policy.

The reality is that there is no “right” or “wrong” left in Iraq or Afghanistan. Anything that the US was trying to accomplish has completely failed – unless out goal was to throw the entire mideast into turmoil and civil war, and empower the radical extremists. As in Viet Nam, the US has reached the point where it is time to admit that there simply is nothing to be gained. That any chance we had of having a positive influence has been lost by arrogance, mismanagement, cluelessness, and outright incompetence. Oh yeah, and not having a goal to work towards.

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