Can Military Intervention ever work?

October 18, 2006

iraq-girlgun.jpgI wish, just once, a damn country doing a “military intervention” would do it right so we could see if it could work. Before the Iraq war I was a supporter of the idea as I support the idea of spreading democracy. Although I am a firm believer that democracy needs a lot of tweaking around the nipples to work properly, as the USA is currently finding out, it’s still the best system of managing human society we have come up with to date. A benevolent dictatorship might work better but that depends on you acquiring an intelligent, benevolent dictator. Fat chance.

So I supported it on the basis of deposing a dictator and bringing democracy to the country, something I would sorely have loved to happen in Zimbabwe, the DRC and Sudan. The people of the invading country, and they are that- invaders, have to be willing to make certain, large sacrifices.

First, to minimize civilian casualties thay have o be willing to lose more of their own soldiers. The US alone have lost 2,700 troops so far and a further 20,000 are injured. A country caring enough about others is hard to see these days but there have been times in our world where we have all been encouraged to care about what was happening beyond our borders, I am sure those days will return even stronger. In the future. Possibly, after this debacle, really rather far into the future.

Second, those countries that take it upon themselves have to be honest about the economic sacrifice. It will cost a fortune and every person in the country will be paying for it. Iraq has cost America alone $251 billion dollars. Lets do that in numbers, shall we. That’s $251 000 000 000. That’s almost $1000 per living person in America. And that’s just to cock it up completely, not make a success.

Third, army engineers need to come in directly behind the troops: within 24 hours. They need to make sure the people have (a) water and (b) power of some description. This is step one of hearts and minds, surely?

red-cross-nurse_1.jpgFourth, it is about letting the country’s residents know you, as a country, give a shit. Paying taxes at home doesn’t make the poor think you care about them and neither does letting the civilian population of another country know how much money it cost you personally. It’s probably cost them relatives, possibly even ones they liked. You need civilian volunteers, at least some with a knowledge of the local language, who will be risking their lives to bring food and medical supplies. Approaching the happy, moderate Islamic populations of the USA and UK to help out might have been an intelligent idea. This is step two of hearts and minds.

Fifth, democracy. Democracy starts from the ground up, not from the top down. Ask anyone who is forming a company and they will tell you you need to pay attention to each division and then insert management structures to communicate between divisions once the divisions are working effectively. Electing a Sheriff and a three deputies per block to represent the needs of those people to the invaders/ interim government/ cabinet and nationally elected officials gives people a say. Then give the necessary funds to those blocks through their elected officials and have auditing teams.

Let the people learn on the ground how useless a democratic governance system is. You need to lower their expectations as soon as possible. Once they spend a month in “block meetings” at local hallswith no street lamps ordered because everyone is fightin over what colour they should be painted and whether a “pooper-scooper” ordinance should be higher on the agenda they won’t expect too much from a national government.
So: really, really expensive.

If you had taken that $251 billion dollars and used it in Afghanistan you would have a thriving, happy democracy by now. Possibly. I think. Or at least everyone on both sides would have better guns.
It would be nice to find out.

One last point: you have to let the people know what a democracy is: It’s a system that splits power between a group of not-particularily-intelligent people (to limit the damage they might do) who you hire for 4-5 years to do a job and get rid of if they fail to deliver. I always wished we had done that here in Sunny South Africa, we would be a more potimistic country for it.

After all, democracy is slow, annoying and often stupid but it’s better than having a guy in charge who can order people to shoot you in the head because you wore the same sequined ball-gown he did to the Opera.

Would love comments on this one.


2 Responses to “Can Military Intervention ever work?”

  1. Oscarandre Says:

    I think democracy, as many people have said, is not perfect but just about the best thing we’ve come up with. Sure it gets influenced by those with big bucks (Anyone want to be mayor of NYC?), is ponderous, delves out equality to equals and unequals alike (joke!) etc etc. But, by and large, it works without the wholesale slaughter/torture/imprisonment of its own people. The fact that democracies can make very big mistakes (e.g. Iraq, Suez Canal, Chile) in no way negates its position as the prefered system of governance. Democracies are always fragile, however, and subject to abuse. Usually by a biased and manipulative media and self serving corporate, big money sector. Engagement in democratic processes and education are probably the only protections for the citizenry.

  2. Rebecca Aguilar Says:

    Amen, Oscarandre!

    Engagement! Because resistance has certainly become futile.

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