During the last to night time basement biking sessions I’ve watched the movie Katy?, see here and here for more. In the context of the some of the conversation that arose today over my short essay on the UN some remarks come to mind. One commenter (JA) remarked:

This distinction is really just a symptom of the deeper distinction — the right, being more nationalistic, looks at the UN solely from a what-can-we-get-out-of-it point of view, while the left, being more humanistic, believes that the same principle that says a nation’s citizens should have a say in their government also says that the nations of the world should have a say in whatever passes for global “government.”

Yet this gets it backwards.

But first, we must look at Katy? (or the zbrodnia katy?ska) … or at the very least, the film. Most of the movie, prior to the final scenes, the story and plot centers on the impact this had on wives, families and those impacted during and after the war. In fact the actual war is never really seen or felt. The narrative concentrates on the domestic situation. There is a tension between accommodation with power, as the Soviets returning in the “Rising” decide to change history … and put the official story, that the massacre occurred in 1941 not in 1940 and therefore the blame lies with the German. Everyone knows this is false. It is, however, prison camp or death to say or publicly be known as holding the (true) opinion that it was done at Stalin’s order in 1940. The tension and pain involved in the choice of living the lie, when one knows or believes that it will be generations before the truth can be told, and more immediate obvious pain of not giving in becomes immediately apparent.

In the above quoted remark, the “left” sees itself as being a party of principle and not of accommodation. Yet this is a chimera, a mirage. For it is in fact the left doing the accommodating and playing the appeasement role with the true evil of this world … and what is worse, unlike the Poles in post-WWII Soviet dominated Poland they do it from a position of power not of weakness as the subjects of terror. e.g., give full accord and security council rights and privileges to a China during the cultural revolution. After all, those who are killing millions surely deserve “a say in whatever passes for global ‘government'”. We’ll just have to pray they wash their hands before coming to table, shall we?

Yes, the right looks at the UN from a “what-can-we-get-out-of-it” point of view, in the sense of “getting” more equality, more freedom, and more prosperity in the world. Now in a cold war world, where there was more of a parity between the coercive powers in the world and the (more) free … this was a far harder far narrower road to walk. War is in fact a last resort. But today, the cold war is over. The enemy is many but individually they are weak and power. Perhaps, Mr Collier is right, the true enemy to global peace and stability is contained in his phrase the bottom billion. That the UN and other such organizations are largely irrelevant except where they are unhelpful. For as judging by the advice given on how to best repair the bottom billion it seems evident to me at least that very few of these solutions (and much of the non-solutions) are provided by the UN’s services. Yet, “what-can-we” (where “we” is the global community) “get-out-of-it” is exactly the question and the answer seems pretty clear. Not much.

So where than can we turn? One partial answer might be found, surprisingly enough in the COIN manual published by the US Military. The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual is a surprising little book. It is not a “strategy” or a particular tactic. One of the consistent factors of this manual, which repeatedly arises during the reading of this book, is that most of the COIN operations are not expected to be done by the military. There is an expectation that civilian support and aid structures be used to teach, to help build infra-structure and so on. Most of the COIN tasks are not in fact best accomplished by the military, which in fact is best only suited to a few COIN roles. However as it is repeatedly noted, there will be many situation in which the military will be called on to substitute in these roles. If one were to be serious about the bottom billion and trying to use the best methods in each unique situation oddly enough those same civilian non-military organs might also be best suited to do provide real assistance in areas where there was no COIN operation in place at all. To rephrase, exactly the same civilian structures which would be best suited to assist in COIN operations and for which the military is at present in Iraq (and perhaps someday in Afghanistan) subbing in for those missing actors, would likely be best suited for also finding ways to best assist the non-threatened bottom billion countries for which a COIN operation is in fact not indicated.


Filed under: Foreign PolicyGovernmentMark O.

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