Category Archives: war

Where I Understand Suspicion Against Foreigners

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The reason you don’t provoke North Korea is because you don’t want to give them any more incentives to build bombs. Everyone knows that the United States has the biggest military power in the history of mankind with a nuclear arsenal that could destroy the whole world multiple times. It is annoying to hear all of this tough talk against North Korea and appeasement, when the US’ mighty sword has not resolved clean victories and lasting peace in most of the conflicts it got involved in since the Vietnam War. Since Donald Trump got elected, he did nothing but casually hurl inflammatory rhetoric at North Korea and annoy US allies in the region. It is difficult not to argue that it has increased the North Korean zeal with its weapons program as well as encourage inflammatory rhetoric from the North as well.

It doesn’t matter if the US has the bigger bombs, or that it could mete out “fire and fury” at North Korea. Fire and fury has not resulted in the defeat of ISIS, despite Trump’s promise to rid of the group within days of his presidency. This is a ragtag guerilla group which the most advanced military might cannot seem to squash. Military victory is not gained purely on might alone. And the reason why South Korea is wise in being cautious with its approach with its neighbor is that not only would a war cause massive casualties and upend the rest of the eastern Asian region, it would also harm innocent North Koreans in the process. It’s not just because some North Koreans might be related to people in the South, but North Koreans are also human beings, people who have the right to live in peace.

And what is victory in a war with North Korea? A destroyed regime which will result in a power vacuum, perhaps resulting in an Asian version of ISIS? A humanitarian crisis with refugees fleeing the country? A ravaged South Korea and perhaps other major cities in Asia as well? A crippled China, one of the few countries with a growing economy that is fueling a significant portion of the world’s industries? It doesn’t sound like victory at all.

Talks of war against North Korea are gross and shortsighted. It would feel good to punch a fat bully in the teeth, but you don’t starve your neighbors and punch everyone else as well in the process. Most South Koreans don’t worry about nuclear war with the North. They’ve learned to live in the standoff. It is only the US’ rhetoric that is making things a whole lot worse and war with the North that much closer. The Koreas have already suffered countless of times due to foreign powers. This was way before the two Koreas were divided because of the US and the Soviet Union, the reason why South Koreans have traditionally looked at foreign influences with trepidation. Again, North and South Korea is being threatened due to the meddling of foreign influences.

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A Bit of a Break

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A bit of a break from staring at the Joseph Merrick that is politics these days. It’s difficult, but I have to try hard and wean myself from my Internet habits. Even my Twitter hasn’t been that active, despite the occasional fights with neo Nazis.

Speaking of Nazis, I used to volunteer for a hospital when I was fourteen years old. I would help feed and generally assist in the care of senior citizens at Deer Lodge Hospital. It was a good experience, and I got to meet heroes who actually fought Nazis. One man, Mr. Thurston, actually suffered a bullet would while fighting in World War II. He kept the bullet that was meant to kill him, and I remember him telling me that his wife never had much love for the horrible trophy. The man was a hero, and though he passed away over ten years ago, I still remember our conversations.

Come to think of it, that hospital was filled with veterans. It was filled with dying heroes. It was famously the hospital where Tommy Prince spent his last days. It’s almost like a field hospital back in World War II. But instead of young men dying because Winston Churchill sent them to their deaths, it’s time killing old men slowly.

Ironically, to this day, there are still Nazis. There are still Nazis online ready to argue with you and ruin your day. There are still people who can’t enjoy Hugo Boss’ aesthetics without going overboard and donning a swastika armband. Nazis were evil people who lost a war. They were losers. Some people forget that. We should all live in a world where we just shoot Nazis in videogames, not where we argue with them online and in the media.

Oh shoot. That just got political again, didn’t it?

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On Fear and Admitting It

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I know where President Obama was coming from when he made the speech to commemorate the Sept. 11 attack. It was a good tribute to the victims of the attack as well as their loved ones. He used the moment to try to unite people into a common purpose, much like after the attack, when Americans were united, so much so that George Bush had a great approval rating.

What got me however when he said, “…as Americans we do not give in to fear. We will preserve our freedoms and our way of life that make us a beacon to the world.” This is simply not true.

While there was courage displayed after the attack, especially with the first responders, there have been so many actions which can only be described as being inspired by cowardice. Iraq was invaded due to fears of phantom weapons. Americans have surrendered their rights to privacy due to fear of terrorism. Airports have been a security nightmare. People have been tortured and locked up indefinitely because of fear. The Middle East has been destabilized exactly because of fear. It caused a ripple of nationalism and xenophobia which crossed over to Europe. And right now, a megalomaniac is close to becoming the president of the United States, running on fear against Muslims and immigrants.

You cannot say Americans do not give in to fear. Americans buy guns in exceedingly high numbers exactly because of fear. They fear terrorists. They fear gay people. They fear minorities. They fear their neighbors. They fear their government. Police officers shoot black people immediately because of fear. Fear is big. And as tragic as it is that 3,000 beautiful lives were lost on 9/11, because Americans were afraid, thousands more died in the Middle East afterwards.

What happened in 9/11 was a great tragedy. Out of that tragedy are stories of courage and strength of spirit. Unfortunately, there are far too many other stories of cowardice and cynicism. This cowardice and cynicism has a persisting and pernicious effect that adapts and evolves. It touches the lives of a greater number of people than the glimmer of bravery that shone in the face of 9/11. There were several great virtues shown after the attack, there were moments of true bravery, but you cannot honestly say that Americans do not give in the fear.

Americans gave in to fear, and the whole world felt it.

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Time Traveling Via NPR

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I’ve been listening to old ‘This American Life’ episodes. Over the weekend, I listened to ones that were broadcast right after the attack on the World Trade Center. Like a time traveler, it’s interesting to hear what people feel at the time especially their attitudes towards the US heading to war. As expected, I was annoyed at experts at the time, people like Rumsfeld, who are selling the war with a calamitous need for justice and assurance that America is going to battle in most well thought-out manner. He couldn’t have been more wrong about everything. It’s amazing that they still allow him on television as an ‘expert’ on anything these days.

What’s most interesting was episode 196, when the events of September 11 are examined through different perspectives. Much like the movie ‘Rashomon,’ stories change drastically depending on whose eyes you’re experiencing them through. Of course, people in the west were scared. They we scared of this nebulous terrorist threat. As a westerner, this was probably my default point of view. The west needed a target. It needed to get back at someone. Saddam Hussein has always been a “bad guy” through most of the 90s. Perhaps getting him would turn the scales back into a place of normalcy.

But then there’s also the Muslim point of view. In the episode, a Palestinian teenager explains about why the September 11 attacks doesn’t benefit the Muslims, but instead benefits the Jews in Israel since it puts the Americans into conflict in the Middle East, much like Pearl Harbor brought America out of isolationism in WWII. This of course is seen as anti-Semitic conspiracy theories from western point of views, and in my opinion, rightfully so. But to some Muslims, especially Palestinians and with the different biases between western and Muslim media skewering regional opinion, this could very well be a plausible explanation for the attacks. Another Muslim point of view is that of a former soldier from Iraq who had to reluctantly fight for Saddam’s army. Not a rabid supporter of Saddam, the man had to explain to his son why the normally pleasant and well-meaning Americans had to violently terrorize their city. Looking back on this now, if he had stayed in the Iraqi army, this man would’ve been out of job and perhaps forced to join ISIS by now.

Lastly, the show also looked at war from the point of view of some soldiers. Despite best preparations, war is hell, and things could turn bloody in any minute. It is always best to approach war with reasoned reluctance than with the zeal and optimism the world had back in 2003, when we were confident at shocking and awing the enemy into submission.

Episode 200 looked at the radio station set up by the CIA to help overthrow the democratically elected president of Guatemala in 1954, Jacobo Arbenz. It was an interesting examination of the power of radio back in the day and the way propaganda is used both during a conflict and long after, when myths cultivated. What I find most poignant however, is the comment by Prof. Nick Cullather, who says that while the US does have a responsibility to sometimes intervene in foreign countries’ affairs, it is far more difficult to face the magnitude of the task afterwards. It is quite easy to depose a leader compared to the difficulty of finding a suitable replacement. Just look at Guatemala after Arbenz, Syria in 1949, Iran in the 50s, Chile and the junta in the 70s. And now Iraq with the fall of Saddam has the whole Middle East in a quagmire.

Listening to old radio shows and “time travelling” is a nice distraction during my commute. However, I would’ve hoped our leaders had more insight to predict the future. Looking back now, we were all such fools back then. It is amazing that NPR had the courage and prudence to examine issues from different perspectives, especially with the national climate in 2001-2003. Unfortunately, being seen as an organization with liberal biases, I doubt that it or any other organizations like it would have their ideas taken seriously in the mainstream media.

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