Thursday, September 29, 2011

Balance in US Foreign Affairs

By Dick Bennett
     I like the principle of balance, of mental or emotional steadiness, proportion, harmonious integration.   You know the expression to explain a loud outburst:   He’s temporarily off balance.   Philosophers have extolled the “Golden Mean”:  the equilibrium of not too much, not too little.  A balanced diet.  Balance of nature.   Balance of trade.
     It’s true in foreign policy too.   Balance of power.  Balance of terror.  Consider US wars.   We were Westward once.   Four hundred Indian nations exterminated.    Two-thirds of Mexico expropriated.
      We don’t hear much about the Filipino-American War (1899-1902).   About a million Filipinos died directly or as a result of the US scorched earth pacification campaigns.  Various forms of torture, such as “water cure” (familiar to us today as waterboarding) were systematically applied on prisoners.    One historian described the unjustified invasion and occupation as an “orgy of racist slaughter,” while the perverse mainstream public tolerated and sometimes celebrated the horror.
       This was all a problem of Westward imbalance.   We got out of balance Westward.    It took a long time, but eventually we regained our balance.   World War One was a start.  Then World War Two in Europe balanced the Pacific Campaign   And finally,  after Hiroshima and Nagasaki,  the Korean War, and  the Vietnam War, after assessing our gains and losses Westward and not feeling as reassured as we thought we would after so much expense and so many lives, we turned eastward in search of  equipoise..  
        UNICEF reported that as a consequence of the First Gulf War invasion and decade of bombings of Iraq 500,000 children died.  Secretary Albright said it was worth it.   Then we invaded Afghanistan.   The US makes no body count in these eastern wars, but Wikipedia estimates possibly 37,000 Afghans have been killed since the 2001 invasion.  Wikipedia cautions that all counts are probably underestimates.   The body count in Iraq is so contentious that Wikipedia resorts to citing estimates by various private organizations.   Iraq Body Count using WikiLeaks revelations gives over 150,000. Iraqis directly killed. gives 2744 coalition forces killed in Afghanistan and 4794 in Iraq.   Of course, and for all of these statistics, the indirect deaths (health infrastructure destroyed) may double the count.
        But despite these counts, we cannot say we have balanced West with East, for Eastward slaughters are small compared to Westward, but these wars are new, and our newest president and generals believe in balance.
      To make this argument iron-clad, we only need to remember that US wars in Central America  function as the balance pole.     Invasions to the west, invasions to the east, and in between invasions southward of Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Grenada, Panama, and Nicaragua.  
       The gratifying symmetry of it all proves admirable forethought in global planning for security by our leaders.  

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