Sunday, September 28, 2014

More by honey, than by vinegar

First things first, light and easy, then the heavier stuff.

I took a couple days off fitness stuff there, not because I was hurting, just that stuff was happening.

We had our first yoga class of the season. I've been missing it big time. I don't know how Fiona crammed so much stuff into class. We kept flowing and flowing and doing stuff and it was all great and I kept on wondering when it would end. Not in the sense I wanted it to end, but wondering when she would say oops, that we had gone over time. It's all good.

Today I ran up towards the reservoir for the first time in a long time. So many broken trees, so sad. It felt wonderful! I was going nice and easy, trying to run slowly, and this is how it turned out. 45 minutes, 6.5 K.

Here are two of the reasons I didn't get much writing done this weekend.

To say nothing of taking the time to enjoy this.

We all know the saying "you catch more flies with honey than vinegar." There are many variants, and the saying is millennia old. We teach it to our children.

Let's look at recent history and see if some nations have been smart enough to learn from it. After World War I the Allies imposed crippling reparations on Germany. Historians can argue the fine points, but that's one of the major pieces leading to World War II.

Things were a bit different then. The USA created the Marshal Plan. It funneled about $17 Billion (late 1940's American dollars, about $160 Billion 2014 dollars) to Europe to rebuild. The result? Europe went from rubble to surpassing pre-war production levels by 1952.

Japan's ashes and rubble were radioactive in 2 places, so they were starting off even further behind. Still, funds flowed to them and other Asian countries, some of which had been recently bitter enemies. As a child I remember adults joking about the shoddy quality of products made in Japan in the early 60's. That joking didn't last long, and Japan quickly became one of the advanced economies of the world.

That's not to say it's all rainbows and unicorn poop. Economists argue that the money distorted the economies, or was done merely to blunt the influence of the Soviet Union, or subsidized European powers in trying to revive their pre-war empires. I'll let the historians and economists argue about it.

Still, the big picture is that the winners of the war aided the losers, and now nobody could conceive of America going to war against Germany or Japan. The modern period of peace and prosperity in Europe is one of the longest, perhaps the longest in history. No brainer, support works, reparations don't.

The lesson should have been that spending money and helping people is one way to make friends and influence countries. Did America learn? No. Here's a list of countries that the USA has bombed since the end of WW II, copied from here.
Afghanistan 1998, 2001-
Bosnia 1994, 1995
Cambodia 1969-70
China 1945-46
Congo 1964
Cuba 1959-1961
El Salvador 1980s
Korea 1950-53
Guatemala 1954, 1960, 1967-69
Indonesia 1958
Laos 1964-73
Grenada 1983
Iraq 1991-2000s
Iran 1987
Korea 1950-53
Kuwait 1991
Lebanon 1983, 1984
Libya 1986, 2011
Nicaragua 1980s
Pakistan 2003, 2006-
Palestine 2010
Panama 1989
Peru 1965
Somalia 1993, 2007-08, 2010-
Sudan 1998
Syria 2014
Vietnam 1961-73
Yemen 2002, 2009-
Yugoslavia 1999

Or actual interventions, maybe that's a shorter list. Maybe not. That's 70 countries, and not counting past the mid-ninties. Or if you really, really want to be depressed, look here to check out the entire list of US military operations. I'm not sure of the complete definition of 'operations', but there sure have been a lot of them, and this isn't counting CIA operations.

My point is that out of all those countries, how many are friends with the USA right now? It's a much, much shorter list. These military operations cannot be described as a productive use of resources in any way at all. They have wasted an enormous amount of money, and made things worse for the USA and everybody else. These operations have created a near endless supply of militants pissed at the USA.

Picture the world in 1945. Nearly every country in the world is in ruins. Canada, who's military is currently a running joke, was one of the strongest military powers in the world. Our economy was one of the biggest. The marshal plan happens, and the world sees the restoration of those economies. Now Canada is a mid-rate power at best. The USA chose to try to keep their dominant position by force.

We can see how well it's worked out. It's one of the most reviled countries in the world. The USSR was often described as a third world country with an almost first rate military. This is rapidly coming to describe the USA. Canada is taking after the USA, and following the same path, much to my dismay.

Imagine now a crucial difference in foreign policy. Rather than trying to contain the Soviet Union through military force, the USA decides it's going to compete by demonstrating how effectively a free market economy produces goods and services. Like this:

  • Rather than paying farmers to not grow crops, the government buys them and ships them to where there are food shortages.
  • The government pays, one way or another, to produce medical and educational staff for mobile facilities that can be quickly moved to where ever needed.
  • In the same way, they train and provide technical staff for mobile facilities that desalinate sea water to provide clean water.
This would cost money, no doubt. Lots of money, even. But that money is producing useful goods and services, and is much, much cheaper than bombs and other military gear used only to destroy. The evidence of post war Europe says that money is returned my times as that country rebuilds and grows.

And admittedly, there would probably need to be some military presence to protect these workers. No, really, to protect them and not use the facility as a springboard for further adventures. The idea would have been to educate a generation of people who could build and staff their own permanent facilities.

Had they done this post war, supported the growth of democracies by respecting the wishes of the electorate, rather than overthrowing democratically elected governments, provided valuable services for a few decades at most, what would have happened?

Well, I think it's pretty hard to have a bad opinion of a country, of a people, that did that. You might believe they have a sinister motive. You might believe it was done to integrate the local economy with the American one for the good of America and Americans. You might believe it was neocolonialism. And maybe it is. 

But picture someone that believes that, trying to raise an army against the Americans. First you've got to overcome the good will generated by food, water, medical aid, and education. Try convincing someone who's children were fed, and had diseases cured by such people, that they should take up arms against them. That's tough sledding in comparison with trying to get people to fight back against various forms of military adventurism. 

We know from WWII that bombing cities does not break the will of the population. The people getting bombed in England and in Europe and Japan carried on. You will not win friends by bombing them. You will not get them to change their minds. You only raise children determined to avenge their parents, and get some of their own back. Which we've seen happening. It will only get worse.

The entity that calls itself ISIS isn't a state. It isn't a country, or a government, or even a religion. It's barely an organization. Bombing the territory it occupies is futile, a waste of time and money. Trying to kill the fanatic foot soldiers is like trying to bail out a boat with a pasta sieve. No. The only way to deal with this, is to give the people a better idea. One that gives them and their children hope for the future. 

Even though hope is cheap, it can be difficult. So much easier to make, and drop bombs. It's a well understood, tried and true business model. So very sad.

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