As I sit watching Iraq disintegrate due to the centuries-old centrifugal forces of religion and racism, I’m struck by a troubling idea.
There are many places in the world with millions of people who can be frothed and recruited to kill their brothers and sisters (and their children) under the banners of religious and racial hatred.
They lack infrastructure. They lack education. And the teaching they do receive is largely sectarian in nature. They learn about how the racial or religious group to their north, south, east or west are out to murder them, how they’re subhuman, and how they should hate them.
So when the extremists come in and blame the problems on that group, people believe them. The result is endless conflict. The middle east is an open wound of sectarian hatred. Shia, Sunni, Arab, Iraqi, Kurd, etc.
And this is the world’s problem.
Why? Because this type of internal strife prevents advancement. It stifles progress. It nurtures religious and racial hatred. It keeps anyone caught in the vortex permanently in the past, and makes them vulnerable to conquering and slaughter.
And for many among them, scarred and angry, it provides new blood and bodies for terrorist organizations.
Again, this is the world’s problem. And when I say the world, I mean countries who don’t have these issues—or at least not as bad. Countries like the United States, the U.K., Germany, etc.
It’s our responsibility to fix these places.
Oh great, another pro-war, pro-intervention post. We tried that. It doesn’t work.
Well, hold on. First, I agree with you. I’m not happy about this. I’m simply reviewing our options and feeling underwhelmed by the field.
Let’s have a look:
OPTION 1: Do Nothing.
The remnants of my Libertarian self smiles at this option. Countries have problems. It’s not our issue. We can’t afford to help everyone. You can’t force progress on those not ready for it. Yes, I know the arguments.
The problem with this is said well by a Rush song:
If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice.
We decided to let Iraq do it’s thing, on its own. We set them up for success, trained their folks, helped establish a democracy, and we walked away in good faith.
In a matter of days a group of people rolled in that make Al Quaeda look like Mormons, and they’re looking to set up a Muslim caliphate that hates tolerance more than anything.
Fool me once…
Doing nothing is not an option. Letting the entire part of the world rip itself apart and eventually figure things out is not an option. It would have been 200 years ago, but with technology as advanced as it is today, the most dangerous thing in the world is mass pain and suffering being taken advantage of by small groups of evil men.
And that’s what’s produced, at scale, by those who can help not helping.
OPTION 2: Do It Ourselves
Why doesn’t the U.S. just go in there and regulate again? Get it all squared away, and this time hold the ground (fool me three times…).
Answer: it’s too costly for any one country to rescue any one country—let alone everyone that needs help. And when you do it alone, everything about the cost is magnified. You feel alone in the losses. You feel foolish for taking the risks and making the sacrifices.
This erodes support and leads to pullout.
OPTION 3: A New Orgainization
This option has the entire world standing up a new organization. I’m not an expert on the United Nations, so maybe it could serve this purpose. But my feeling is that the U.N. has taken on too many negative connotations and has too much baggage to start a new project like this.
Perhaps similar leadership and the same backend, but with a new name.
Either way, this would be a global group of nations that dedicate aid. And here’s a major point of the proposal: it would consolidate the aid given by all nations into one organization.
The United States gives billions every year to various countries. As does the rest of the world. It’s mostly western nations giving aid, but there are countries from all over the planet that give millions or billions per year to help other countries, whether in the form of regular assistance or for point-in-time issues like earthquakes and typhoons.
This new organization would consolidate all aid.
It would have a panel of world leaders and top aide workers (as apolitical as possible) who preside over priorities.
And it wouldn’t just be for food and medical supplies, it would be for nationbuilding.
Nationbuilding at Scale
Let’s review the options again.
We cannot do nothing. It basically means ignoring a festering wound until it becomes fatal. And it doesn’t seem overly effective to have individual nations throwing money and aid and regime change in random directions according to their own desires.
Option #3 seems like our only chance. And it seems inevitable. Here’s what I think it should look like.
- All aid money from nation to nation, whether sustained or due to an incident, is handled through this new organization. Let’s call the new organization the Federation.
- All the money is consolidated into a single fund that can be spent most effectively according to the top priorities.
- The Federation is in permanent operation. It’s constantly prioritizing and re-prioritizing the world’s suffering, its collapse of governments, genocide, malignant extremism, etc., and determining where resources should be spent.
- There are two primary groups within the Federation. Aid, and Nationbuilding. The Aid group effectively gives out humanitarian aid, in a tactical fashion, similar to the Red Cross or other organizations like that. And in fact would work with those types of private groups regularly.
- The second group is the Nationbuilding group, and it is the topic of this writing. This group will look for situations like those in Iraq, Libya, Egypt, other countries in Africa, etc., where the countries have asked for assistance, and the Federation will go in and rebuild.
It will be a multi-decade process. It will require tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of troops for some countries (projects).
Joining the Federation will be like joining the peace corps, except for the world. It will have a massive military arm focused on peacekeeping and anti-terrorism. It will be expert in counter-insurgence, counter-terrorism, etc., as its primary military mission will be establishing stability in troubled nations.
Aside from the military component, which will be the backbone of the stability, there will be experts in government. They will go in and stand up parliaments according to standard Federation rules. They will roll out their experts in conducting elections, getting proper representation from the various groups in the country, etc.
And then there’s the education arm. This one is massive, and the most controversial that I can think of.
The Federation will go in and set up a robust schooling system for the country, and it will define the curriculum.
What will that curriculum be? It’ll be one of racial and religious tolerance. It’ll be largely secular, with a slight religious slant towards the common denominator in that country. Islam, Christianity, etc.
And there will be an extraordinary focus on humanism and science and the arts. It will celebrate similarities rather than differences.
And here’s where it gets dicey: it will adamantly discourage sectarian concepts, language, customs, and behavior. It will not be tolerated. It will be prohibited by law and educated out of the culture in the schools, which will also be mandatory.
It will essentially be a forced liberal arts education focusing on tolerance, celebration of similarities (what Sunni and Shia share in common in Islam, and what they share with Christianity and Judiasm, etc.).
I’d be lying if I didn’t think this wouldn’t eventually lead to a tempering and withering of religion of any form, but this should happen organically if it happens at all—except for in the initial phases of Federation arrival. Upon arriving initially the society and schools will have strict prohibition on certain religious activities that are centered around hatred of opposing religious or racial groups.
But over time that will be less necessary and the common denominator religion will be encouraged and discussed lightly in schools and through the Federation media. The overwhelming message, however, will be that of secular humanist values. Loving one another despite differences in race. Despite differences in religion.
Seeing everyone as the same within the country, and (with time) outside of the country. Different races. Different nations. All one.
That will be the message taught to kids in these schools that the Federation sets up in these countries when they go in.
Science. Science. Science. They will learn fascination with science. Astronomy. They’ll learn about how the climate is connected across the globe. They’ll learn about how the oceans and trees and ice-covered areas need to be taken care of.
The Federation will build world citizens, in other words, while simultaneously providing the safety backbone upon which to do it. There will be overwhelming force present.
Separatist groups like those we seen in Iraq right now will be crushed militarily, and their power will be lessened by the presence of stable schools and markets and neighborhoods. People will learn to love their neighbors, and the country will thrive.
Eventually the messages of religious and racial extremism will sound as abhorrent to the citizens of that country as they actually are.
The end game
After some period of time, the Federation will leave. There will be other projects to work on. Other places to help.
Some projects (countries) will take 15 years. Others will take 40. Some will only need a quick little boost for a few years after some sort of major catastrophe that created a power vacuum.
Either way, the goal is to leave.
The idea is that there will be a new youth in the country, now hitting their teens and twenties, who are now entering office and taking over the country. They will be supplanting the Federation representatives and pulling back control into full internal representation.
After a number of years it will be autonomous once again. It will look more like the Federation, no doubt. More secular. More egalitarian. The women and other minorities will have extraordinary rights compared to before. But this so-called loss of identity compared to before the Federation arrived will not be considered a negative by any but those who wish to do harm.
The other thing that the Federation will leave behind, as the new government phases in slowly, is an enduring warning against religious and racial sectarianism. Just as Germany has taught its youth over the last several decades about the dangers of power and totalitarianism, the Federation will imbue these warnings into every nation it helps.
Through the schools, the government, the media, etc. A constant warning.
Wait, hold on. Are we going to try to make everyone the same? That’s 1) boring, and 2) evil.
Of course there will be many who will say that. But it’s surprising how little the Federation will be actually taking from these countries, especially compared to what it’s giving.
Countries will still have their languages, and their ethnic diversity, and their music, and their food, and their culture. The religious piece of it will be tempered, no doubt, but many of its customs will remain even after the belief has faded. The icons, the rituals, the gatherings. Humans need these, and they are a source of great beauty. They will remain.
The other major thing the Federation will have forced upon everyone it helped (shudder) is tolerance. The one thing it will be intolerant of is intolerance. It will have learned a lesson that liberals have not yet learned, which is that tolerance of intolerance is not acceptable. It’s a petri dish of pain and suffering.
When one group wishes to subjugate and destroy those that are not like them, it’s not ok to agree to disagree. That sort of extremism needs to be killed with fire.
So the countries left behind will be internally stable. They will have good economies. Their various racial groups will live in relative harmony. They will see themselves as world citizens. They will be looking to the stars as a source of perspective on the human condition.
And there will be peace.
But in order to do this, we must get past the second major flaw of the liberal groupthink, which is thinking that it’s always immoral to tell others how to live.
It’s a good general rule, to be sure. But when countries by the dozens sit starving and under constant threat of genocide from ruthless dictators, and they are perpetually kept in such a weak state by religious and sectarian belief systems that make it easy for the evil to divide and conquer, the right thing to do is not watch from afar and say,
blockquote>It’d be presumptuous of me to pretend I know a better way for them to live.
That’s not politeness. That’s not courtesy. That’s not avoiding arrogance. It’s cowardice. And it’s cowardice that is causing the pain and suffering of billions.
The solution is for the world to step the fuck up and help, in an organized way. To go into these countries and help them back on their feet.
It will take time. A lot of time. And a lot of resources. And many lives will be lost.
But if we want a better world, this, more than any other option, is the path forward.
I await your accusations and epithets in the comments.