Many americans are (justifiably) convinced that their country is a force for the good. Indeed there are defenders of the empire who aver that the US Army should be the default awardee of the Nobel Peace prize (due to its role as globo-cop).
Of course when you are rich and powerful, the very people you wish to protect will want throw insults (and sticks) at you. People will accuse you of all sorts of crimes: betrayal of a trusted friend, vaccination masquerading as a sterilization program, twitter messaging to trigger a revolution….the list goes on.
Reihan Salam does not mind the ingratitude and would like to keep playing with a straight bat for the greater good of the world. And also because it is personal. However his argument about the Bangladesh war leaves us (a bit) confused. Richard Nixon never found the time (and the will) to tell the genocidal Pak Army to back off (despite being warned by his own diplomat of the innocent blood being spilled). As Reihan himself admits, all it required was for Nixon to lift his (little) finger- no invasions, no “moralistic crusades” were required.
The “neocon” in the Bangladesh war was Mrs Gandhi. Even though Reihan does not quite give her the full credit (that is due from one brother to the other), she withdrew her army once the battle was over and handed off power to the Bangladeshis. Perhaps America would have done good by following her example. Defeating Saddam was the easy part, it was winning the peace which proved bothersome for the USA in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
At a bare minimum, those of
us who favored the war might have hoped for a democratic Iraq in which
the rights of ethnic and religious minorities were respected and that
was more closely aligned with the United States than Iran. The new Iraq
fails on both of these counts.
Given all of this, why am I still a neocon? Why do I still believe
that the U.S. should maintain an overwhelming military edge over all
potential rivals, and that we as a country ought to be willing to use
our military power in defense of our ideals as well as our interests
narrowly defined? There are two reasons: The first is that American
strength is the linchpin of a peaceful, economically integrating world;
and the second is that we know what it looks like when America embraces
amoral realpolitik, and it’s not pretty.
nevertheless believe that the U.S. should avoid doing anything more than
narrowly fulfill its security commitments. Why insist on moralistic
crusades, as neocons are wont to do? I suppose I have a personal reason
for doing so.
It turns out that this week isn’t just the anniversary of the fall of Baghdad. It is also the 43rd anniversary of a telegram
in which an American consul general, Archer Blood, took the unusual
step of condemning his own government.
As Gary Bass recounts in his
chilling book The Blood Telegram,
Richard Nixon and his chief foreign policy consigliere, Henry
Kissinger, enthusiastically backed Pakistan’s military junta in its
efforts to not only overturn the results of its country’s first free and
fair election, but to massacre hundreds of thousands of Bengalis in an
effort to teach what was then a rebellious province a lesson. One of the
men who died, as it happens, was my uncle.
Knowing fully well that he was endangering his career, Blood decried
the American failure to defend democracy or to denounce Pakistani
atrocities. He also knew that had President Nixon decided to lift a
finger, he could have forced Pakistan to stay its hand. Yet it seems
that humanitarian considerations never entered the picture for Nixon and
Kissinger. They were apparently too taken with treating the world as a
chessboard to bother reckoning with the monstrous crimes they were
aiding and abetting.
Though Pakistan was unable to prevent the emergence
of an independent Bangladesh, thanks in large part to India’s decision
to intervene, the country remains scarred by the bloodletting. Imagine
if a different president hadn’t cheered on Pakistan’s military rulers
but rather threatened to use U.S. power in defense of Bengali civilians.