Twelve years has passed since the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001. It is ironic that we once again find ourselves debating the necessity of military intervention in the Middle East. Regrettably, it is the failures in the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars that make this decision so difficult, just as it was the failure of the world to properly engage the Middle East that helped foster the actions of Al Qaeda. Just consider that Osama Bin Laden, with his means and social position, had the tools needed to cultivate change through peaceful endeavors. Where the members of Al Qaeda chose to use violence to attack a civilian population instead of pursuing a more inspirational campaign against the harmful consequences of negative Western influence in the Middle East, i.e. start a peaceful revolution, the US and the rest of the world now struggle to cope with a decision on whether outside influence can effectively save and empower a civilian population suppressed by the violence of its own government.
In many respects, the mistakes of the past have been rooted in the tendency of all nations to act solely in the pursuit of their own perceived interests. In fact, this egocentrism has created a great deal of strife over the entirety of human history. Intervening in Syria, as one example, may not serve the direct interests of most countries, but it does certainly serve the interests of the Syrian People. That said, military intervention is not necessarily the best or only option, though it is important to remember the war is not the root problem nor is the use of chemical weapons. While the massacre of the Syrian People must be stopped, the Syrian government failed to adequately address the interests of the Syrian People, thereby creating the need for revolution. Sadly, continuing inaction and the current diplomatic solution of dismantling Assad’s chemical weapons arsenal only further validates the analogy between the Syrian war and the Iraqi-Iranian war, which means we can easily end up with a containment situation that may well turn Syria into an ongoing headache in a world filled with more and more headaches.
Furthermore, it is no secret that the September 11th terrorist attacks helped inspire this writer to learn more about politics and foreign affairs, but everything learned since and before that terrible tragedy points to an need to understand why individuals act as they do and why we need to balance interests as an International Community ruled by Peoples of the world. People resort to violence, because they view it to be their best option for achieving their needs and wants. Violence can only be stopped when aggressors feel their interests can be addressed through other means. When two groups have incompatible critical interests at stake, i.e. the continued rule of Assad versus the removal of Assad for example, violence will likely continue until one side can no longer seek its interests. In essence, this is why might makes right, i.e. those who are able and willing to assert their interests determine what is acceptable behavior.
Since World War Two, the US and the West have been attempting to build an International Community where the strength of our world order lies in balancing the interests of all the Peoples of the world. That said, it has always been those able and willing to use violence against the weak who have been able to seize power. Beyond the Syrian crisis, beyond the Arab Spring revolutions, the foundation of our International Community is buckling under the stress of one humanitarian crisis after another, which is a fault created by the International Community’s overreliance on the willingness of the US to act when the International Community fails to act. By the many Peoples of the world failing to use the might of the majority to determine what is right, the International Community grows weak and the disbanded weak become targets of those willing to use violence to fulfill their interests. What this means is that violent authoritarian regimes and terrorists are afforded a degree of legitimacy to rule over others, because the world recognizes their forced authority by failing to side with the weak.
The United States acted against Afghanistan as a reaction to 9/11 attacks and continued on to Iraq due to a failure to deal with an ongoing headache that allowed those, who shared a overly hawkish, to legitimize an attack on Iraq as the only viable option. In the end, America stayed in Iraq and Afghanistan in order to live up to our democratic values and our responsibility to two neglected Peoples of the International Community. What the world should learn from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is that America cannot build and sustain the International Community without meaningful support from all Peoples of the world. “Don’t find problems; find solutions,” goes the saying. Unfortunately, the world seems far more intent on finding problems when it comes to making decisions and taking action, instead of working to find best-fit solutions. There is a great deal of benefit to living in a world where the might of the majority rules, versus those with the biggest guns, especially for countries that are not the US, so the Peoples and governments of the world really need to spend some time considering whether or not the concept of an International Community is worth supporting. In many respects, 9/11 woke the American People to the true impact the US government has on the world, yet the world continues to ignore the core reason why America is so influential, i.e. we have historically not been afraid to act on what we think is right instead of simply looking out for our own national interests. If the governments and the Peoples of the world want to be more influential, if they want their interests to be met, they need to do a better job of standing up for what is right, or at least what they profess is right.
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