| Corwin Davidson | email@example.com | January 28, 2020 |
On January 3rd, 2019, Iranian Lieutenant General Qasem Soleimani was killed by a US drone strike. That much is not in dispute. What also isn’t in dispute is that the situation snowballed from there. Both Iran and the US threatened each other with various dire fates, and the internet was abuzz with various memes about an impending world war. What is there to make of this?
Here’s what to make of it: this isn’t just bad because killing people is wrong, it’s bad because we are repeat offenders. This is far from the first incident of this country’s tendency to ruin everything it touches overseas. However, a complicating factor: Qasem Soleimani was, in a nutshell, not a nice guy. At the moment, the Iranian government as a whole is not winning any human rights awards. Put nicely, it’s an unhinged theocracy with terrible laws targeting women and LGBTQ+ people. However, here’s a reverse-complicating factor: The Islamic Republic is arguably the US’ fault. A bit of history: in 1953, Mohammed Mossadegh was the elected prime minister of Iran. He decided to nationalize Iran’s oil industry. He was then overthrown by Iran’s Shah (think constitutional monarch), in a USA-backed coup, in an early example of the utterly reprehensible behavior this country has been executing with impunity ever since. The Shah, and later his son, proceeded to institute a comparatively repressive regime. Said regime exhibited a sufficient amount of corruption and incompetence that it was overthrown in the Iranian Revolution of 1979, ushering in Ayatollah Khomeini and a regime much more repressive than the Shah. I repeat: Iran had a stable democracy until the US got involved, and we’ve been paying the price ever since. Now, that bill comes back to us.
The aforementioned pattern of imperialism has held true for many decades, and continues to carve its bloody path through history with this latest murder in Iran. This is no isolated incident: it’s another attempt of the United States of America deciding it can push people around. Spoiler alert: we can’t, and whenever we decide we can, a lot of people die. To get the complete picture of what’s going on here, we must look back. The trail of blood remains clear, and Uncle Sam is standing over the body with a smoking gun in one hand and a bloody meat cleaver in the other. The bodies are piling up, and after all these incidents nobody can say that it was all self-defense.
Why do we continue to think we can take other people’s stuff? Well, there’s a precedent: we’ve been doing it for a very long time. We took Mexico’s stuff, took Spain’s stuff, then transitioned into myriad bloodbath-inducing proxy wars, slaughtering (and being slaughtered by) other people in a country chosen by some third country as a battleground. Said proxy wars have been in the Middle East since the 1990s. It should also be noted that the information above does not include the various instances of this country aiding far-right dictators in overthrowing democratic governments, including, but not limited to our involvement in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Paraguay, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Brazil, and, of course, Iran.
And that’s the thing with interventionism: It isn’t actually totally cut and dry. The other side has rarely had their own hands clean in recent conflicts. The Viet Cong committed their share of war crimes, and anyone reading this probably knows of the issues with North Korea. Sometimes, even often, the other side really are the bad guys. Sometimes there’s even a theoretical justification. However, what happens when we try to do something about this is pretty invariably horrific. Take, say, the My Lai Massacre of 1968 during the Vietnam War, where US soldiers brutally murdered hundreds of unarmed civilians, children included, as well as raping many of them, children included. That’s nowhere near the last atrocity we’ve committed, either. And, let me be clear, we don’t have a monopoly on war crimes, far from it. This is where the problem with interventionism lies: when this country sends soldiers overseas to stop the bad guys, we become the bad guys.
There’s the situation. Question is, what are we going to do about it? On the surface, the answer is simple: get the hell out of the Middle East, stop sending people to die for nothing, and if we’re going to send somebody to the Middle East, send the imbecile politicians who are making said decisions. If only it was that easy. As we saw in Syria, when we pull out and leave a void it creates a power vacuum and carnage ensues. The people who create the carnage when we pull out are pretty much always our fault, but that pragmatically speaking that does remain in the past. A genuine case can be made that by pulling out now, we create even more deaths than we would otherwise. However, the key issue is perhaps that if we don’t pull out, we’re the ones creating death. This radicalizes people and then we get the same cycle all over again, we saw this already with ISIS. The cycle’s got to break sometime.
The central thesis remains this: the USA still has a tendency to ruin everything it touches overseas. It’s not a guarantee, but it’s a definite likelihood. The fundamental axiom: killing people is bad. The secondary axiom: two wrongs do not a right make. Qasem Soleimani had blood on his hands. We didn’t make anything better by killing him as well, and we certainly didn’t make Iran less inclined to want to kill us. Ultimately, I do believe withdrawal from the Middle East is the correct option, but it must be handled very carefully. You can’t just leave overnight, but if you do it slowly and carefully, I believe it can be done. And maybe, just maybe, we can hope that things will improve with us out of the picture. This is a long shot, but with the United States of America in the picture, the shot becomes even longer.