Thursday, November 20, 2008
Posting to The Guardian (UK) re: Somali pirates
So many posters here have so much to say about America, perhaps it's time for an actual American to weigh in. Better still, I'm in the group that represents a plurality of voters--that is, those who identify themselves as neither conservative nor liberal, but as moderate/centrist/independent.
When you talk about America doing this or that on the world stage, please note that we've just experienced 8 years of majoritarian rule by people who are essentially monarchists.
Majoritarians believe that if you got 50.001% of the vote you're entitled to act as though you got 100% of the vote--winner take all. Actually they believe you can act that way even if you got a minority of the popular vote, as long as you won--as happened in 2000.
So until the other side won a majority in Congress in 2006, 49% of American voters had no say whatsoever in the conduct of our government .
And since the 2004 election the vast majority of Americans have concluded that invading Iraq was badly botched, whether or not there was any initial justification. Ditto Somalia, to the extent anyone even realizes Somali exists.
Unfortunately our system of electing national legislators and a president has become skewed towards radicals of the left and right. The causes stem from the fact that as one of world's first democracies our electoral system is now about 200 years out of date, with entrenched forces resisting all attempts to update the system. If you want to understand the hurdles we face, look up Gerrymandering for a start.
The upshot is that while a majority of Americans are pragmatic and moderate, we tend to get governments which are neither, to both our and your disadvantage.
If you take advantage of the imploded dollar and visit America, you'll find it to be probably the most multicultural, accepting country on Earth--especially California, where I've lived all my life. For example, one neighboring family is a German physicist and his very dark-skinned African-Indian wife. They tried living in both Germany and South Africa, and only found complete acceptance here, both for themselves and their daughter.
Also please note that America just elected a Black president whose middle name is Hussein. In what other Western democracy has a comparable electoral event happened?
That said, allow me to comment on this article and the ensuing thread.
All large international problems--including Somali piracy--have complex historical roots and simpler immediate issues.
I'd compare it with forest fires. Such fires often stem from the buildup of duff on the forest floor due to indiscriminate firefighting and inadequate brush removal. That's a long-term problem which has long-term solutions. However, if the resulting conflagration threatens a community with thousands of inhabitants, government must stop the fire from reaching that community, regardless of how the fire was caused.
Thus we can argue about the causes of Somali piracy and the long-term solutions needed to address the problems that such failed states represent. Meanwhile, though, we have an immediate problem that threatens the peace and security of the high seas.
Bringing a quick end to rampant Somali piracy probably will do nothing to solve Somalia's problems. But that's a separate issue. Regardless of Somalia's internal issues, which are severe, Somali piracy must be stopped.
Those on this forum who downplay the importance of this problem fail to understand the foundations of civilization. It's not democracy, though I love living in a democracy. It's the fact that I'm sitting in my home typing on my laptop with my windows open to the world and my front door unlocked, because I live in a safe, peaceful neighborhood. That's what makes everything else possible.
Such stuff is so unexciting most people don't even notice how much they benefit from it--until it vanishes.
I've traveled extensively in the third world and seen how people live in countries where the police are not on your side, but are simply the armed guards of those who prey on the rest of society; where traffic rules exist but are not obeyed; where national parks are free-fire zones for poachers; where nothing that involves government happens unless you bribe everyone you deal with; where you're only physically safe if you live in a gated community and only venture out with guards accompanying you.
Whether you like the ships and the shippers and their cargo or not, we all benefit from them all being able to conduct their operations safely.
I'd advocate a high-tech blockade of Somali ports maintained by UAV reconnaissance drones backed by hunter/killer drones. All ships leaving port get boarded and searched. All small vessels carrying armed men--easily spotted with night vision optics on the drones--get sunk by hunter drones.
No one should advocate killing others lightly, and I don't. But failure to engage the enemy leads to more death in the long run, and by innocents, which counts for much more.