Go Watch This: If It Happened Here

by Gabriel Valdez

I don’t want to tell you to go contribute to Save the Children. I don’t know how it compares to other charities. But their latest ad presents a moving 90 seconds of what life is like in war-torn countries. If we watch the news today, we see images of bombs dropping and exploding in false-color images as if the preview for a movie, in a purposefully desensitizing presentation honed over the last 25 years.

We have our objections and protests worn out through sheer attrition. War in the Middle East and, in particular, our involvement in war in the Middle East has become so standard that we wouldn’t quite know what to do if we weren’t involved in one.

Worst of all, whether you believe we should stay in or leave those wars, we fail to build any infrastructure in the countries we bomb – schools, hospitals, roads, emergency services. This failure primes conditions for another war in these areas 20 years later, our diving in feet first 20 years later, our emptying already-empty coffers 20 years later, and regional conditions where millions of refugees (2.3 million from Syria since 2011) are created generationally. And then we blame those people, those countries, those ethnicities, justifying in our own heads our racial and religious hatred, instead of understanding we have created a cycle that only benefits our politicians, our military contractors, our oil companies, at the expense of taxpayers and our schools and our hospitals and our roads and our emergency services.

We are now involved in a multi-sided civil war that spreads across Syria and Iraq, that is nearing Turkey and Iran, a war in which Iraq has chosen to coordinate military operations with Iran over the United States, a war in which our arch-nemesis of the moment, the radical terror organization ISIS, was originally a pet project of the Saudi royal family to harass the Syrian government, a pet project we indirectly funded with taxpayer-funded assistance and oil money.

The United States ascended during the Cold War and became the world’s premier superpower not because of our military. Our military simply extended the game of brinksmanship. We won because, after every military conflict, we would be the ones who rebuilt nations. We were good at projecting military power across the globe. We were even better at projecting infrastructure, re-creating cities, helping other nations. After natural disasters, we were the first ones in, we supplied aid and helped refugees, we organized the recovery, and we understood that building a better world resulted in unbreakable alliances.

Now we bomb, we invade, and we largely turn around and leave, creating rebooted nations with little to no support, dictators whose only incentive toward maintaining rule is terror instead of kindness. And we wonder why every installed ruler is overthrown, why we’re drawn back in again and again.

So give to Save the Children or some other charity or don’t give at all, but whatever you do, watch the above video and ask why we’re in these situations today, why a state of war is the American constant, why our greatest moments as a country coincided with our greatest international involvement and cooperation in building countries, and why our worst involve countries we bomb and then refuse to build. Keep all that in mind when you watch the news or read about politics. Keep what we briefly were in mind, and what we are now, and don’t just ask what’s morally or ethically better – that choice is obvious – ask what’s more effective. That’s the choice we never talk about.

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