Their oppressive regimes and ours

When people are trying to justify a military intervention in another country, they often present it as a case of rescuing the people of that country from their own oppressive regime. In such cases, we learn that the rulers are extremists with no popular legitimacy, who are only clinging to power through force. Hence, in Dick Cheney’s infamous words, they are sure to “greet us as liberators.” There are always at least three or four countries actively being painted with this brush in the mainstream US media at any one time — Iran and North Korea are perennial favorites, and Venezuela is becoming increasingly popular — and even if direct military action is not contemplated, “supporting” the resistence or opposition is viewed as mandatory.

Now we Americans find ourselves in the unfortunate position of being ruled by an extremist regime with no popular legitimacy. Though it is not supported sheerly by force, it does rely on various institutional features that are either intrinsically rigged (the Electoral College, the Senate) or have been actively rigged (gerrymandered district boundaries). The leader of this regime has scapegoated minorities, delegitmated his electoral opponents, and encouraged his followers to engage in violence. In short, if the US were a non-Western country, the West would be shipping weapons to Hillary Clinton and Rahm Emanuel right now.

What’s interesting to me, though, is that no one is calling — even jokingly — for other countries to invade the US and rescue us from Trump. And there’s a good reason for that: a foreign invasion is almost always the worst possible thing that can happen to your country. No matter how oppressive the regime is, open war is almost always worse, and no matter how much you hate the bastards, allowig yourself being ruled by foreigners who have absolutely no sense of obligation toward you is still hugely risky. I hate Trump as much as the next guy, but if Chinese battleships were landing on the coast of California, my first thought would not be, “Yes, this will absolutely, definitely be better than our current situation.”

It would be nice if the experience of Trump led liberal hawks to question their assumptions about the preferences of other countries. But I doubt that will happen, because rule #1 of American foreign policy is that no country is like the US and therefore empathy would be actively misleading — as the homeland of stable institutions that always reflect the popular will, we have nothing to learn through spurious comparisons with the unwashed masses of the world.

4 thoughts on “Their oppressive regimes and ours

  1. NB. Somebody will say, “But we were greeted as liberators by the French and the Italians in 1944!” This is a false equivalence on a couple of counts. Firstly, France and Italy were occupied by another foreign power at the time (Yes, Italy too- the Italian government surrendered within three weeks of the allied landing in Sicily and even there the main resistance was from German forces.) Secondly, the French people were well aware that Free French forces had been fighting alongside the other allies throughout the war, trivial as their contribution may have been in the greater scheme of things, and Roosevelt, Churchill and Eisenhower were careful to keep de Gaulle front and centre in spite of him being a pest, because they understood the importance of these things. I can think of no occasions since 2003 when the situation faced by western forces on the ground anywhere they have gone was anything like this.

  2. I was being deliberately hyperbolic — and it’s the way journalists would likely refer to it if it was a non-Western country. But anyway, I went ahead and revised it to avoid undue provocation.

  3. I agree with your argument but i believe you should have stated domething like “the west might consider shipping weapons to hillary”, as it is not the objective conditions of the country that make it being portrayed as x. Venezuela isn’t being portrayed as it is for being the most repressive current regime but for other reasons (possibly for having an opposition that is able to mobolize media attentio. , whether it is by making the media’s job easy – and media loves that – or by mobilizing in a way that can be seen as sympathetic to liberal democracy -which is only true to a certain degree, or for some other reason).

    Having said that, it looks like the venezuelan regime is doomed to fall and the regular support of the regime by part of some far-left (in europe at least) might also be somewhat problematic

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