Belmont Club

Noblesse Oblige

When Malaysian naval commandos boarded a ship captured by Somali pirates and rescued 23 hostages in the Gulf of Aden they had a secret weapon. South Korean naval special forces employed the same device, when they “stormed a hijacked freighter in the Arabian Sea on Friday, rescuing all 21 crew members and killing eight assailants in a rare and bold raid on Somali pirates.” The wonder weapon of the Koreans, though less potent than that used by the Malaysians was that they were neither European nor American.

What you can do depends on what papers you carry. In 2008 the Times Online reported that “the Royal Navy, once the scourge of brigands on the high seas, has been told by the Foreign Office not to detain pirates because doing so may breach their human rights. Warships patrolling pirate-infested waters, such as those off Somalia, have been warned that there is also a risk that captured pirates could claim asylum in Britain.” Their chances of doing the same in Korea are probably vanishingly small.

The are real advantages to having the “right” nationality. The Independent darkly warned that “Erik Prince, the American founder of the private security firm Blackwater Worldwide, has cropped up at the centre of a controversial scheme to establish a new mercenary force to crack down on piracy and terrorism in the war-torn East African country of Somalia.”  The crime isn’t being mercenary. They are a dime a dozen the world over. The crime is being American. But the Independent shouldn’t worry. Once Mr. Prince has trained the locals no further offense is possible.

Cecil Rhodes, who once admonished people to “remember that you are an Englishman, and have consequently won first prize in the lottery of life” would have been surprised to learn there are all kinds of advantages to being non-Western in the modern world. For one thing you are far less likely to be accused of racism, colonialism or human rights violations. This is probably why Prince is training locals, so the field of action is devolved to where blame may not attach.

Steven Kinzer, writing in the Guardian makes the case for differential standards. He says it is wrong to think that just because non-whites kill other non-whites it can ever be the same as whites, or Westerners at least, doing the same thing. There should be different standards of what constitutes a human rights violation depending on the color of your passport.

Want to depose the government of a poor country with resources? Want to bash Muslims? Want to build support for American military interventions around the world? Want to undermine governments that are raising their people up from poverty because they don’t conform to the tastes of upper west side intellectuals? Use human rights as your excuse! …

This is why the appointment of James Hoge, who took office in October, is so potentially important. The human rights movement lost its way by considering human rights in a vacuum, as if there are absolutes everywhere and white people in New York are best-equipped to decide what they are.

Hoge, however, comes to his new job after nearly two decades as editor of Foreign Affairs magazine. He sees the world from a broad perspective, while the movement of which he is now a leader sees it narrowly. Human rights need to be considered in a political context. The question should not be whether a particular leader or regime violates western-conceived standards of human rights. Instead, it should be whether a leader or regime, in totality, is making life better or worse for ordinary people.

That in effect, means different strokes for different folks; it implies that members of the US Armed Forces, for example, are held to a different political standard than the Malaysians or even the Koreans. If a member of the US military handles a Koran with less than the necessary reverence, he is manifestly guilty of an abomination. On the other hand, if an Egyptian interrogator asks an terrorist suspect certain questions in a rough way, why that is par for the course. What else would one expect of an Egyptian?

Oops. Did I say that? But I’m not sure that Kinzer didn’t, though surely he couldn’t have because that would be racist and broad minded people are never that. But whatever one thinks of his logic, its political sagacity is unassailable. If you want to win an counter-insurgency then indigenize it. Hide the white man and you are in the Left’s blind spot. Get the natives to kill the natives and nobody will notice. Don’t believe it? Try asking yourself this: which conflict, apart from the World Wars, has been the most destructive in 20th and 21st century history? Was it the America’s ‘criminal invasion of Iraq’? Afghanistan? Israel’s wars against the Arab? The Iraq-Iran War? Korea 1950 maybe? Then Vietnam surely. It is none of these. It’s the Second Congo War and it is all about minerals. What? Never heard of it?

The largest war in modern African history, it directly involved eight African nations, as well as about 25 armed groups. By 2008 the war and its aftermath had killed 5.4 million people, mostly from disease and starvation, making the Second Congo War the deadliest conflict worldwide since World War II. Millions more were displaced from their homes or sought asylum in neighboring countries.

Despite a formal end to the war in July 2003 and an agreement by the former belligerents to create a government
of national unity, 1,000 people died daily in 2004 from easily preventable cases of malnutrition and disease. The war and the conflicts afterwards are, among other things, driven by the trade of conflict minerals. …

Even though the war may have officially ended years ago, people in the Congo are still dying at a rate of an estimated 45,000 per month; 2,700,000 people have died since 2004.

When was the last time anybody demonstrated against the Second Congo War? You mean there was a First one? In 1952 Ralph Ellison wrote a novel called the Invisible Man, which argued that black people were socially invisible. The news is they’re still invisible, especially to the ideologues who claim to think of nothing but their welfare.  Asians used to be in the same case. When was the last time the anti-war movement demonstrated against the Khmer Rouge? When the first reports of the genocide in Cambodia filtered out, Noam Chomsky explained it as the natural consequence of “the US war”.

“The ferocious U.S. attack on Indochina left the countries [of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia] devastated, facing almost insuperable problems. The agricultural systems of these peasant societies were seriously damaged or destroyed… With the economies in ruins, the foreign aid that kept much of the population alive terminated, and the artificial colonial implantations no longer functioning, it was a condition of survival to turn (or return) the populations to productive work. The victors in Cambodia undertook drastic and often brutal measures to accomplish this task, simply forcing the urban population into the countryside where they were compelled to live the lives of poor peasants, now organized in a decentralized system of communes. At heavy cost, these measures appear to have overcome the dire and destructive consequences of the U.S. war by 1978.

The Asians couldn’t be guilty of genocide. Why? Because a certain kind of person didn’t think they were smart enough. Today it might be different because after decades of Asian achievement even the Left has grudgingly acknowledged they might actually be capable of being responsible for their own actions. Of the many explanations given for the rise of China and the North Asian countries, one may have been omitted: the freedom they enjoy from the artificialities of modern politically correct culture. They don’t have to listen to Chomsky or read the Guardian. They can light up a smoke, go to the moon, build nuclear reactors, construct a highway in months instead of years — even rescue hostages from pirates, without getting a single letter from some hokey European tribunal. To be born Chinese, Korean or Japanese today may be to win first prize in the lottery of life. They can deploy all the resources of a modern, technological world without being hindered by any of the fundamentally racist and obscurantist mumbo-jumbo of the Chomskys and the Eric Hobsbawms of the world.  But the situation for Americans is tragically different. They have to listen to lectures and teaching moments from people who couldn’t find their way out of a paper bag. How Western civilization fell under such a spell may be a question without an answer. It is as if some dream came and carried its lofty towers away.

Then fell on Merlin a great melancholy;
He walked with dreams and darkness, and he found
A doom that ever poised itself to fall,
An ever-moaning battle in the mist,
World-war of dying flesh against the life,
Death in all life and lying in all love,
The meanest having power upon the highest,
And the high purpose broken by the worm.

So leaving Arthur’s court he gained the beach;
There found a little boat, and stept into it;
And Vivien followed, but he marked her not.
She took the helm and he the sail; the boat
Drave with a sudden wind across the deeps,
And touching Breton sands, they disembarked.
And then she followed Merlin all the way,
Even to the wild woods of Broceliande.
For Merlin once had told her of a charm,
The which if any wrought on anyone
With woven paces and with waving arms,
The man so wrought on ever seemed to lie
Closed in the four walls of a hollow tower,
From which was no escape for evermore;
And none could find that man for evermore,
Nor could he see but him who wrought the charm
Coming and going, and he lay as dead
And lost to life and use and name and fame.
And Vivien ever sought to work the charm
Upon the great Enchanter of the Time,
As fancying that her glory would be great
According to his greatness whom she quenched.

Whither they went and when they shall return, none can say.

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