La Prensa, Nicaragua
The Time of the Great Gendarme
By Carlos Alberto Montaner
Today, the United States is almost the only power capable of serving as the global police and a substantial portion of society disagrees with that task.
Translated By Maria Tartaglia
8 September 2013
Edited by Kyrstie Lane
Nicaragua - La Prensa - Original Article (Spanish)
Many reproach the United States for having proclaimed itself as the world’s police. All you have to do is open any journal to notice it. It irritates many people, including a good number of Americans.
I believe this is the wrong attitude. The planet needs police, international judges and severe punishments for the most serious offenders.
In an ideal situation, the U.N. would be that justice-seeking entity, but that fundamental role has been nullified since the origins of this institution because of the possibility of a veto by any of the five great victors from World War II.
Neither China nor Russia cares about the fate of the Syrian victims. Neither of these two great countries has a settled vision of rights nor is moved by compassion. Both powers are guided exclusively by cold geopolitical conceptions.
To their leaders, the moral factors seem like unforgiveable weaknesses. This is what happens when one grows up cultivating the Marxist vision of human relations: Cynicism takes over and rots reasoning. Everything seems to begin and end in the arena of economic interests.
Today, the United States is almost the only power capable of serving as the global police and a substantial portion of society disagrees with that task. Curiously, there is agreement on this from sectors of the right and the left. Isolationism is a cause of transideological thinking.
On another scale, France tends to act as the great gendarme in the French-speaking zones in Africa, but there are not many nations willing to pay the price of protecting victims and trying to restore political order based on consent and respect for the fundamental freedoms.
None of this is new. For centuries, planetary police have existed. Rome was a ruthless gendarme. When the Western Roman Empire fell, the papacy assumed that rule as much as it could, until Charlemagne, king of the Franks, provisionally took the baton to save the Church from other Germans, the Lombards. Then came a dangerous period of fragmentation.
Without the English gendarme, who emerged from the defeat of Napoleon and the Vienna Congress in 1815, perhaps the trafficking of slaves would have lasted much longer. It was the British parliament that, over many decades, arranged 30 warships and 1,000 marines to combat the infamous international slave trade.
What the Armenians would not have given for an international gendarme to have stopped the huge slaughter carried out against them by the Turks during World War I. It would have saved nearly 2 million lives.
How much pain and sacrifice the world would have saved, and especially the Jews, if an international gendarme had intervened in 1935, when the Nazis enacted their anti-Semitic laws, to stop the carnage at the moment when they were sharpening their knives.
The extermination of nearly 1,500 people in Syria by cruel chemical weapons is one of those terrible occurrences that should not go unpunished. Almost all of the victims were civilians, and more than half were women and children who died in the most terrifying pain. In the face of this monstrosity, there is no space for arguments of sovereignty and internal affairs. There is also, as has been recognized by the United Nations, the “responsibility to protect.”
However, it is very difficult for the United States, and those that accompany them in punitive action against the Syrian government, to achieve their objective of containing the Assad dictatorship by sending a few missiles to punish the army that used chemical weapons.
From the Yugoslav conflict we learned a key lesson: To pacify the region, to save the Albanians in Kosovo and to avoid criminal “ethnic cleansings,” it was very important not only to employ the war-like resources of NATO, but also to bring to justice Slobodan Milosevic and his accomplices most committed to the repression.
Bashar al-Assad and some of his most bloodthirsty generals should have to confront international tribunals and that is not going to be achieved with a merely symbolic military punishment. To dissuade other rogues, we have to make a striking example of Syria.
It is true that being the world’s police costs a lot at all levels, but, as John Kerry said, the price of inaction could be much higher.
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