Woe unto those who praise America’s peacekeeping activities in this chaotic world. What the U.S. gets in return these days is abuse that comes thick and fast.
Referring to the United States as the world’s policeman or going so far as to praise it is something that often doesn’t end well for many people and can generate venomous criticism in return. Now it has spawned unbelievable amnesia concerning the numerous historically significant American military interventions.
The United States has always left nothing but scorched earth in its wake; try to name one single country in the last 30 years that ended up better off after an intervention by the U.S. military. That was the tone of the reactions to this column two weeks ago. At least that was the case regarding the more coherent ones. We also get similar responses from our educated contemporaries.
Let’s start by going back 30 years to 1986. Exactly what significance this particular period has may seem puzzling, but if you will allow me: How about the liberation of Kuwait from its Iraqi occupiers after the 1991 Gulf War? Would it have been better if the U.S. hadn’t intervened?
It has also apparently been quickly forgotten that it was the Americans who intervened militarily in Bosnia and finally instilled peace within the region in 1995. That put an end to a years-long murder spree; something the Europeans were unable to do despite their close proximity. Even U.N. troops stood idly by as 8,000 Bosnian men — old and young — were massacred at Srebrenica. Has all that been forgotten? Four years later, it was the U.S. and not the Europeans who intervened in the Balkans to protect the Albanians from Serbian aggression.
The outrage over America’s 2003 intervention in Iraq is especially great. The United States in that case is now accused of indirectly causing today’s burgeoning global refugee problem. Was Iraq a flourishing democracy with a constitutional government up to 2003? Or was it more a matter of a despot and his clique who had led a 24-year reign of terror comparable to those led by Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot who were eventually deposed?
In neighboring Syria, wasn’t there sufficient reason for a popular rebellion against the Assad government? Aren’t the people who get incensed by American intervention the same ones who now complain that the U.S. should have gotten involved earlier in Syria where more than 300,000 people have already died without the intervention of the world’s policeman?
It’s also noteworthy that such historical examinations never go back as far as World War II. Perhaps the origins of this problem are precisely there: The thought that we Europeans owe our liberty, our democracy and our prosperity to bloody battles fought by Americans in order to liberate Europeans is too unpleasant to contemplate. Apparently, the truth of what and how much we owe the United States shames us so deeply that we can only condemn and blame them for everything.
A 1932 letter Sigmund Freud wrote to Albert Einstein called for the establishment of a central authority for the prevention of war. Like the organization that resulted, today’s United Nations isn’t suited for the task either. We can therefore only be thankful that the U.S. stepped in to perform that function, all the more because Austria was a chief beneficiary of U.S. engagement, having received the benefits of being part of the Western world without having to pay a big price for the privilege.
That era is slowly drawing to a close. Europe will have to step up to the role of deputy sheriff and give up its narcissistic innocence. For many, that realization is so painful that they are willing to repress memories of important chapters from their own history.