Where Comedy Goes to Die: WIN-tervention!
In the interests of fairness, and to placate those who felt yesterday’s column was a bit unfair, today we’re going to discuss America’s favorite hobby: dropping bombs on Middle Eastern countries. While it’s sometimes proven slightly controversial — although not so controversial that pretty much every post-war president hasn’t done it — I think we can all agree that, in terms of achieving our foreign policy goals*, it’s been so successful that we shouldn’t call it intervention; we should call it WIN-tervention!
*: Our foreign policy goals, of course, being the furtherance of democratic governance and the extension of human rights. Anyone who suggests otherwise — that they are, say, the reinforcement of a global market-capitalist hegemony, or some form of economic imperialism — is a dirty red who ought not be listened to.
Our story begins in 1946, in the friendly little nation of Iran. The Soviets, who had recently done a sporting job of keeping Iran’s valuable oil fields out of the hands of the Nazis, decided they liked the country so much, they would stay for a while. President Truman, still giddy with being the only man alive who could order the use of an atomic bomb, commanded the Red Army to skedaddle posthaste from northern Iran; the more pragmatic British, concerned with what a nuclear explosion might do to the precious, innocent oil fields, told the Soviets that if they went home without a fuss, they could have some free petroleum. The Soviets issued a statement saying that okay, they would go, but it was because they wanted to, not because of any dumb atomic bomb or oil concessions, and besides who even cares about ugly old Iran anyway. This paved the way for democratic elections in Iran, which, when they did not go the “correct” way, were replaced by a CIA-backed coup that put the country under the benevolent leadership of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi for the next quarter of a century. The people lost a limited degree of control over the country, but more importantly, the nation’s oil reserves were returned to their rightful owners: the British.
In 1948, the state of Israel — a super-democratic entity which miraculously came into being in an unpopulated stretch of the Middle East known as “the Holy Land” — was born, an event which in no way altered American foreign policy in the region.
Flash forward to 1956, when the nation of Egypt, having been duped by their nationalist weirdo of a president into thinking they had some claim over the Suez Canal just because it was located in their country, came into conflict with the U.K., France, and Israel, who made the counter-argument that they should control the Suez Canal because shut up. The Soviets objected on the grounds that Western capitalist powers were making false claims to something they wanted to make false claims to, and began having more aggressive parades than usual. This struck the U.S. as a perfect opportunity for a fancy new proxy war, the one in Korea having stalled out a few years previous, so the Americans and the Soviets began a new round of hostile blustering, with the exciting new development of bilateral nuclear posturing. By this time, both sides had forgotten what the original conflict was about, and the whole thing was called off. On the downside, the West did not achieve its goal of removing Gamel Nasser from power, and had to wait almost 20 years to get a friendly dictator of their own in Egypt. But the Suez Crisis was a positive boon to those who stood to make a lot of money off of selling weapons to Israel.
In 1958, a conflict arose in Lebanon over the direction the country should take. The Muslim population felt that they should ally themselves with Egypt and Syria in opposition to Israel and promote a program of pan-Arab nationalism; the ruling Christian groups felt that they should continue to be in charge, because that was working out pretty well for them. U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower began to worry about the possibility of a revolution, fearing that Muslims did not have the inherent spiritual resistance to communism that Christians possess. He thus sent 15,000 troops to the country with orders to stand around peacefully carrying huge amounts of weaponry. This quashed the revolt, and a new leader — a Christian general — was “selected” to run the country, saving democracy once again.
That same year saw another triumph of democracy as the leaders of Syria and Iraq proposed a union of monarchs with Kuwait, to counter the trend towards democratic nationalism. Britain argued that, as the owners of Kuwait, this plan did not work for them, and the U.S. had to admit that Britain had a good point and also that the U.S. had nuclear missiles. This led to the dissolution of the plan, and ensured many more decades of benevolent rule by the rightfully high-born aristocrats of Kuwait. Iraq is believed to have cabled the U.S., asking if maybe in thirty years or so, they might be allowed to invade Kuwait for realsies. The American response, alas, is lost to history.
The Iraqi people, well-meaning little buggers that they are, kept on keepin’ on until the worst happened: their beloved monarchy was overthrown by a group of progressive nationalists, who forced them to live under the cruel tyranny of a “republic”. Their backs nearly broken by the cruel responsibility of running their own country, the people of Iraq may well have reached out to the U.S. We responded in 1963 by sending in the CIA to assassinate the country’s so-called “elected leader” and installing a benevolent new regime known as the Ba’ath Party, which, with the aid of a scrappy young go-getter named Saddam Hussein, would ably demonstrate its commitment to democracy over the next 40 years.
In 1970, Oman’s price Q’aboos bin-Said al-Said overthrew his father, cast him into exile, and became the new sultan. In a gesture of solidarity towards his people, al-Said announced the lifting of a number of oppressive restrictions imposed by his father; the socialist Dhofar Liberation Front suggested that, while he was at it, why not abolish the monarchy altogether and the people run the country? Chuckling nervously, al-Said asked that everybody not go crazy with this whole reform thing while making frantic gestures behind his back to anyone who was watching. Luckily, Iran was watching, and their Shah had recently begun to develop very definite ideas about whether or not monarchies should be overthrown in favor of populist movements. (He was against it.) With the aid of Iran, the U.S., and the U.K., the Dhofars were cornered, defeated, and massacred, er, returned to society, and the people of Oman enjoy the benevolent rule of Sultan al-Said to this day.
During the Yom Kippur War of 1973, the U.S. largely stayed out of the Arab-Israeli conflict, instructing its diplomats to merely mention our nuclear arsenal occasionally, in casual conversation.
By the late 1970s, things had taken a disastrous turn in that friendly little nation of Iran. Inexplicably rejecting the U.S.-friendly brutal dictatorship of the Shah, a popular revolution placed into power the U.S.-hostile brutal dictatorship of the Ayatollah. When this ideologically unacceptable new regime held American citizens hostage, the incompetent U.S. President Jimmy Carter, having somehow come to believe that the use of force was the proper way to deal with the Middle East, sent a rescue force, only to have it end in disaster. His successor, Ronald Reagan, successfully negotiated the release of the terrorists because he knew that if there’s one thing that works better than indiscriminate violence, it’s bribing corrupt dictators, an approach that literally cannot backfire. However, that didn’t mean we would entirely abstain from blowing shit up in Iran, a reliable workout for our Air Force and Navy that we would return to in 1984, 1987 and 1988. This did not immediately result in democracy, so we bade our time until 2002, when, just as a genuine democratic movement was gaining national traction, we helpfully declared the entire country a leading member of the Axis of Evil, at which point they became a process of reform that continues to this day.
Our first taste of blowing things up in Libya came in 1981, when we shot down two of their fighter planes during a ‘routine exercise’. It turned out to be so much fun that we would return to it again and again. Further attacks on Libya in 1986, 1989 and 2011 brought it ever closer to popular democracy, and reduced its threat level to the safety of the U.S. and its citizens. So dedicated were we to the notion of pacifying Libya through bombing raids that we began a new set of them only three years after we declared victory and demoted them from the status of ‘rogue state’ after they voluntarily gave up their WMD program.
Starting in 1982, America discovered that the best way to prevent terrorist attacks in the Middle East is to advantageously select a single political faction during a period of civil unrest, and then sit in battleships a dozen miles offshore and blast the shit out of vast swaths of urban terrain. This proved so effective in Lebanon in particular that the PLO was utterly defeated, and nothing was ever heard from them again. Another triumph of gunboat diplomacy!
Despite their help in waging a million-casualty war against the unapproved dictatorship in Iran, the leadership of Iraq proved problematic when we suddenly discovered, only a quarter-century into his rule, that Saddam Hussein was, in fact, an oppressive dictator. When he misinterpreted a diplomatic communique from the U.S. ambassador as a green light to invade Kuwait, we were forced to preserve the rightfully elected monarchy of that country by waging war against the country of Iraq. We also encouraged the Kurds of northern Iraq to rise up against the Ba’athist regime and overthrow them, a friendly bit of advice that they inexplicably believed meant that we would help them in any way. For the next decade, we did our best to promote democracy by enforcing sanctions that starved so many children to death, it seemed natural to assume that their parents would have enough time to start a nice healthy rebellion. But once again, the Iraqis let us down, and we had no choice but to invade and overturn Saddam Hussein ourselves. By doing so, we so completely neutralized his deadly WMD program that no trace was ever found of it, and within seven years, Iraq had a form of government not entirely unlike democracy.
Somalia and Sudan soon learned that America would do whatever it took to introduce democracy to the African edge of the Middle East. Somalia’s warlord system was quickly overthrown, and the country is now known as a libertarian paradise; Sudan followed suit soon after, and toed the line after we crippled their aspirin production capabilities. Its leadership has since engaged in a lengthy campaign, centered around Darfur, to streamline the democratic process.
Following the terrorist attacks of 2001, American troops entered Afghanistan and overthrew the evil Taliban regime, restoring the glorious democratic glory days of tribal warlords and restoring peace and prosperity to at least 1/15th of the country. After only a decade of relentless warfare, we have managed to turn the beleaguered nation into a beacon of peace and prosperity, add excitement and spice to local wedding parties, and restore the opium trade to a level of prosperity not seen since the 19th century.
Recent developments in the field of death robots have allowed us to blow things up in Yemen (2002, 2009 and 2011), Pakistan (2005-2011), Syria (2008), and Somalia (2006) with minimal risk to our expensive human resources. The result, of course, has been triumphant democracy in all those countries except Pakistan, which was a democracy already, and is now the hiding place of the nearly forgotten historical figure Osama bin-Laden. So, as you can see, Libya is just the latest nation that will be shown the glorious road to democracy through the use of external force. Hop on board for the big win, and I’ll see you next year at an air-conditioned shopping mall in Tripoli!