A new memorial is being erected in honor of those who were massacred at Srebrebnica, Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1995 during the war there. Some 8,000 mostly Muslims were killed by Bosnian Serbs, making it the largest mass killing in Europe since the Holocaust.
What makes this memorial interesting, is that it will be made of shoes (16,000, one pair per person killed), and will spell out “UN” as a way to represent whom the artist (and others) hold responsible for the killings. At the time of the massacre, a 450 man Dutch military contingent working for the UN was safeguarding Srebernica. The Dutch did nothing to stop the massacre … the UN and the Dutch government later accepted some measure of blame for this. At least one source claimed that the issue was a mixture of the Dutch military being wholly unprepared for combat or duty of this nature, and mixed signals coming from above to establish peace (meaning do everything you can to not actually fire).
In the United States, there is a lot of widespread distrust when it comes to the UN (ranging from whacked out conspiracy theorists who claim it is some kind of new world order to those who simply see it as ineffective). This may be one of the few things that more and more of the world is having in common with the US. The recent handling of North Korea some have called embarrassing; akin to a kid threatening to beat up his brother if he gets punished, causing the parents to withhold punishment (not sure I buy that since most brothers wouldn’t use nukes to go after their siblings).
Nonetheless, this event should shed light on American history of the last 60 years or so. The world would do well to look at this and gain a better understanding of the United States.
Prior to WWII (heck even into WWII), the United States was a more or less neutral nation … never wanted to get involved in European affairs or anyone else’s affairs (barring the occasional take over of places like Hawaii or the west coast). After World War II, things changed. The US realized as a people that not getting involved in the war was bad …. earlier involvement could have ended the war sooner …. saved the lives of not only soldiers but civilians that were being massacred. We learned the lesson that appeasement in the name of prolonging peace does no one any good. Thus, the US learned: sending in the troops quicker is a good thing. The US led the charge in Korea …. and went it alone in Vietnam trying to defend an ally when it was in trouble. Vietnam was a lesson for the US …. sometimes this doesn’t always work. I think it caused the US to rethink and realize that deploying troops every time someone is in help will not be politically acceptable at home. Sending the army with clearcut orders to get Iraq out of Kuwait worked. Everyone was happy. Sending the troops with a list of “rules of engagement” orders that did nothing into Somalia was a waste of human life … it killed Americans and saved no one. That was bad. I think too many Americans are definitely seeing the same thing in Iraq, and are starting to wonder if things in Afghanistan are heading that way.
In short: if you are sending in the troops, send them in to eliminate the enemy; destroy them or drive them out of “X”. If that is not possible, then don’t use them. If you send them in to protect someone, allow them to use bullets, rockets, grenades, etc to kill those trying to kill those whom you protect.
With the modern media, that’s difficult. Imagine if US troops in Somalia had been given “weapons free” orders, and daily pictures of little Somali kids (the rifles conveniently removed from their hands) showing up dead on TV. The US would have been racist barbarians!
This is the reality of our world: the world calls out for someone to stop massacres like what happened in Nazi Germany and Srebernica and Darfur, but that same world is poised ready to damn those who stood by and did nothing, and damn those who jumped in to do something. If history is a guide, the damnation on those who jumped in to do something tends to be harsher, so it is politically better to stand aside and let the mayhem run its course and put whoever was in charge of the massacre on trial after the fact.
There is a simple reality with the use of the military: it is messy. People die. Often times, the wrong people die. An army is not a scalpel for finely removing a tumor and leaving healthy tissue behind …. it is more like that blast of radiation that tries to kill the tumor and often takes some healthy tissue with it. If a doctor said “lets let the tumor run its course, and I’ll make sure to blame it for your death”, you would get a new doctor. Yet too often we come down on the use of the military when it tries to remove tumors from the world.
Until the world decides that sometimes war in fact very much IS the answer, the western world will be content to keep their armies at home while genocide occurs, and cast stones at those more willing to get involved.