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America, the benevolent dictator


Fri, Nov 30th, 2007
Posted in Commentary

Joseph Broz, aka Tito, was one of those more benevolent dictators - using a bit of carrot and stick to hold the ethnic stew known as Yugoslavia together.

"No one questioned 'who is a Serb, who is a Croat, who is a Muslim (Bosniak)', we were all one people, that's how it was back then, and I still think it is that way today," Tito said about his country.

Tito played his international cards craftily in dealing with the Soviets and the West during the Cold War, being a prominent player in the non-alignment movement.

His brand of socialism was enough to appease the Soviets that Yugoslavia was one of them, while Tito's tolerance toward religion and limited capitalism made him a friend of the West as well.

"None of our republics would be anything if we weren't all together; but we have to create our own history - history of United Yugoslavia, also in the future."

Of course we all know what happened to Yugoslavia's history after Tito's death, when the republics fell on each other and Serbs started killing Muslims. NATO and the UN intervened in the late 90s to stop the ethnic cleansing. NATO forces are still in Kosova today.

In essence, NATO has become the new Tito, using their military presence to maintain peace among the so called warring parties.

Saddam Hussein was a different kind of dictator using only a big stick to knock errant ethnic groups into place. His preference for Sunnis over Kurds and Shiites was pretty much ignored by the U.S. when he conveniently went to war against Iran. But Saddam got too big for his britches when he invaded Kuwait which led to the first Gulf War.

George the First knew enough to stay out of Baghdad. George the Second didn't. So, now we own it as Colin Powell so aptly predicted.

The recent troop surge, while appearing to bring down the level of violence in Iraq, has done nothing to improve the political situation in the country.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top U.S. commander in Iraq after Baghdad fell, said "improvements in security... have not been matched by a willingness on the part of Iraqi leaders to make the hard choices necessary to bring peace to their country." Sanchez has called for most American troops to come home within a year.

That is one option.

America's only other option is to use its military power to beat down the civil war that has raged in Iraq these past four years - to become the benevolent Saddam, keeping the different sects from killing each other.

This is the bed George Bush has made for us, and the one we are forced to sleep in. In that context, Iraq's future is tied to America's continued presence in that country for years to come.

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