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Why Countries Fail: The Politics of Dependency

Alright people, big topic, so put on your seatbelts and crash helmets, because I’m about to shatter your well-meant neo-liberal illusions as to why countries fail.

Hint: It’s all your fault.

Yes you — you paragons of democracy, you believers of humanistic values, you defenders of equality and equity, you bleeping bleeding-heart liberals — it’s all your fault.

“Why is it our fault, great voice communicating with us from the far reaches of the internet?”

Because for all your good-heartedness and do-gooderness, the very policies you’ve supported are the direct cause of most of today’s misery in developing nations around the world.

What happens out there in the real world is not what happens in wealthy jurisdictions like Aberdeen, Sheffield or Cardiff.

So, bear that in mind when Western military powers enter and control a country for the purpose of eliminating warlords, etc. — let’s say Somalia in this case, but it could be any number of African, Asian, or Arab countries, and stay there for any length of time — those countries operate under foreign military rule and the moment those foreign military units leave, the warlords re-emerge and resume their normal terrorist activities.

Which prompts many on-scene Western TV reporters to plead with their viewers to stop the government from removing their troops from that forlorn country. And good on them! It comes straight from the heart, there is no doubt that such reporters mean well and speak with years of experience in the region. I salute them for their very human response to what they must see as “America abandoning it’s allies” or “The West abandoning it’s mission to restore peace” or whatever.

But it isn’t what they think.

What’s really happening is that by sending powerful Western military forces into places like Somalia in the first place, the local population no longer feels they’re responsible for bringing peace and prosperity to their own country — after all, why do that when America shows up to do the job for them? And the longer the Americans and their allies stay, the more dependent local populations become upon ‘the Americans’ to operate their country.

It’s even worse than that.

What happens is that over decades of time powerful local lobby groups emerge that encourage some amount of home-grown violence to occur… so that ‘the Americans’ will return and restore order, and the population can then have another 5-10 years of relative peace and prosperity.

‘What’s wrong with that?’ Said every bleeding-heart liberal, everywhere.

What’s wrong with it is that by sending Western military units to ‘bring peace and stability’ to war-torn countries is that it prevents those populations from taking responsibility for doing it themselves.

Consequently, over generations of time, those populations work an unspoken deal with the warlords to cause trouble every time the Americans threaten to leave. (Warlords and their minions, by definition, are highly mobile and can easily slip across the border until the Americans leave) Not only that, but in cases where the Americans and their allies have already left, all it takes is a few dozen car bombs destroying a dozen city blocks (with many casualties) along with some carefully choreographed displays of civil disorder to get Western powers back into their country to restore order.

It’s nice that Western governments spend multi-billions per year in each war-torn country to restore order and bring about a peaceful standoff between the forces of terror and the forces of democracy. If only Western taxpayers knew the total combined cost of these military operations they might not think it so nice.

But it isn’t about the money, nor should it be.

The fact is, that by doing so repeatedly, the West is setting itself up for failure by sending troops to solve what are essentially, political problems. And political problems can never be solved by removing power from local populations, temporarily giving it to a Western military unit, and then, at length when that military power leaves, the situation again becomes highly unstable.

And it keeps happening again and again, all around the world.

The latest example of this is Somalia which has seen foreign troops come and go many times, yet as soon as they leave, it’s only a matter of time before the cycle of violence begins again — thereby necessitating yet another Western military intervention.

Today on BBC TV, another well-meaning reporter was pleading with the camera to keep US troops in Somalia because he (rightly) fears the situation there will deteriorate once the Americans leave.

And why will that happen? Because people there have forgotten how to govern. They’ve forgotten that they’re responsible for what goes on in their country, and they’ve forgotten that every developed nation has already gone through what they’re presently going through — and it seems a failure of human psychology that most countries can’t seem to get their act together until they’ve had a civil war or two. Including some Western countries.

Rather than shield countries from themselves by continually sending troops abroad to restore order, thereby preventing any form of organic self governance occurring, perhaps we should be awarding scholarships to their kids while our troops are still deployed in those countries — so that those students can live in the UK and experience an actual working democracy while taking their education — and hope that they study urban development or excellence in governance, thereby equipping them to return home with the knowledge to help set their country aright. That’s so much better than their local warlord teaching them how to fire an AK-47 at tourists and locals alike and to make improvised explosives.

Cheaper for us, AND better for them!

What’s not to like about ‘cheaper and better’?

What it will take to make this proposal a reality.

The UK can spend half of it’s foreign aid budget on ‘bullets’ or it can spend half it’s foreign aid budget on rescuing any child from a conflict-ridden Commonwealth country by giving them a proper education in the UK before returning them home.

Which is better, do you think?

In the short term, it’s easy to keep spending British treasure and blood to separate enemy combatants within developing nations. But over the long term it makes more sense to educate a new generation that there’s a better way to solve political problems than picking up an AK-47.

Thanks for your time, people. I wish you a wonderful week ahead.

by John Brian Shannon