The real number may range from 48 million to 59 million.
September 9, 2020 12:12 PM   Subscribe

At least 37 million people have been displaced as a direct result of the wars fought by the United States since Sept. 11, 2001, according to a new report from Brown University’s Costs of War project. That figure exceeds those displaced by conflict since 1900, the authors say, with the exception of World War II.

Major findings from the report:
§ The U.S. post-9/11 wars have forcibly displaced at least 37 million people in and from Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, the Philippines, Libya, and Syria. This exceeds those displaced by every war since 1900, except World War II.

§ Millions more have been displaced by other post-9/11 conflicts involving U.S. troops in smaller combat operations, including in: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Niger, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia.

§ 37 million is a very conservative estimate. The total displaced by the U.S. post-9/11 wars could be closer to 48–59 million.

§ 25.3 million people have returned after being displaced, although return does not erase the trauma of displacement or mean that those displaced have returned to their original homes or to a secure life.

§ Any number is limited in what it can convey about displacement’s damage. The people behind the numbers can be difficult to see, and numbers cannot communicate how it might feel to lose one’s home, belongings, community, and much more. Displacement has caused incalculable harm to individuals, families, towns, cities, regions, and entire countries physically,socially, emotionally, and economically.
posted by Ouverture (59 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Sorry for the very late delete, but there are so many rule-breaking comments in here that I don't even know where to begin. -- Eyebrows McGee



 
No criticism intended for posting it here, but reports like this are maddening. It's one big smoothie of global situations, and the headline "Caused by the United States’ Post-9/11 Wars" is outright misleading. Combining Bush's Iraq debacle with what has been happening in the Philippines and Syria - which each has their own murderous dictators - is tendentious. There are many horrifying situations cited in this report, many of them caused by U.S. government policy and actions, but blending them all together makes this just a sloppily-framed outrage document rather than something accurate and useful.
posted by PhineasGage at 12:30 PM on September 9, 2020 [21 favorites]


There are many horrifying situations cited in this report, many of them caused by U.S. government policy and actions, but blending them all together makes this just a sloppily-framed outrage document rather than something accurate and useful.

Having read the entire document, the authors seem to have done an effective job showing how the U.S. has contributed to each and every situation outlined in the report. American empire may not be the sole factor, but it absolutely has made bad situations far worse.

Where do you see them failing in this regard?
posted by Ouverture at 12:38 PM on September 9, 2020 [6 favorites]


Displacement linked to U.S. military activity in Syria is particularly challenging to quantify. Throughout the country’s civil war, more than half of Syria’s pre-war populationhas been displaced,totaling some 13.3 million people in 2018...We opted instead for a more conservative approach given that U.S. involvement in the war has been relatively limited compared to that of the Syrian government, rebel forces, foreign militants, and Russian, Turkish, and other foreign militaries.

Syria in particular they call out as a country where they've taken a conservative approach in calculating the numbers of displaced people that can be attributed to the actions of the United States when I, for one, wouldn't bat an eye at blaming the whole conflict there on the destabilizing effects of the US invasion of Iraq.
posted by GalaxieFiveHundred at 1:01 PM on September 9, 2020 [6 favorites]


Every time I see people absolutely lose it over Trump, I cannot help but think about GWB and how he has been rehabilitated almost completely.
posted by lattiboy at 1:01 PM on September 9, 2020 [17 favorites]


I, for one, wouldn't bat an eye at blaming the whole conflict there on the destabilizing effects of the US invasion of Iraq.

Then you, for one, dismiss an entire nation's attempt to free itself from a multi-generational dictatorship. It's amazing how many lazy critiques of American imperialism infantilize the people from the very countries they wish to see free.
posted by gwint at 1:06 PM on September 9, 2020 [13 favorites]


The "except World War II" is a very "Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?" type of statement.

Also, are they just hand waving the literal transformation of the practically the entire planet leading up to and during the First World War? My Lithuanian ancestors definitely considered themselves "displaced" when the Russian Army invaded their village and took a more active role in subjugating them.
posted by sideshow at 1:12 PM on September 9, 2020 [6 favorites]


Then you, for one, dismiss an entire nation's attempt to free itself from a multi-generational dictatorship. It's amazing how many lazy critiques of American imperialism infantilize the people from the very countries they wish to see free.

Definitely not looking to get into a shit fight about the causes of the Syrian Civil War this afternoon. Apologies if my comment came off as overly glib.
posted by GalaxieFiveHundred at 1:14 PM on September 9, 2020 [1 favorite]


The "except World War II" is a very "Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?" type of statement.

Except in this case, World War II had 30 to 64 million refugees+IDPs based on a war involving multiple superpowers, concentration camps, mass bombings, and atomic weapons.

In comparison, the estimates for America's bipartisan war on terror is 37 to 59 million refugees and internally displaced people.

In my experience, Americans living so breezily in the bubble of empire don't seem to take the atrocities committed in their name anywhere nearly as seriously as they understand World War II. It seems to be the same case here as well.

Also, are they just hand waving the literal transformation of the practically the entire planet leading up to and during the First World War? My Lithuanian ancestors definitely considered themselves "displaced" when the Russian Army invaded their village and took a more active role in subjugating them.

Have you read the full report? They list the World War I and the Russian Revolution under page 20.
posted by Ouverture at 1:24 PM on September 9, 2020 [5 favorites]


Except in this case, World War II had 30 to 64 million refugees+IDPs

I'm sorry, I don't want to derail too much, but this is an area I know a little bit more than the layperson. I wanted to ask, where is the refugee statistic for WWII from? Is it based on only the European theater? Because historian Rana Mitter says that 100 million people alone were displaced in China during the 2nd Sino-Japanese War (which became WWII).
posted by FJT at 1:37 PM on September 9, 2020 [9 favorites]


Good question, this was the footnote from page 20:
76 Estimates for displacement during World War II focus on Europe, just as international humanitarian aid focused on displaced Europeans. According to the UNHCR, “millions” were displaced in China. Citations for cases 1, 3, 4: Aristide R. Zolberg, Astri Suhrke, and Sergio Aguayo, “Who Is a Refugee?” in Escape from Violence: Conflict and the Refugee Crisis in the Developing World(New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), 16–17, 18, 21, 24. Cases 3, 4, 5, 6, 7: UNHCR, The State of the World’s Refugees, 13, 59, 80–81, 116. Cases 8, 9, 10: UNHCR, Global Report 2019, 101, 75, 101
posted by Ouverture at 1:39 PM on September 9, 2020 [1 favorite]


GalaxieFiveHundred-- my apologies, I shouldn't have responded so snarkily.
posted by gwint at 1:40 PM on September 9, 2020 [5 favorites]


With respect to the report, it's dishonest to say that one drop of US intervention means that it bears all the blame for displacement in the area. The examples of Syria and the Philippines have already been mentioned, but Somalia is another good example - a country with a history of political instability and civil war. As the report says, "Displacement has shaped life in Somalia for decades. In 2004, the Norwegian Refugee Council reported that 'virtually all [emphasis added] Somalis have been displaced by violence at least once in their life.'" How do you allocate blame to the US in a situation like that?

In addition, lumping all this post-9/11 warfare together does something that would make the Bush administration (which has very much not been rehabilitated in my eyes*) quite happy - it puts US actions in Afghanistan and Pakistan on the same level as US action in Iraq. Those are quite different situations, with very different justifications, and I think it leads to the natural question - if we're going to go around assigning blame about post-9/11 displacement, how much do you give to the US and how much to Al Qaeda or the Taliban? That's not a trivial question, either. The Taliban's reign in Afghanistan is one of never-ending violence and civil war, with the attendant stream of displaced people. For that matter, how much blame does Pakistan get for this violence and instability? They were, after all, supporting the Taliban regime.

The reason that all these non-US actors have their roles virtually erased is simple: this is intended to be an anti-US, isolationist polemic. While I am not a fan of every US foreign adventure (Iraq, especially), I'd point to US involvement in World War II and Yugoslavia as two shining examples of where US intervention was a good thing. In both cases, the US was instrumental in ending genocides. If you want to have this conversation, you need to deal with that, especially with the example of World War II, where the US should have intervened sooner than it actually did.

*I believe there is a special place in hell for GWB, who declared in the 2000 presidential debates that the US should not be involved in nation building abroad. At the time, this was a dig at Clinton's role in ending the Bosnian genocide, but jesus christ did W ever give up on that principle fast.
posted by factory123 at 2:51 PM on September 9, 2020 [8 favorites]


the wikipedia article on afghan refugees gives a better picture including the interesting fact that 5 million refugees came back after the US invasion

that's not a defense of the US, but it's still better to get more context and more facts - for instance, some might argue that assad wouldn't have lasted in syria if russia wasn't helping him - they've been a lot more involved than the US

come to think of it, weren't the russians the ones who started the major civil war in afghanistan?

doesn't sectarian conflict in the middle east account for many of its refugees? - and that's been going on for over 1000 years

this report isn't that great
posted by pyramid termite at 3:22 PM on September 9, 2020 [4 favorites]


Cautiously wading back into the thread, I agree that it is not a trivial question about how one apportions blame for the sort of violent instability that leads to displaced people. I'm currently reading a book called Badges without Borders and one of the things the author emphasizes is what he calls the devolutionary aspect of US empire.

But then there’s the devolutionary type of intervention, which is what I focus on. The United States is actually somewhat chaste, despite the massive powers at its disposal, in that it is relatively restrained when it comes to putting its own soldiers on the ground to fight battles. There are brutal examples where it does, of course — Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq. But there are many other countries where the United States instead uses its technical expertise and training capabilities to build up the capacity of local forces.

I think it is an interesting and important question to, without erasing the role of non-US actors, try to pin down to what extent the US (and other western powers like the UK, to name one example) are responsible for situations in countries like Yemen, Somalia, or the Phillipines where the US (or the UK) is largely not doing the killing directly but is providing material support and psychological and strategic cover for the violence.
posted by GalaxieFiveHundred at 3:23 PM on September 9, 2020 [6 favorites]


the wikipedia article on afghan refugees gives a better picture including the interesting fact that 5 million refugees came back after the US invasion

I am starting to feel like a broken record. Returnees for each of these conflicts are mentioned in the report. They note 7.4 million returnees for the Afghanistan war.

But that does not mean things are magically okay:
Even in the best circumstances of return, going home does not erase the experience of fleeing for one’s life or the struggle to survive after being displaced. The experiences of wartime displacement are profound, traumatic, and long-lasting. Returning home should not be equated with a return to normal or to a prior state of being. Displacement tends to transform and remake entire social worlds for the displaced, impoverishing people in the process.80 Some of course never return home either because they resettle elsewhere or because they die as refugees or IDPs.
come to think of it, weren't the russians the ones who started the major civil war in afghanistan?

doesn't sectarian conflict in the middle east account for many of its refugees? - and that's been going on for over 1000 years


The white supremacy and ahistoricity in both this comment and the much longer, seemingly more thoughtful one above it just-asking-questions-about-assigning-blame are both breathtaking, but I appreciate that multiple comments have provided such profound evidence that Metafilter isn't immune to imperialist, white supremacist apologia.

Goodness, what's next? It was African slave traders who really ought to be blamed for the Atlantic slave trade?
posted by Ouverture at 3:29 PM on September 9, 2020 [10 favorites]


The report plainly does not account for any of the folks returning to Afghanistan - yes it mentions them on pp 8-9, but the math used explicitly there does not subtract any of the returnees from the displaced number.

That said, could you elaborate on why US involvement in WWII is the moral equivalent of the Atlantic slave trade?
posted by factory123 at 3:49 PM on September 9, 2020


If you want to have this conversation, you need to deal with that, especially with the example of World War II, where the US should have intervened sooner than it actually did.

WWII invariably comes up in these conversations because it’s just about the only instance in which basically everybody agrees on this in retrospect. American interventionists keep that weapon taped to their hand like they’re playing Edward Fortyhands. If you really want to have an interesting conversation about foreign policy I’d argue you’ll do better not to start with WWII.
posted by atoxyl at 3:55 PM on September 9, 2020 [5 favorites]


That said, could you elaborate on why US involvement in WWII is the moral equivalent of the Atlantic slave trade?

Like, is this supposed to be treated as a good-faith question?
posted by atoxyl at 3:57 PM on September 9, 2020 [3 favorites]


I agree, the use of the Atlantic slave trade was a poor analogy, which is why I asked that question.
posted by factory123 at 3:58 PM on September 9, 2020


The report plainly does not account for any of the folks returning to Afghanistan - yes it mentions them on pp 8-9, but the math used explicitly there does not subtract any of the returnees from the displaced number.

Yes, because they were displaced in the first place. Displacement under cataclysmic duress is not something you can just simply undo and return to normal.

This isn't a simple algebra problem.

That said, could you elaborate on why US involvement in WWII is the moral equivalent of the Atlantic slave trade?

If that's what you actually took away from my statement, there isn't much to discuss here.
posted by Ouverture at 3:59 PM on September 9, 2020 [9 favorites]


I do agree that its important not to treat the U.S. as the only relevant actor in the region. At the same time “sectarian conflict for 1000 years!” is one of them, whaddayacalit, tropes that is regularly used to disguise that some of these things are not like others and to paper over a more complicated history.
posted by atoxyl at 4:00 PM on September 9, 2020 [3 favorites]


But it is on some level an algebra problem - people displaced prior to us involvement are now able to return.

And I'm struggling to see why it's an example of white supremacy to ask that the non-us actors here have any agency or responsibility in these situations.
posted by factory123 at 4:09 PM on September 9, 2020


I agree, the use of the Atlantic slave trade was a poor analogy, which is why I asked that question.

The comparison was between “there’s been conflict in the region for a thousand years” and “Africans were sold into slavery by other Africans,” as similarly weak go-to defenses of 20th and 16th century empires, respectively. That might be tendentious in the way that comparing slavery to anything is, but it certainly wasn’t saying a thing about WWII.
posted by atoxyl at 4:15 PM on September 9, 2020 [4 favorites]


If you reread the comment, you'll see it was a blanket condemnation of those who disagree with op as white supremacists and defenders of slavery. Your suggested nuance isn't in the comment.
posted by factory123 at 4:21 PM on September 9, 2020


I would note that your interpretation of Ouverture's comment might not be as universal as you claim it to be.
posted by sagc at 4:29 PM on September 9, 2020 [7 favorites]


"Thanks Ralph!"
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 4:30 PM on September 9, 2020 [1 favorite]


Agreed; factory123, I've read and re-read Ouverture's comment, and I have come to the conclusion that your inability to see any nuance in it does not reflect an inability on their part to express any.
posted by solotoro at 4:32 PM on September 9, 2020 [3 favorites]


Great, thanks for bullying me out of the thread, glad I tried to participate in good faith.
posted by factory123 at 4:43 PM on September 9, 2020


Your interpretation of the Atlantic slave trade reference read to me as either in bad faith or borne of an extremely sloppy reading of the comment, to be honest.
posted by sagc at 4:48 PM on September 9, 2020


US interventionism is not right or wrong, but the imperial overreach, corrupt governance, and unilateral militarism of the past twenty years have absolutely been the worst. These forever-wars with their bottomless commitments came unmoored from their military or legal justifications almost as soon as they started, yet to this day they linger on, denuded of even the flimsiest figleaf of purpose, just the naked, growling interests of a punishingly exploitative politics and a rising din of "culture clash". And it's driving us crazy, the guided bombs, the surveillance, the airport screenings, the secret prisons, the assassinations & executions, the militarization of everything ("tactical underwear") -- the ever escalating violence and suspicion running through society like the tendrils of a mind-controlling fungus.
posted by dmh at 4:48 PM on September 9, 2020 [3 favorites]


I feel like a big reason why this thread has been largely people yelling past each other is the maximalist position that the paper takes. Despite their claim of making a "conservative" estimate, saying that you've figured out, in 30 pages, that definitely 37 million people have been displaced as a direct result of the wars fought by the United States since Sept. 11, 2001 seems prima facie absurd, given the complexity of geopolitics. If the paper had simply focused on the Iraq wars, I don't think there would have been an argument. Nor would most people argue that American Imperialism has been a colossal catastrophe. It just seems that the framing of the paper lends itself to simplistic arguments.
posted by gwint at 4:51 PM on September 9, 2020 [7 favorites]


From outside the US, the empire-by-contracting-it-out structure of US foreign policy is pretty clear, and the conclusions of paper don't strike me as "prima facie absurd", by any means.
posted by sagc at 4:55 PM on September 9, 2020 [6 favorites]


Before the Gulf War Colin Powell had the "Powell Doctrine" of questions that should be answered positively before the US commits to military action:

Is a vital national security interest threatened?
Do we have a clear attainable objective?
Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?
Have all other non-violent policy means been fully exhausted?
Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?
Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?
Is the action supported by the American people?
Do we have genuine broad international support?

Most of our military actions over the last 20+ years fail these criteria, including Afghanistan and Iraq.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:56 PM on September 9, 2020 [2 favorites]


It’s weird that we’re arguing over the meaning of a comment when the author probably hasn’t really gone anywhere but Ouverture’s comment quotes this:

doesn't sectarian conflict in the middle east account for many of its refugees? - and that's been going on for over 1000 years

Which is why I was pretty sure it was primarily referring to that line of argument! That’s not actually factory123’s comment, which is referenced indirectly as being “longer” and “seemingly more thoughtful” but actually equally bad. Perhaps it was not fair to bring up the specific comment at all just to dismiss it like that. But if you read Ouverture’s comment as primarily addressing the text it actually quotes, it seems pretty clear what the main target of the analogy is (i.e. the treatment of “sectarian conflict” as intrinsic to the region and not as having anything to do with anybody’s intervention).
posted by atoxyl at 5:06 PM on September 9, 2020 [3 favorites]


Iraq and Syria have never been stable countries. Saddam faced multiple uprisings and a decade long war with Iran before he invaded Kuwait in 1991. Assad’s father fought a long civil war in the 1970s and early 1980s; only keeping a lid on things with a complete dictatorship. Yemen, Somalia, and Afghanistan have been a mess for decades as a result of Cold War nonsense, layered on a horrible colonial legacy and a host of problems including the intervention of regional actors to deliberately destabilize these countries. Consider what Turkey has done in Syria, or Pakistan, Russia, China and India have done in Afghanistan sometimes helping the US and other times helping make things less stable.
posted by interogative mood at 5:52 PM on September 9, 2020 [2 favorites]


I don't think that anyone in this thread believes that the US has not been an exceptionally poor steward of the post-WW2 period, culminating in the disastrous War on Terror. We seem to be living in the twilight of the American empire, and when history books are written 200 years from now it wouldn't surprise me at all if the only unreservedly positive thing that can be said about US foreign policy is that it didn't result in global thermonuclear war.

Which brings me to my next point. I'll be among the first to cheer when America starts scrapping it's carrier battle groups and shuttering bases worldwide, but I do have misgivings about the world to come. It seems to me likely that the next era will be more highly militarized with nuclear proliferation taken for granted. Climate change, if left unaddressed, will result in displacement of first millions, then hundreds of millions, and then billions of human beings. Nuclear-armed states competing over ever-scarcening resources amidst a refugee crisis does not strike me as the kind of environment that would hold progressive ideals in high regard.

I am definitely not making an argument in favor of continued US imperialism and aggression. There are no certainties and the decline of American influence and aggression might herald a much brighter future for everyone.
posted by um at 8:09 PM on September 9, 2020 [2 favorites]


I wouldn't worry about that.

I get the whole naval reduction thing but during the second world war, the U.S. Navy commissioned a ship and named it the 'Canberra', the only U.S. ship to be named for a non U.S. noun. Ironically, Bush handed over the bell to Australia from that ship on September, 10, 2001. My dad served on that ship.

. It seems to me likely that the next era will be more highly militarized with nuclear proliferation taken for granted. Climate change, if left unaddressed

It is and severely unaddressed.
posted by clavdivs at 8:59 PM on September 9, 2020


I'd agree with gwint's comment, and also add a similar note with the framing:
This exceeds those displaced by every war since 1900, except World War II.
I originally read this as the sum of all refugees everywhere, which made me suspicious (combined with the blase sourcing about China in WWII.) This seemed odd but is not what they meant. A less ambiguous phrasing is it exceeds those displaced by any war.

Combining multiple wars over 20 years, with different levels of US involvement, into one big number, and saying it's more than other events that are much shorter and split up makes as much sense as saying the US has more people than any city in the world.

Also how can they not include the Chinese Civil War? Or are they counting that as WWII?
posted by mark k at 11:06 PM on September 9, 2020 [2 favorites]


At the end of the day you either believe the US was right to take these actions or you don't, and in either case the number of people displaced is irrelevant. I don't know the threshold at which a stupid war becomes ok because the number of people left looking for a new place to live fell under a certain number. For me the War on Terror was so obviously immoral and counterproductive that it would still be evil even if no-one was displaced.
posted by um at 11:13 PM on September 9, 2020 [2 favorites]


The white supremacy and ahistoricity in both this comment and the much longer, seemingly more thoughtful one above

this is not an argument that addresses the points either of us made, any more than me calling you a communist would be a refutation of your points

this is why i seldom participate here - too many people make baseless and thoughtless replies like this

just to take the first question you quoted - how does my asking about the russians in afghanistan become an attempt to ignore "white supremacy"? aren't russians white?

also isn't it an act of western chauvanism to ignore the regional history of the middle east in preference to your preferred narrative of white supremacy?
posted by pyramid termite at 3:24 AM on September 10, 2020 [5 favorites]


The US has not been a poor steward of the post WW2 era. First of all, framing it that way seems to be to deny the agency of other countries and their roles in shaping the world we live in.

To the extent that US policies have helped shaped the world we live in our record is mixed. On the balance our policies have been pretty good, although we’ve done our share of awful things.

Specifically we managed to transition the world from a set of colonial systems dominated by France and Great Britain into one of autonomous nation states. We’ve seen billions of people rise out of poverty because of our trade policies and institutions like the WTO, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. We brought about a massive improvement in global health in our work to eradicate polio, smallpox and other diseases. We’ve managed to stop the cycle of war between European countries. We avoided WW3 with the Soviet Union a marked contrast to previous millennia of great power conflicts.
posted by interogative mood at 4:50 AM on September 10, 2020 [7 favorites]


Go preen in front of the dead. America's chapter is drawing to a close.
posted by um at 6:47 AM on September 10, 2020 [3 favorites]


America's chapter is drawing to a close.

Nice.Thats like US countering with, " Hey, look at all the people that still come to 'Murica.*, like 45 million"

*-I believe this phrase was coined by Richard Nixion in 1946.
posted by clavdivs at 9:21 AM on September 10, 2020 [1 favorite]


Whether or not the US has been a poor steward depends on the standard, but I think regardless of what standard is applied, be it humanitarian or ideological, or even merely raw balance of power, I think it has to be recognized that the overriding objective, the animating spirit of post-WWII policy has been to consolidate US advantage, all the way from Kennan in 1948
we have about 50% of the world's wealth, but only 6.3% of its population....In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity
to the US Space Command's 1998 (!) Vision for 2020 pursuit of "full spectrum dominance". Whether the US is or can be a force for good after all first presumes that the US is a force. So if the bottom line is survival and expansion of the US empire, then before you even get to choose between human rights or national security or ecology, there's an implicit choice of empire. And I guess if there is going to be an empire, then let it be a high quality empire, one that exudes competence and inspires trust.

Now even from that perspective, things are just an absolute shambles, in large part because the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and the ensuing Global War on Terror, predictably and intentionally wrecked a somewhat burgeoning multilateralism in a bid to re-assert US dominance, which turned into an unwinnable quagmire that ended up killing, maiming, displacing, and otherwise wrecking the lives of millions, and remains a watershed moment in these here currents that have led us up this here shit creek.

I've come to increasingly recognize how these "freedom wars" have made the world a more lawless, more insecure, more corrupted place. I vividly remember the siren call of the war drums and the willingness of media and politicians to lead the dance, a drunken ceremony that revealed strange, disturbing flashes of insanity, like when George Bush announced he had to go to war because Jesus told him so, or the nonchalantly, sardonically shoddy casus belli they had Colin Powell present at the Security Council. Then freedom Fries and enhanced interrogation and a court of jesters at Guantanamo Bay.

I'm sure there's any number of ways to count the number of displaced and traumatized affected by conflict, and then you can compare different conflicts in a variety of ways and then that's a line of argument. But I think what makes these wars stand out is not their relative evil, but their absolute stupidity. It betrayed a real decline in the quality of US decision making and powers of persuasion. It betrayed a real decline in the quality of US empire. Something also apparent, by the way, when you compare Kennan's gravely argued 1948 missive against the unhinged boosterism of the US Space Command's Vision for 2020, or when the President tells you to drink bleach.
posted by dmh at 10:20 AM on September 10, 2020 [5 favorites]


First of all, framing it that way seems to be to deny the agency of other countries and their roles in shaping the world we live in.

It's a fair way to frame it when denying the agency of people in other countries is EXACTLY how the US has chosen to conduct its business. Especially in non-white countries.
posted by el gran combo at 10:38 AM on September 10, 2020 [2 favorites]


just to take the first question you quoted - how does my asking about the russians in afghanistan become an attempt to ignore "white supremacy"? aren't russians white?

One of empire's primary prerogatives is to make sure their citizens are kept in the dark about just exactly how things end up the way they do.

Or in other words, please don't pay attention to exactly how and why Iran has F-14 Tomcats or the Mujihadeen got so many Stinger missiles. Don't pay attention to different groups in Syria shooting at each other with weapons provided by the CIA and the DoD. Let's not ask too many questions about how Saudi Arabia got so many F-15E Strike Eagles and cluster bombs to destroy Yemen with.

Baseless and thoughtless replies indeed.

this is not an argument that addresses the points either of us made, any more than me calling you a communist would be a refutation of your points

The thing is, I am a communist and I am intensely proud of that. The level of cognitive dissonance on your part seems to indicate you don't like being correctly identified as having white supremacist views.
posted by Ouverture at 12:20 PM on September 10, 2020 [3 favorites]


You're not having a discussion, you're saying "fuck you" using more words.

I can't fathom why the mods allow it.
posted by factory123 at 12:45 PM on September 10, 2020 [3 favorites]


Specifically we managed to transition the world from a set of colonial systems dominated by France and Great Britain into one of autonomous nation states. We’ve seen billions of people rise out of poverty because of our trade policies and institutions like the WTO, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. We brought about a massive improvement in global health in our work to eradicate polio, smallpox and other diseases. We’ve managed to stop the cycle of war between European countries. We avoided WW3 with the Soviet Union a marked contrast to previous millennia of great power conflicts.

As a Latinx person, I find the combination of cherry-picking and post hoc rationalizing in this paragraph to be stunning in its repugnance. That alongside the claim of being bullied as one of the most blatant and pathetic instances of white fragility I’ve ever seen on this website is deeply dismaying. I can’t fathom why the mods allow it.
posted by invitapriore at 12:46 PM on September 10, 2020 [9 favorites]


You're not having a discussion, you're saying "fuck you" using more words.

I apologize to anyone if they think I am saying "fuck you" by pointing out the ahistoricity and white supremacy in their views. I don't see accurate attribution as a personal attack.

To frame this as "anti-US polemic" is to imply there is something wrong with being against a white supremacist empire that has both directly and indirectly killed tens of millions of people of color and displaced even more in the post-WW2 era.

If apologists for US imperialism want to take credit for supposedly lifting countless people out of poverty, why are they so defensive for taking credit for the countless people killed by American empire?
posted by Ouverture at 12:51 PM on September 10, 2020 [4 favorites]


More name calling. Anyone who doesn't share your opinion is evil, you don't have to justify it, you don't have to comply with community norms designed to foster discussion.
posted by factory123 at 12:55 PM on September 10, 2020


Pointing out that an argument is rooted in a white supremacist viewpoint is not ‘name calling’; this is classic tone policing.

I agree that the white fragility and other racist bullshit on display in this thread is disappointing. Thanks Ouverture and the others in this thread doing the heavy lifting and providing so much detail and information to unpack. White supremacy is insidious and so baked into many American’s worldview, including my own. This is a valuable discussion and I’m glad to see people here listening to what’s being shared and hopefully questioning some of their own assumptions and understandings about US imperialism.
posted by soy bean at 1:25 PM on September 10, 2020 [1 favorite]


You're not having a discussion, you're saying "fuck you" using more words.

not only that, but he's confessing to being a believer in a western centered political and economic philosophy that was forced upon afghanistan's PoC with arms

but i guess that kind of white supremacy gets a pass

all i asked was for people to refine their facts and place them in historical context - i didn't defend, or approve, or justify - i just asked for a better argument

i guess i asked too much
posted by pyramid termite at 1:55 PM on September 10, 2020 [1 favorite]


Oh, the histrionics. White fragility at its most fragile.
posted by XMLicious at 2:02 PM on September 10, 2020


I know, if only we weren't so emotional about folks disregarding the actual discussion and resorting to name calling.
posted by factory123 at 2:37 PM on September 10, 2020


You hinted, among other things, that it might all just be Al Qaeda's fault. Your points aren't getting taken seriously because you demonstrate a failure to take the topic seriously yourself. You aren't some kind of martyr for intellectual rigor who was just striving for truth here.
posted by XMLicious at 2:56 PM on September 10, 2020


if we're going to go around assigning blame about post-9/11 displacement, how much do you give to the US and how much to Al Qaeda or the Taliban?

is very different from

it might all just be Al Qaeda's fault

But it's not just *my* points not getting taken seriously, by the way. More than a couple of folks have made this basic point: that in complex situations with lots of history and actors, it doesn't make a lot of sense to just say "the US is to blame for all of it."

You aren't some kind of martyr

Another personal insult.
posted by factory123 at 3:10 PM on September 10, 2020 [3 favorites]


The question about whether sectarianism isn’t part of the cause of refugees didn’t didn’t me as “white supremacist” at all. Western intervention in the Middle East has generally made things worse, but I don’t think it’s universally agreed that all sectarian conflicts are the US’ fault. Rather than the knee-jerk name calling, maybe we could discuss the causes of various conflicts in more detail.

My own view is that the US should never sell weapons to ANYONE, and thus gain some moral high ground. But I’m also an atheist so I can’t get into the “respect for all religious cultures” game. The idea that anyone would fight over the rightful heir of Mohammed ... who cares? From where I’m standing, Sunnis, Shiites, Jews and Christians all have way more in common with each other than they do with me. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to eyeroll at people starting fights about whose temple is built on whose whatever. However, I think it’s totally reasonable to argue that all those groups might have gotten along just peachy without the Crusades, the US selling weapons to everyone , the Iraq wars, etc. By the way, I protested the Iraq war (2003) in the US, but the Afghan one was just as dumb. Remember, the justification was that non-Afghani terrorists were hiding out there and the Taliban wouldn’t agree to give them up in the first couple of weeks. Or so I remember.

Do I believe the US has done a lot of bad things in the world? Yes. Do I think that if Syria, Iran, or Iraq (for example) had a US level of power and the US was a small regional power, that the world would be a better place? Fuck no. It’s an accident that white(ish) cultures ended up as the hegemonic powers, nothing more. All people have the potential to be equally horrible or good.
posted by freecellwizard at 3:31 PM on September 10, 2020 [3 favorites]


[Ourverture, we ask OPs not to babysit their threads, or to attempt to argue for a particular discussion, position, or interpretation of what they posted.]
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 3:45 PM on September 10, 2020 [1 favorite]


As a Latinx person, I find the combination of cherry-picking and post hoc rationalizing in this paragraph to be stunning in its repugnance. That alongside the claim of being bullied as one of the most blatant and pathetic instances of white fragility I’ve ever seen on this website is deeply dismaying. I can’t fathom why the mods allow it.
Here we see the classic combination of highroading, a straw man created by mixing unrelated comments from different posters and a just a dash of ad hominem. Not really sure who you are hoping to convince with that; but I don't find it compelling.
posted by interogative mood at 4:48 PM on September 10, 2020


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