The Tar Baby and the Dead Zones

The Violence Is Inexorably Spreading

The Violence Is Inexorably Spreading

Around the world, in various locations, there are increasingly more dead zones—places where there is no effective governance, where everyday life is characterized by violence and murder, and where there doesn’t seem to be much hope for improvement.

Right now, a distressingly large number of these areas are in North Africa and the Middle East. As recently as a year or two ago, there was hope with the arrival of the Arab Spring. Egypt and Libya look good for a while, but are sinking back into the same old cycle of totalitarian rule accompanied by an increase of Islamic fundamentalism. (Has Islamic fundamentalism ever helped any Muslims—anywhere? at any time?) Somalia continues as a snake pit to be avoided by all, though some light is breaking through. Syria is a basket case that is only getting worse.and threatening to suck in its neighbors.

There are still U.S. legislators (like Senator John McCain of Arizona) who think we should get involved, but I keep remembering the Uncle Remus story of the tar baby:

How to Get Irretrievably Stuck

How to Get Irretrievably Stuck

As you may recall, Br’er Rabbit encounters a stick figure plastered with gooey tar. He asks it some questions. When it doesn’t answer, he gets riled up and starts hitting away at it. But alas, he is hopelessly stuck in the tar and can’t get loose.

Ever since the end of the Second World War, the United States has been getting stuck by such tar babies as Viet Nam, Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. And what do we have to show for it other than fresh plantings at veterans’ cemeteries around the country.

Increasingly, I am becoming a non-interventionist, at least where “boots on the ground” are involved. We can’t alleviate the mess of these dead zones, but we can certainly get stuck in various “Green Zones” such as the one in Baghdad from which we are afraid to venture out without risking being blown to bits.