Friday, January 21, 2005

Time To Get Tough

The United States has just announced its six ‘Outposts of Tyranny’. There is now a list of the Really Rotten Countries: 2005. Open the envelope…and the winners are (in alphabetical order): Belarus, Burma, Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Zimbabwe. Unless you use the official name for Burma; in that case the winners are Belarus, Cuba, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea and Zimbabwe. It’s pretty obvious how these countries were chosen for the RRC: 2005 hit parade. They have a history of brutal inhumanity including public executions, torture, aggression and show trials. They have banned free expression and burned books. They conduct rigged elections in which a few powerful burocrats decide the outcome. Their elites live in palaces while many of their citizens live in poverty. Their leaders rule for life and dissenters are threatened with a fate worse than death. These countries are really rotten. (Given these criteria, it’s hard to understand why Turkmenistan did not make the list. President Saparmurat Niyazov must feel like the 7th semi-finalist in the Miss Brake Fluid Pageant.)

If events in Afghanistan and Iraq are any guide, 2005 will be a very busy year for the UN and the guys that build Humvees. It will also be a very challenging year. Afghanistan and Iraq have been hard work. Invading a combined 1 million square miles of terrain inhabited by a total of about 53 million people is bound to be hard work. This next batch of rottens is likely to be a bit tougher with their combined 3.2 million square miles and total population of 165 million. It will also be more of a logistical problem. These countries are scattered across Asia, The Caribbean, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Never let it be said that the US is not an equal opportunity invader. There is also the problem of translators. This will make the lack of Arabic speaking interrogators seem like nothing in comparison. Thanks to Mexico, the US has the Spanish. Condoleezza Rice speaks fluent Russian. That’s Cuba and Belarus in the bag. Since Los Angeles is also known as ‘Little Tehran’, the Farsi might be covered. South Korean might pass for North Korean in a pinch. But Burmese and Zimbabwean? This list is also all wrong if the intention is to set up another Coalition of the Willing. At one stroke it manages to upset Latin Americans, Buddhists, Slavs, Muslims, Chinese, Europeans and Africans.

What we need is a country that meets all of the definitions of rotten in paragraph one but poses none of the strategic drawbacks noted in paragraph two. Luckily, there is such a country: The Vatican. The Inquisition was certainly brutal. The Crusades were clear acts of aggression. Book burning and banning are repressive. The only guys who get to vote for the leader are party hacks; and they really do live in palaces. Galileo’s show trial was rigged by the flat earthers and women have been denied equal rights for 2,000 years. As to dissension… according to the government thought police, dissenters can go to hell. The really good news is that invading the Vatican is much easier than going after the Rotten Six. For starters, it’s not very big. It has an area of less than a square mile and a population of 940. The entire campaign should cost less than a weekend for a family of four at Disney Paris; it should also take less time. And in this Coalition of the Willing everyone will be willing. Consider the reaction of the countries that border the Vatican. Actually only one country borders the Vatican – Italy. Italy does not so much border the Vatican as surround it, thus cutting off reinforcements and foreign terrorist Opus Dei fanatics. Italians have disliked the Vatican ever since pinching a girl’s bottom was declared a mortal sin. In the region, the Europeans would happily sign up for this. The Vatican’s repressive stand against birth control, free love and pornography guarantee it. (Poland might be a problem, but they deserve a break from Willing Coalitioning.) In the wider world, Muslims and Jews would jump at the chance to get even and getting them to agree on anything, much less jump at the same time and at the same chance, is a real breakthrough. Sign up China, India, Turkey and Russia as well. The US can get so much help on this campaign that the biggest problem will be getting the Abrams tanks through the rush hour traffic in Rome.

There is still one nagging problem. The US doesn’t have enough interrogators. It won’t be able to process the prisoners much less set up the trials. Does Harvard or Cambridge still teach Latin?

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