Filler #4: Liberation of the Oppressed

Posted by Whit Barringer , Saturday, February 02, 2008 9:49 PM

Alright. I can't get my act together to put up another blog post. But! That doesn't mean I don't have something important/irrelevant to say. So, heeeere goes another filler. (Just so you know, I've begun and not finished three different blog posts about three different things. I am, officially, a lazy bum.)


Q: Should America or other powers charge for liberating the oppressed in other countries?

A. No.

The root of "liberation" is "to liberate" - to make free, to unburden. If we begin charging for actions we take when "liberating" another country, then we totally undercut the meaning of what we're actually doing. Not only is the meaning lost, but so is any trust between countries.

Take Germany during World War I. A bunch of pompous megalomaniacs sat around a table and pushed chess-like pieces around on a map, totally and utterly removed from any of the horrendous events on the battlefield. When the Treaty of Versailles and the demand for 132 billion Marks in reparations came down on the Central Powers in 1919, the German economy was destroyed. The exchange rate was 1 Trillion Marks to the dollar. It was cheaper to burn money than buy wood. The people were starving, hurting, and resentful toward the global community. It wasn't their country that had done this to them - it was the Allied Powers. It was the U.S., Britain, France, and (seemingly) the entire rest of the world.

So what happens when a country's population is starving and angry? They begin to believe whatever will get food on the table, and Hitler offered that on a silver platter. He gave people jobs, which gave people money to buy food. Hitler was a savior to them, and they paid him back with evil deeds for their full bellies.

But after World War II, someone learned a lesson from what had happened before. Though it was the advent of the Cold War, the late 40s saw some exemplary negotiating happen between the U.S. and other world powers. They realized it was not the people, who had mostly been unwilling to go to war as they had in World War I, but the government, the institution, acting independent of the populace. When Germany was split up into Capitalist and Communist areas, the U.S. poured money into Allied countries to try and combat similar events to the post-WWI era. And it worked. Democratic Germany (not to mention other countries affected by the change in attitude) still stands today and is one of the U.S. foremost allies - as well as one of the strongest economies in the world.

Iraq is the same way. And honestly, what could they pay us? Their currency value is far less than our own, and it doesn't make sense to go in and rob the treasury when they can't even stand on their own two feet at this point.

Think of places like Darfur, with their own ongoing holocaust. Should we liberate them? Absolutely. Scores of people are dying everyday from the world's inaction and lack of willingness to commit to helping them out of this crisis. But should we really expect them to pay us back? After all the suffering? Money is only money, and the rest of the world runs on more money than they can handle. This is when paying for liberation becomes purely symbolic.

That's what it really comes down to. What can places like Iraq and Darfur really give us? To places like the U.S., Britain, and most of Europe, the money they give us is ink on paper, not gold-backed currency. Asking for payment is not only unnecessary- it's insulting. It is sending a message to the world that our mercy is for sale, and whomever can pay is whom we'll save.

Wherever there is human suffering, there should be a helping hand. Not a bill.

1 Response to "Filler #4: Liberation of the Oppressed"

David A. Andelman Says:

Fascinating !
For another great take on oppression, the Treaty of Versailles and its frightening consequences for the subsequent decades, do have a look at my wonderful new book, "A Shattered Peace: Versailles 1919 and the Price We Pay Today" [ ] ... available through Amazon and most bookstores !
(i'd also be delighted to chat with your book club via speakerphone or video hookup!)
All the best,
David A. Andelman

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