Capt. W. Patrick Gordon, M.Sc.
(This article was written in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia shortly after the bombing of Libya by American forces in 1986.)
When I was twelve years old and my older brother was twenty nine he threw me across his knee and spanked the dickens out of me.
Granted, I deserved it. He was home on leave from the Army and wore suspenders with his uniform. I thought it was great fun to sneak up behind him and snap them across his back. He warned me several times that he was getting upset and that I had better stop, but of course I knew that since he was a trained paratrooper and so much bigger and stronger than I was, he really wouldn’t hurt me. Mom and Dad also ensured that I came to no harm.
With my backside burning and tears of dismay in my eyes I ran to my parents for sympathy. I hoped to watch them chastise the bully. To my shock, they both said, “You were being a brat and you deserved what you got.”
Being a working stiff, ordinary man in the street here in the Middle East I find it difficult to relate to the higher workings of international relations. They only way I can begin to comprehend the relationships between countries is to try to relate the world to something I can grope.
The world, due to advancing technology, is an ever decreasing sized house containing a rather large family of inhabitants, all with hugely diverse interests and priorities. These vary based on levels of culture, education and tolerance for others.
My point is that Libya, in my plebian terms of understanding, has been a noisy, aggressive, little brat and America has reacted like my older brother and given them a swift spanking. Unfortunately, the spanking was delivered by fighter bombers and rockets. Libya has asked “Mom and Dad,” the rest of the world and primarily the Arab nations, to support it and at least verbally chastise America for its behavior.
At the present time, the reaction of the rest of the world, read “family,” has been mixed. (My sisters disagreed with my parents and sided with me against my brother resulting in our own in-house mixed reactions.)
America reacted to what was received to be a threat. I admit that at times it is difficult to determine the difference between an actual and perceived threat. Some countries, including the United States, often yell “Wolf” when none are around. Was Iraq right to attack a perceived threat from Iran? After all these years we still don’t know. Does America give back the country to the native Indians? Does Israel give back all its territory that was given, perhaps illegally, to them by the British years ago? It’s unreasonable based on historic development. On the other hand, can Israel give back the occupied territory? Can Iraq and Iran stop the war? Can the kidnapping and terrorism stop? When is it time for armed reaction and when must we stop trying to reason with the unreasonable?
Maybe even history will not know the answer for sure since history books tend to be written by the victors. In the meantime, all I can do as a member of this rather large, confused family is to remain as objective as I can. I must remember that the goals of all people are all different as well as well as their values. I cannot expect other people or other nations of the world to act in the manner that I expect. Sometimes in the interest of my own safety and security I have to be willing and able to kick ass.