Flash now to December 20/21, 2013, as the Rebel forces in South Sudan encircle the city of Bor, American citizens send out a call for assistance. The Embassy security forces in the Capital of Juba are reinforced, and the need to send in further assistance is the Order of the day. On December 22, 2013, the UN announces that they are pulling out non-essential personnel. Against this high drama, four aircraft make the attempt to rescue the Americans in Bor, until they were faced with that “withering” fire, and are forced to turn around. With one aircraft shot up and damaged, along with the flight crew who are now also wounded, this was but one more page of an ongoing story that dates far back in our history. This is what our Armed Forces face, and have faced, since the Marines stormed Tripoli in the 1800s. This is what we are and what we do, much to the criticism of many around the world.
After any such operation many ask the question, “why?” In 1900, many asked why China? For the answer to that one, just take a look at a history book, and then wade through the tons of material about colonialism and religion. While a fascinating topic, that isn’t the relevant question now. Instead, the more relevant question for today is why South Sudan? For the answer to this question, you must first examine the geography, the geopolitics from history of both the country and the region, and then there was the split of the Sudan into a North Sudan and a South Sudan. This split is a very new development against a back drop of the massacres in Darfur (part of Sudan), the clash of religion, the ever popular ethnic cleansing, and a turmoil that has its roots in that old colonialism. Yes, that thing that is from the deep past is still rearing up and biting people. A simple computer search will show you maps of the colonial powers in Africa, and how it all went back and forth before the First World War, and even now into the 21st Century. While the colonialism might be the root cause, it still doesn’t explain why? To find that answer, we keep looking.
Americans often have a hard time understanding the concept of Colonialism. Even though the United States started as a colony, we like to think we’re beyond it. After all, after World War II, we couldn’t wait to get the beaten countries back on their feet, and we sure didn’t want any part of turning Japan or Germany into an American colony. The view of taking turf, and then giving it back after a war, is pretty ingrained in our consciousness. Many of us think that we are not inclined to having colonies, and with a notable few exceptions, they would be correct. A great example? The Philippines after the Spanish American War. After a number of years of exploring our own colonialism, and quelling revolts that still simmer under the surface today, we were rather anxious to get out of that business. We had taken over someone else’s colony, and after almost 40 years, had decided to give the people their independence. While it is perhaps a little remembered fact, we were well into the process of “giving the Philippines back to the people,” with a legislatively mandated date for their independence set for 1946. This legislation was passed well before Japan’s invasion of the Philippines in late December 1941. There are but a few examples where we didn’t give it back, with the most notable of these being Puerto Rico and Hawaii.
So, what does this have to do with South Sudan, and why would we care? If we’re not going to keep it, and colonialism is not a factor for America, why does it matter? The answer to this is a pretty simple one. You only need to read the Report of the 9/11 Commission. Granted, it is not an easy read by any stretch of the imagination, but it does set out the ground work and history of the evolution of Al Qaeda. In simplest terms, Sudan was the first organized home for Osama bin Laden, and where he was allowed to initially develop his terror network. In other words, with the pull out of the Colonial governments, there was a vacuum, and as things descended further into chaos, it became a perfect breeding ground for lawless activities, to include terror. Naturally, because nature abhors a vacuum, Sudan was one of the birth places of Al Qaeda, and what we now call the “war on terror.”
As we reach this holiday season, where most of us are thinking about what we should get our wives, girl friends, children, and friends, or what time is the party, I would only ask this one thing. Please remember those who are following one of our oldest global missions of protecting our fellow citizens. Especially while they are “facing withering fire as they move into position to screen the American and other foreigners who are to be evacuated from the city.” It is these men and women who keep us safe, to worry about the mundane, while they carry the weight of the nation on their shoulders. God Bless our men and women who serve our country, and may they return safe and sound. Happy Holidays! ~ Michael S. Pauley