And they shouldn’t.
Armies have very narrow fields of expertise. They are constituted exclusively for the purposes of killing people, threatening to kill people, giving the appearance that they could at any moment kill people, and supporting the efforts of those in their ranks whose specific mission it is to kill people. To the extent that they are also good at things like engineering, medicine, IT, food service, community outreach, disaster relief, etc, is due to the fact that these skill sets may be required in pursuit of killing people.
A peacekeeping mission is a mission in which an army makes its presence known and drags behind it an explicit threat that if anyone gets out of line they will start killing people in a manner far more efficient and professional that any of the locals could hope to aspire to.
Historically, armies are bad at governance.
That’s why most citizenries don’t care to hear that their army has dissolved parliament and suspended the constitution.
But if you’re angry enough, and, literally, hungry enough, revolution becomes it’s own imperative and you kind of stop giving much of a fuck who takes over next as long as the fuckers who made you so angry and hungry in the first place are shoved the fuck out the fucking door.
Here’s a short list of potentially radicalizing forces:
I’m lumping poverty in with hunger because there tends to be a correlation there.
The Middle East as a region has the highest level of unemployment in the world. Depending on how you slice the demographics you are likely to discover that percentages of unemployed are not spread evenly throughout the region. Specifically, they skew radically higher for educated young people. I write people, but a more accurate word would be men. It’s the middle east. Educational opportunities for women are more than often limited. Being an educated, employed woman is still rather exotic. Which is to say that it goes without saying that the unemployment numbers for women are high in the Middle East.
There are forests and trees here and focus can be tricky.
The point, such as it is, is that a good recipe for being unemployed in the Middle East these days is to be young and educated.
Does any of that sound familiar?
Any recent college graduates in the house?
Radicalizing forces: hunger, violence, education.
No particular order there, but hunger is a doozy. Something to keep in mind as global commodities prices rise. You know who cares about global commodities prices, besides commodities traders? People who make their food out of raw staples. Beans, rice, wheat. Which is most of the world. Most of the world still cooks from scratch.
Here a phrase to conjure with: Global food shortage.
Know what happens when you Google that phrase? You’re reading this on a computer or a phone (brave new world) highlight that phrase and hit Google.
The Washington Post.
Not a bunch of paranoid guys hoarding gold in their condo-bunker outside Phoenix, but The Washington Post. Good thing it’s mostly coverage from 2008 and 2009. Looks like we dodged that global food shortage.
Now try Global Food Shortage 2011.
Oops, there’s the fringe.
Know what sucks, other than the fact that I didn’t make up those sites?
What sucks is that they’re more on top of the trend right now that The Washington Post.
Want to bring down a government?
And who doesn’t?
Get a bunch of educated, unemployed hungry people who have been hit by cops. That demographics has motivation, knows that revolutions have succeeded in that past, and has reason to be personally pissed at the enforcers of public order. Also, having been hit, they tend to be more prepared to hit first the next time around because being hit sucks.
Which may lead to a conversation along these lines:
“I don’t want to go.”
“No, really, it’s time. We still have our jobs and we want to keep them. So you have to go.”
“I am the rightful ruler and I will not leave my country to chaos.”
“We’re going to shield you from any future prosecution for all the fucked up shit that happened on your watch.”
“I will stay and see that my people, my real…Um, what was that last bit?”
“No prosecution. Ever.”
“What about my-?”
“No one in your family will be hunted down and dragged back here to stand trial. Ever.”
“Oh. And they, uh…”
“You can keep the money.”
“All of the…?”
“No prosecution and you can keep all the money you sucked out of this country. But you have to go now.”
“Can I use the bathroom before I get on the road?”
Or something like that.
When people take to the streets in the hundreds of thousands and risk their lives to change the way they are governed, that is an awe inspiring things.
It is also more generally inspiring.
Gives people ideas.
And they have a lot of oil in the Middle East. And it’s a volatile region that brews radicalism in a flavor that we tend not to like here. And there are a few dozen other big and weighty reasons for governments to be concerned about essentially peaceful revolutions spreading across deserts.
It makes you think that change can happen.
So somewhere at the levels where people really care about what they have to lose and the implications of no longer being someone at those levels, there are people looking at the Middle East and thinking about the young, educated and unemployed people on their doorsteps.
I sure as hell do.
Two types of people fight hardest.
The ones with everything to lose, and the ones with nothing to lose.
I put my money on the skinny dog in that fight. It’s not smart money, It’s just that I want the skinny dog to win. Even if I don’t know what the fuck it will do after it pulls its teeth from the fat dog’s neck.
Charlie Huston is the author of the bestsellers The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death and The Shotgun Rule, as well as the Henry Thompson trilogy, the Joe Pitt casebooks, and several titles for Marvel Comics. He lives with his family in Los Angeles. Learn more at www.pulpnoir.com
Charlie Huston’s novel SKINNER will be published by Mulholland Books in 2012.