Mind the Blowback: Nelson Mandela in today’s world

Nelson Lowhim, Writer & Veteran

Nelson Lowhim, Writer & Veteran

I believe that my duty as a writer is to expand minds so that people see the world differently and, hopefully, change their minds about it. This includes trying to change the minds of people who think as I once thought, who think violence begets peace. Yes, it is a work in progress—to say nothing of people’s desire to attack the messenger. In fact, I’ve only recently understood both fiction and non-fiction and some blend thereof—fake news not withstanding—as vehicles for this goal.

I bring this up because last year I wrote about automated warfare. In doing so, I was extrapolating into the future by using the past and the present, as well as the forces and mindsets behind our foreign policy to see what exactly our drone wars would lead to. Mind the blowback, certainly, but with less and less domestic political cost (or the perception thereof), I contended that these wars would only spread, especially when combined with the disastrous effects of climate change. Let’s not help those in need, just blow them away when they prove troublesome. Ostensibly things will be less complicated that way.

Nevertheless, I found it disheartening that the only comment on the piece basically used the same line that passes as a deep and serious thought in the world: “but American lives.” Again, going for the emotional point and missing out on numerous other points I made. Never mind that it’s debatable that lives are even being “saved” to say nothing of the long term loss of American lives—via aforementioned blowback as well as opportunity costs—or the humanitarian consequences of our destabilizing actions.

Of course, it comes as no surprise that my retort was not published. But I want to go on record because a whole section of the political center—courtesans, albeit loud and powerful ones—still think that the drone war is not only valid but a preferred way to carry out war in the future. These are the same people who tout the terror watch list as well as the secret process behind the drone program. Unfortunately, this “national security apparatus as unquestionable religious doctrine” passes as discourse these days. Again, this lacks a proper cost analysis of dollar or blood and sweat versus national security “units” or lives actually saved, to say nothing of the outright viciousness of these attacks on innocent lives.

And instead of proper checks and balances, what we have is such complete faith in our high priests of National Security that the basis of terror watch lists isn’t even questioned. So I’m going to enter something to compare all this to: the mere fact that Nelson Mandela was on the terrorist watch list until 2008. Yes, that’s a full 14 years after the Rainbow nation was created. Right, let’s put that aside and consider that before, when the ANC was considered a terrorist organization, the likes of Mandela would have been killed (by us or through our aid to our South African allies) by drone warfare were he out there fighting the good fight today. [1]

Where does that lead? Oh, yeah, to nothing good, does it? This is why there cannot be any solution—barring genocide, which I don’t put past some in our country—to these ultimately political problems (and for the current and coming humanitarian problems). That’s why this theoretical exercise is necessary. Mandela gets killed in the 80s, what do we gain from this? What does anyone gain? And, more importantly, do we get a better world?

It’s imperative that we think through such an exercise if only to try and implement a saner foreign policy that doesn’t rely on emotion alone and doesn’t need solely military solutions for problems that require multiple layers of problem solving. Our future depends on it and history will judge us harshly if we do not rethink our current trajectory.

[1] If this thought experiment seems a little too distant, geographically speaking, then perhaps noting that Washington would have been droned in today’s world is enough to note, though speaking of such a distant time seems unwarranted, IMO.


Nelson Lowhim is a veteran and writer. He is the author of many novels, short stories and essays to include CityMuse, The Struggle, 1000001 American Nights and the Labyrinth of Souls. You can find more about him and his work at nelsonlowhim.blogspot.comFind him on Twitter @nlowhim