Suppose the world had awakened this morning to the news that the Russian army had attacked and invaded Bolivia. Thousands of Russian paratroopers have landed in the country, securing airports, permitting hundreds of Russian transport planes to bring in tens of thousands of Russian soldiers.
Despite being badly outmanned and outgunned, the Bolivians, both military and civilian, are resisting the invasion fiercely. Both the Russians and the Bolivians are suffering hundreds of casualties.
When asked why Russia has decided to invade Bolivia, Russian officials respond, “In order to spread democracy, stability, peace, and freedom in Latin America.”
What would be the reaction of the American people? My hunch is that at least 99 percent of the American people and 100 percent of U.S. officials would be angry and outraged. Immediately, U.S. officials would be denouncing the raw, naked aggression and demanding that Russia exit Bolivia immediately. Many federal officials would even be demanding U.S. intervention on behalf of the Bolivians.
My hunch also is that there would be very little sympathy for the Russian soldiers who were losing the lives in the battles. The attitude among Americans would be that they shouldn’t have invaded Bolivian in the first place. Virtually all the sympathy, I think, would be with the Bolivian people, especially those who were losing their lives in the conflict.
Now, change the identity of the invader. This time the world wakes up to the news that the United States has invaded Bolivia. Fierce battles are taking place and both sides are taking heavy casualties.
When asked why the U.S. has invaded Bolivia, U.S. officials respond, “In order to spread democracy, stability, peace, and freedom in Latin America.”
My hunch is that the reaction of many Americans would be entirely different. Bumper stickers would immediately appear on cars across the land exhorting Americans to “support the troops.” The following Sunday and every Sunday after that, ministers in both Catholic and Protestant churches would be asking their parishioners to bow their heads in silence and pray for the troops who are in harm’s way, working for peace and defending our freedoms in a faraway land. American soldiers being killed would be mourned and medaled as having died in the service of their country. The Bolivian dead would be called “the bad guys.”
How can we be certain that the American reaction to a Russian invasion of Bolivia would be dramatically different from a U.S. invasion of the country?
Two reasons: Afghanistan, which both the Soviet Union and the U.S. invaded, and Iraq, which the U.S. invaded.