Crimea and Elephants


     While I have to criticize our local governments frequently, they are much better than what is going on nationally and in the world at large. Two vivid examples of larger-than-Monroe follies is how we are killing wild elephants in Africa and risking world war in the Ukraine.

     Because ivory is scarce, it is valuable, and 35,000 elephants each year are slaughtered by poachers for their tusks, worth thousands of dollars. The Somali wing of Al Qaeda makes $600,000 a month from poaching, and Uganda’s child-enslaving Lord’s Resistance Army also funds their atrocities with elephant tusks.

     We’ve tried to ban the sale of new ivory. That has worked about as well as banning pot. But the silliest form of the war on poachers is the current plan by Hong Kong to crush 30 tons of illegal ivory. This is insane. Ivory is valuable, and elephants are slaughtered, because it is scarce. Flooding the market with ivory would make it less valuable. Destroying tons of it, as the U.S. and China have done, crushing six tons each last fall and January, keeps the price high and the elephants in danger.

     De Beers has labored, successfully, for a century to restrict the supply of diamonds for sale to keep prices artificially high. Pearls became cheap when they could be cultured. Instead of destroying ivory and endangering wild elephants, we could sell the ivory we have, and make more. How? How do we make cows? As one South African pig farmer said, in pre-Viagra days when rhino horns were valued as a male aphrodisiac, “Rhinos are just big pigs. Let me raise them and sell the horns, and they’ll be too cheap to poach.”

    Yes, instead of watching as poachers have gone to the extreme of putting cyanide in watering holes, killing whole herds, we could put them out of business by raising elephants and selling the tusks. Sadly, this will never happen. I don’t really understand why not, but then I don’t understand the war on drugs either.

     The slaughter of wild humans is what we are risking in the West’s pissing contest with Putin over the Ukraine. The craziest thing about this is our new-found respect for national borders. We have gone around the world to furiously disrespect the borders of Afghanistan and Iraq. Before that, Vietnam, Panama, Grenada and Nicaragua. And the little matter of Guantanamo on Cuba. Disrespecting others’ borders to forcibly impose our world order on them is what we do.

     Some of these incursions have worked out, but they sure haven’t lately. In contrast, Russians really were greeted with cheers and flowers when they took back their Crimean peninsula. The Crimeans really do want to be part of Russia. The Afghanis and Iraqis will forever, with cause, hate us.

     The main way we can help Ukraine is giving them the billion dollars they need and would have gotten from Russia. Our Senate at first voted it down, and the American public hates foreign aid more than any other spending. Our ineffectual sanctions and huffy kicking them out of our G-8 club hurt us more than them. Yet, we accuse Putin of acting “irrationally, hurting his own people.” Hello? How “rational” were our trillion dollar wars in the Middle East? How many hundreds of thousands of our young men are forever dead or severely damaged in our own disrespect of borders? Putin’s pains are trivial compared to what we have done to ourselves.

     We used to be the good guys. We used to be the White Knights forcefully saving grateful nations and generously helping them rebuild. Now, we are the violent bullies of the world, killing hundreds of thousands in vain attempts to impose our way. We torture. We kill 20 civilians with our drones for every bad guy, while refusing to reveal the exact numbers. We spy on everybody, against our own laws, including ourselves.

     Many countries have the moral authority to criticize Russia. We used to. But now, we are just embarrassing ourselves. We behold the mote in their eye, but not the beam that is in our own.


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