Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Foreign Policy Dysfunction

With the dust beginning to settle in Egypt, our attention is drawn to demonstrations elsewhere in that part of the world. In Algeria, Bahrain, Jordan, Libya, Senegal, and Yemen (in alphabetic order, no less) similar protests are occurring; calling for significant change in their governments. One can only hope that such public exhibitions will lead to greater freedoms and liberties in those countries rather greater oppressions, but the region is not known for democratic reform. One can also hope that they are prepared to live with the greater responsibilities that such freedoms require, but without a history of this, their chances are less than 50 / 50 at best. 

While these efforts unfold, State Department officials, academic and government foreign policy experts, and media pundits are all desperately scrambling to keep up with them (and failing equally desperately); offering their discerning views in droning tones on what is being done in these places (and what should be). Being part of none of the groups previously listed (and being eternally grateful for such good fortune), their efforts appear little better than those which could be performed by The Marx Brothers or The Three Stooges; and with far less humor.  

I often find it difficult in fact to figure out which is worse, our National Foreign Policy around the world or, the ways in which we attempt to define it. Based on its actions over the last few decades however, it appears (at least to me) to be characterized by something combining a Bad Neighbor Policy with a form of dysfunctional child-rearing. 

In our Bad Neighbor Policy efforts, we appear to be complaining about the loud music and crazy parties going on somewhere down the block, while ignoring the junk cars cluttering our own property. We seem so intent on complaining about the neighbor's crabgrass that we fail to notice that we haven't mowed our own yard in weeks. And while we have a great many opinions about the terrible colors that those up and down the street have painted their homes recently, we fail to notice that the veneer of our own residence has been peeling for some time and is looking rather shabby these days. 

In oafish snobbery, we appear quite willing to scorn a neighbor on their recent economic predicament and their acceptance of welfare and food stamps; while seemingly unaware that we have run all of our credit cards near their limits and without change in our own profligate spending habits are likely to face foreclosure soon. I know, a pretty cheering picture of the way we deal with the rest of the world. But wait, there's more ... 

Looking at our Dysfunctional parenting efforts, it's also hard to decide which is more unsettling; that we appear to revel in an arrogance that allows us to treat the other nations of the world as children, or that we choose to follow a form of nurturing behaviors based on a philosophy that would be found morally bankrupt (and probably child abuse) if performed on the youth of this nation. 

We hand money out in foreign aid instead of showing such nations how to take advantage of their own assets. 
- Give a kid enough quarters to play video games and you won't have to worry about what he's doing for a while. 
We treasure and encourage our friends in a regions around the world, especially in places where many are not. 
- Actually, we seem to mostly find new ways to treat our true friends like crap in order to get the bad kids to like us. The truth of course is that the bad kids will never like us, and the only way we can get them even appear to is to pay them. Meanwhile anyone with any real affection for us is on the verge of giving up, having been dissed so often and for so long. 
We encourage stable governments in area where instability reigns. 
- Actually, we are guilty of either choosing or supporting a string of dictators that were simply the "lesser of two evils" in many of these regions, encouraging them to make trouble amongst their neighbors in places we didn't think it would look good for us to do so. We have paid dearly in blood and treasure for those poor choices. 
We show the world what the principles of free speech can do to make a nation strong. 
- Secretary of State Clinton is currently promising a US policy of support for dissidents trying to get the truth out over the Internet, when not actively supporting the arrest and trial of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange for similar activities that proved embarrsassing to the US. 
We stand as an example of freedom, liberty, and democracy for the world to gaze upon in wonder. 
- OK, we all know by now that we are not a democracy, but a representative republic right? But beyond that, we are also a federation of States that have allowed the agreeing 50 parties to be subverted by an increasingly coercive central government in violation of the very compact that they originally agreed to. We may be better than a lot of the petty dictatorships around the world, but we are hardly anything to wonder over (unless its to wonder how long before we implode). 

One cannot help but wonder where such arrogance, hubris, and ignorance can come from. An honest assessment of our foreign policy over the last 90 some years is that it borders on an organized criminal activity. By the standards that we judge such actions, we operate little better than a crime family working a combination of protection rackets and loan sharking activities. It doesn't take putting a tin-foil hat on to see that perhaps since late 1823 when the 'Monroe Doctrine' was introduced and we began to think that we should be the arbiter of lands outside our borders, that we have often been little more than a rich bully in dealing with other nations. 

When Columbia refused to allow Teddy Roosevelt to build the Panama Canal, his foreign policy created Panama. Years later when we needed a strong leader there, we supported Manuel Noriega. (Later of course, he lost standing as our BFF and we had him arrested.) We propped up the Shah of Iran until he was chased from his country by his own people, then propped up Saddam Hussein across the border in Iraq to provide some regional stability and defend us against his replacements (and you saw how well that's worked out since)

It's far past time that we realized that the enemy of our enemy is not necessarily our friend. Our continued lack of skill in determining such relationships hampers our relations with the rest of the world. Training and equipping petty despots, fringe groups, and marginal governments is often not in the long-term best interests of the United States; and legitimately could be considered sponsoring terrorism by our neighbors. (Does anyone remember how much equipment was sent to Mao in China during WWII?) 

Don't get me wrong here, not all of our efforts have been in vain. We did after all defend Western Europe and Asia from the mass murder of 12,000,000 by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler; but we also pointedly ignored or simply stood aside while similar mass murderers like the aforementioned Mao Ze-Dong (49-78,000.000), Stalin (23,000,000), Pol Pot (1,700,000), and Kim Il Sung (1,500,000) committed their atrocities in similar situations. defines policy as: "action or procedure conforming to or considered with reference to prudence or expediency"I doubt that I would find little argument that a good deal of expedience has been used in crafting US foreign policy over the years. 

Much of the prudence of such policy however, can only be considered however by further using the definition of dysfunction: "any malfunctioning part or element".

No comments: