Posts Tagged ‘foreign policy’

War: Wuss or Wise Man?

September 28, 2009

Following President Obama’s appearances at the U.N. and the G-20 summit, various talking heads have labeled him, based clearly on their political preferences,  either to be a wuss or a wise diplomat in his foray into public foreign policy.  The right wingers, historically the proponents of “bomb ’em off the face of the earth”, have declared his speeches  a prelude to the dissolution of the free world, rife with all the accoutrements of caving in to terrorism.   For  Heaven’s sake, they have practically crucified our President for merely talking with Iran.  Do they actually think that rushing into that country with military strategies and armaments is more effective and less costly than verbal negotiations?  On the other side of the aisle, Democrats and Progressives have, although very tenuously, tagged him as a leader who needs to mull over all the options before he will take action, resulting in active policies that will be 100 per cent correct.  (See Frank Rich: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/27/opinion/27rich.html?_r=1)

All of this talk is semantic silliness.  As I have said many times before, traditional warfare is obsolete, useless and just downright destructive.  Let me use our current situation in Afghanistan as an example.  Keep in mind that the old USSR spent ten years fighting in Afghanistan.  Due to that country’s decentralized tribal structure, rough terrain and poverty, the USSR did have to pull out not even close to being triumphant.  The cost of that ten year battle helped bring about the demise of the USSR. 

So why is the U.S. following that same foolhardy pattern?  We had our chance to nab Osama bin Laden in the year or two after 9/11.  We blew it.  There are two paths we can take in Afghanistan.  First is an insurgency.  Typical military strategy holds that by increasing the number of troops, we will experience victory.  Always remember that without troops and wars, there would not be any military to speak of.  Insurgencies validate the existence of the military.  Tell me something, my friends: have we been successful in any post-World War II war by the sheer strength of our bullets and bombs?  Certainly our presence in Korea, Viet Nam and Iraq was  total failures.  The “good guys” never won, the native population was decimated and the physical structure of the countries destroyed.  At best, we had to settle for a partitioning of the aggrieved countries and at worst, we had our cojones handed to us on a silver platter, with thousands upon thousands of our troops dead.

The second option for dealing with Afghanistan is trying to reach and alter the hearts and minds of the people.  By providing them with the basic needs of housing, jobs and education, we might be able to change the overall outlook.  One fact that has come to my attention this week is that Afghanistan has a 90% rate of illiteracy.  NINETY PER CENT!!!  That is absolutely astounding.  No wonder the extremists have the upper hand.  The people can react only to the verbal promises and brute force of these terrorists because they cannot read more reasonable proposals.  So the rebel rhetoric and guns are all they can consider as a means of help for them.

Furthermore, regarding this tack of reaching the hearts and minds of the people in Afghanistan, in all truthfulness, how can America provide the basic needs for Afghanistan when we are in pretty shaky shape right here on our own turf, what with inadequate funding for proper housing, education, health care and a dearth of job opportunities?  Protectionism is not the answer, yet neither is the outlaying the funds for nation building half way around the globe.  Somehow, these countries must find a way to discern who would be their best leaders, elect them (of course, a free and fair election must be a requisite) and work with those leaders to help themselves.  It might appear to be a simple solution, yet we have witnessed in countries around the world that this type of government is so hard to create and activate.

These ideological divisions are artificial constructs and have no usefulness in effecting change for the betterment of the human race.  It is immaterial whether or not President Obama is a wuss or wise man  in his international policies.  For the life of me, I do not understand the opposition’s constant criticism of him for gathering all the pertinent information before taking action, considering all the options before letting the bullets and bombs fly, and weighing the pros and cons before subjecting our troops to death sentences. 

Our notion of war is outdated and ineffectual.  We now have a thinking man in the White House.  What a waste it would be for us not to allow him the time to use those abilities to do the right thing.  Even after given that luxury of cool, contemplative thought, these are such complicated and tricky issues that there is a fairly good chance that the decisions still might not be the absolute correct ones.

Wuss or wise man?  Either way, Barack Obama is just a human being.  Even the comparisons to JFK are ridiculous: JFK was no genius when it came to foreign policy.  Yes, his ultimatum to the USSR during the Cuban missile crisis was successful in the dismantling of the warheads, but certainly his involvement in the Bay of Pigs was disastrous and his  policy (or more specifically, his LACK of a real policy) in Viet Nam was the prelude to an even more dire outcome.

President Obama is no JFK and we should be glad for that.  He is who he is, trying his damn best to do the right thing for our country and the world community.  To label him as either a wuss or a wise man is a detriment to progress.

A Life In Lieu of Glory

August 5, 2009

I have renewed respect for Hillary and Bill Clinton.  Apparently, they are both rising to the occasion and becoming true diplomats.  They are maturing.  I wish I could say the same for the human race.

The pardon and release of Laura Ling and Euna Lee from the twelve year sentence of hard labor passed down by North Korea is a welcome relief.  International relations are so much more than just policy jockeying and power plays.  The bottom line is human life, whether it comes down to an entire population or just one individual.  War and global hostility is outmoded, even if you believe that they were  EVER effective, productive or moral.  Enough of this facade to further a nation’s, or a leader’s, testosterone drive for the sake of power and personal gain.  This event in North Korea was about saving the life of these two journalists first and foremost.  Do not equate their release with a failure of detente on nuclear proliferation.  The actual victory was for saving human lives over theoretical strategy.

It is damn ironic that our justification for war, name any war, is to secure freedom, security and a better life for people when the outcome of war, name any war, is murder, destruction and misery for the affected people.  When we cite war as the means to a better world, it represents the most depraved depth of human evolution: to suppose that the waging of murder and mayhem to erase previous murder and mayhem,  is a big, fat lie.   Bolton, former Ambassador to the United Nations, has been quite vocal in the last two days slamming Clinton’s rescue mission.  Bolton’s premise, which is right in line with the Republican platform of an isolated schema versus the value of  a human life (and therefore understandable why the GOP is a dying entity), is that by conducting this humanitarian mission, the United States has “negotiated with terrorists” and thus, forfeited our position of power and dirtied our reputation for ethical international relations (hah!).  Furthermore, Bolton believes that we have lost face in the arena of diplomacy.  Sorry Johnny, I DO believe that these two women’s lives were much more important than saving face.  In reality, it took a bigger person, a more progressive country, a more enlightened outlook to secure the release of these two hostages rather than stand on ceremony to protect and even to hide behind our  foreign policy.

Who cares about an often over-used and exaggerated stance of  “negotiating with terrorists” when a human life can be saved?  Does that approach remind you of the Bush/Cheney foray into an uncalled-for seven year war, an assault on our Constitutional rights and a usurpation of executive power the likes of which we have never seen before?  How many people do we need to kill and towns destroy so we can revel in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?  I daresay that if one of these captured journalists was Bolton’s daughter, he might be keeping his mouth shut right now.  It is kind of like Nancy Reagan making a 180 degree turn on her opinion of stem cell research: she was totally against this research until her beloved Ronnie got Alzheimer’s Disease.  The chance that stem cell research could provide a cure for her husband was enough of a motivation for her to change her mind on the whole process.

Not for a minute should you doubt that President Obama was intimately involved in this prisoner release.  Despite the public language that Bill Clinton was on a purely “humanitarian mission” and rumor has it that perhaps a third party, such as Sweden, was involved in the negotiations, there is no way that our Secretary of State and our President were out of the loop.  It is just that President Obama does not have ego problems and could very comfortably remove himself from the accolades of this wonderful outcome.  He didn’t care about the the ego-massaging that might be directed elsewhere; he just wanted to get these two ladies back home.  Additionally, former President Clinton has too much respect for his wife, his President and the office of the Presidency to conduct “rogue diplomacy”.  Oh no folks, Hillary and President Obama were in on this from the get-go.

Hillary Clinton has also demonstrated a new maturity in her work to forgo kudos in return for real results.  She knew that the main goal of this international hostage crisis was to obtain the release of the prisoners,  NOT to promote one’s personal career success or steal the headlines.  Sure enough, Hillary proved her statement of a few weeks ago that “North Korea was behaving like a petulant child, a rebellious adolescent” (paraphrased).  Now you all have discovered what Hillary and Yo Mama always believed:  mothers know best.

Everyone involved in this humanitarian rescue performed admirably, intelligently and with the deepest concern for human life.  Finally, a little more emphasis on what truly matters and a little less on the glory.  Can we continue on this path working for the greater good?  Yes we can!