Sunday, May 3, 2009

Obama's Foreign Policy for the 21st Century

How Can We Help You?

After decades of exporting U. S. Army's School of the Americas’ grads to our “friends,” why have those countries become so ungrateful for all the secret police, intelligence officers, death squads, authoritarian armies and crooked dictators? Did we win their “hearts and minds yet?” 91

Having only just emerged from the gravest threat ever to the Rule of Law here in the United States we can turn our thoughts outward to the same nightmare actually realized in other countries throughout the world. In the United States, when we see injustice and the deliberate castration of our Constitution, we can squawk, and squawk very loudly -- especially on our way to the polls! Unhappily, in much of the rest of the world the response to such insults is a well reasoned silence.

Not by coincidence, the nations where this “well reasoned silence” is the loudest tend to be precisely those same nations which currently present the most puzzling foreign policy challenges. Such a simplistic generalization is quite a claim. But, if that argument is valid, what has brought us (Try it out. In this instance, “US” means “humanity,” all the people in the world, not an abbreviation for the “United States.”) here? What was the part of the United States in the creation of this mess? What can correct it and restore our honor?

Two troublingly similar, destructive engines seem to have been at play in the creation of all these embarrassments. Although the complexion of both suspects might be quite individual, the foundations of power and mischief employed by both are quite similar. What we face is the final toxic remnant of power and control ruthlessly extracted from the “fear franchise.” The result of this numbing extraction of human life force has been, so far, both relentless and perpetual. The sponsors -- that is, the two suspects mentioned here -- seem to remain locked in the frenzied promotion of the myths of what’s left of 1.) the Cold War, and, 2.) the most aggressive modern hybrids of all religions throughout history, Islam and Christianity.

A little history from MeanMesa:

We’ll take on the second item first. We can rightly term the religionist aspect of this “fear franchise” the IslamoChristian extremist terrorists. Strange name? Naturally, we will expect the soldiers on both sides of this unfortunate throw back to terrorize each other, but should we tolerate them as they terrorize the rest of the world, too?

To date, of course, the Christian terrorists have been far more successful in the horrific slaughter thanks to their great wealth and corresponding military potency. It is a “dance contest” where contestants on one side strap dynamite to their bellies while the other side shows up in F-15’s, but on both sides all are on their path to a “heaven of vindication,” filled to the gunnels with the patriotic and the pious. By the way, this was the exact same “great wealth” that the Islamic terrorists had hoped to use for their own “projects,” but the Christians got it first, so they are, at least temporarily, the “big dogs,” if not the “chosen ones.” Could even their god be so fickle?

“Never saw us coming? Too bad for all you unbelievers. Now, let’s talk peace.”

Regardless of side, the religionists “fight the good fight” against Satan, heretics, infidels, the fallen and any other proclaimed enemy. Of course, the whole affair is an obstreperous medieval holdover, but there is no shortage of volunteer blood in teenagers paralyzed by every convenient temptation from dogmatic illiteracy to a stubborn unwillingness to actually think about anything.

Here, we can point our righteous finger of judgment to all those horrid madrases where the young Islamic bomb boys are pumped full of crazy anti-Christian ideas. But also here, we must not point our righteous finger of judgment at what goes on, for example, in the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, where military officers who actually behave as little more than the cheapest kind of “dirty shirt preachers” and other hillbillies force their out dated religion on cadets who are unable to resist their “message of supreme truth.”

Yeah. These guys are good. On both sides. Sure, part of the issue is the guarantee of a constant flow of controllable, obsessively energized, unthinking cadre, but the other part of the issue is the question of precisely what sort of weapons will he carry. On the second count, of course, the rich guys win -- or, at least, they think they should, or, uh, they think they are, regardless of who may, at the moment, be more violently terrifying.

For those among us who might be more cynical, we see some underlying “feet of clay” in all this high borne, righteous violence. For example, there always seem to be matters of masculine uncertainty below the bellows of every burka and new marketing opportunities in the aftermath of every application of holy, cleansing, high tech fire power.

This serves as a suitable buffer as we ease our discussion on to the second suspect, that is, the apparently endless shadow of the Cold War. The lingering thrall of that “fear franchise” seems to survive regardless of any scope of changed conditions. Ideologues are cursed to follow in lock step in their pursuit of Ouspensky’s condemnation of “mechanical intellect,” unable to adopt any new frame of reference even long after circumstances have changed.

For the terrifying decades of the U.S. -- Soviet “H-Bomb Era,” the United States had a rather homogeneous entreaty to all potential global players. One important aspect of that was our post-colonial-pragmatic version of what was called “training.” Now, years later, this “training” still has legs, still haunts us and has come home to roost. In fact we still promote this unusual “training” of ours when we address conundrums such as Iraq and Afghanistan. To any government seeking our assistance, no matter how repressive, we offer “training.”

During the Cold War the United States and the Soviets felt duty-bound to show up in every dirty little corner of the world to promote their respective hegemonies. Predictably, when one side showed up, the other was soon to follow. No blood sacrifice was too great to, uh, prevent the dominoes from falling! In those cases when one of these “distributed,” global competition arenas descended to an intractable state, that is, when the host-victim populations divided themselves into interest groups supporting one side or the other, both of the major players immediately offered “training.”

The pitch?

“If you want us to be more loyal, less violent, more predictably allied and more controlled, train our secret intelligence service so we can reliably strangle all dissent before it becomes an international crisis and train our military so, rather than being threatened by our neighbors, we can intimidate them instead, thus, of course, avoiding any distraction of an international crisis.”

If that was the pitch, what, exactly, wasn’t the pitch?

What we never said and what we never heard from any of these tin hat autocrats was “Train our judges so we can establish the Rule of Law.” Why would we expect them to bother with such a little nuisance when they could coast into an elite dictatorial aristocracy well lubricated with “walking around dollars” from our State Department? After all, in those days avoiding the prospect of The Republic of AlmostSomewhere sliding into the grip of the Red Devil was a real bargain at almost any price! If that “price” including a judicious overlooking of a few Rule of Law problems, so be it.

Now, President Obama, to some 21st century solutions.

In the conflicts of our modern day we see a sickening repetition of the same problem. It arises from a common complaint. After our U. S. Army’s School of the Americas provided the “training” for ever more efficient and ruthless secret police, military intelligence and “public opinion control” experts for these friendly, enlightened, pro-western dictators of the last century, conditions changed. That approach, although tediously short sighted even then, is now outrageously out of focus compared to its legitimatizing sort of out of focus” status while it was being executed as Cold War policy.

The modern complaint is about the Rule of Law much more than anything even similar to the Soviet Menace. Pakistan is a good example, although there are many.

The official shift of the border provinces to Sharia Law had immeasurably more to do with a dangerously unreliable judicial system than with Islamic piety. The residents of those areas were previously expected to wait years for the services of a corrupt judge and then, finally, consider it Law and Order. The substantial result of that ridiculous system was essentially lawlessness. The move to the horrors of ancient Sharia was a very practical adoption of what was, although admittedly seen by the locals as a descent from the high born promise of modern law, an alternative which could, at least, provide some sort of order in the lawless mayhem.

Why did the fledgling government of Pakistan “cave in” to such a proposal?

There seem to be two prevailing reasons, and they are not “prevailing” only in our example of Pakistan. Happily, these two prevailing reasons seem to have approximately an identical solution. Also happily, that solution is one which we can afford at an incredibly lower rate of investment than our current military suppression approach. We can also, probably, expect far better outcomes if we make certain that our plan is thoughtful, effective and rational, that is, if our plan is not a repeat of the old style, violent American arrogance and greed.

The first reason is corruption. In the hinterlands of Pakistan, the border provinces, have been subject to almost total war lord rule. The exceptions, drug lords and corrupt judges, are equally unpalatable. Judicial appointments there are not unlike a Roman Emperor giving Africa or Spain to his favorite noble cronies. Loyalty to a national constitution is gleefully cast off in favor of some real profit opportunities. Understandably, when the local folks with real grievances grew tired of such an affront substituting for justice, the Sharia idea started to look better and better.

The second reason is money. It costs a lot of money for a country such as Pakistan to establish and maintain an operational judicial system. When difficult, lawless places such as the border provinces are considered, the potential vote count hardly justifies the extraordinary expense. Even that measure may be generous, that is, it may be optimistically presuming too much democratic responsibility at this point.

The same outcome arises everywhere. In Kenya, when election results were unbelievable to the masses, they grabbed their rifles and machetes instead of looking to their courts. In the Congo, insurgents rely on the well established idea among the population that no solution can be found in the nation’s court system, making the brutal, violent revolution start to make sense. In Zimbabwe, no outrage is obvious enough to spark confidence in relief from the nation’s courts. In Saddam's Iraq and the Ayatollah’s Iran, the same pattern prevailed or continues to prevail with the same predictable results.

The traditional American response to such problems has been to consistently “beef up” the suppression forces of governments we like and to aid the insurgents in their chaos against governments we didn’t like. We never seemed to miss the robust, coincidental economic opportunities, either.

“Training” opportunities at places such as the School of the Americas paid tangible dividends to U.S. “entrepreneurs” who were well enough connected to reap their rewards. Now, all those wealthy elitists have died, safely leaving their prizes and rewards to their trust funded off spring and the political calamity of their greed to the rest of us.

Given the state of both the world and this country, it is clear that these economic terrorists will do anything for cheap labor. A year after the unemployment benefits run out, desperate American workers will take any job at any price, obey orders and accept almost any conditions. After a war of insurrection has paralyzed a third world economy for a decade or so, foreign workers can be satisfied with -- very profitable -- subsistence wages and conditions. Distatorships are only bad for business if one doesn't own the dictator.

Americans need to put the School of the Americas out of business.

We need a 21st century version of the School of the Americas. One which will provide whatever assistance we can offer to the establishment of the Rule of Law wherever it is needed. If our ambitions for world peace and prosperity are finally real, if we have matured enough to put our claim of idealism on the road, this will be where the "rubber meets that road." This is a rational approach to an effective foreign development policy -- one that might very well accomplish the goals we say we stand for.

The details might vary with the countries of origin for the students in such a place, but we have handled more complicated problems in the past. Surely, there are some constants in the application of law and the provision of justice no matter where the court house might sit. We should be able to train judges and lawyers in some beneficial way regardless of the nature of the laws they will uphold when they return home. We need to change the paradigm sufficiently so the graduates of such a school don’t simply apply for a visa and start looking for office space in Manhattan.

We have enough ideals and commitment to change the paradigm. We are already spending fifteen times the amount of money it would require to bring hope by establishing justice instead of trying to suppress violent reactions to corruption all around the planet. Will it be bombs or verdicts? What exactly are we trying to accomplish?

Developing countries need the same things we do. Honorable judges to save the democracy. Dedicated prosecutors to end corruption. Successful defense attorneys to protect the people.

It’s an old saying, but it seems pretty darned durable. “If you want peace, work for justice.”

For some interesting reading about the U. S. Army's School of the Americas: school of americas watch us army school of amercias

and, for an overview of recent Taliban advances, Sharia Law and Pakistan's democracy, CBS 60 minutes:

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