A treatise about the benefits of respect as foreign policy
A country is not its leader. A country is not its government. A country is not its government’s policies or politics. A country isn’t even its army, navy, and air force. A country is its people and their languages, traditions, loyalties, needs, aspirations and history. Sometimes we here in America lose sight of that because we have so many languages, a dearth of common traditions, mixed loyalties, diverse and competing needs, and a relatively short history. The only thing remarkably consistent are our common aspirations. Most of us aspire to be the greatest nation ever on the face of the earth. When we sent 23 men to the moon and brought them all back safely, it was a magnificent demonstration of that greatness.
But shortly thereafter, we turned, once again, to attaining “greatness” with military and economic warfare – but against weak and relatively defenseless opposition. And, since winning the war in 1945 with two atomic bombs, have used that awesome destructive power to bully ordinary people in countries that are not so well-equipped and not thought of as equal – by us or any other First World nation.
We’re currently bullying the people of North Korea and Iran because their countries might gain some small fraction of parity with our vast arsenal of city-killing bombs. Of course this hurts the poor, disenfranchised and marginalized people while it actually supports their leaders, generals, or secret service operatives. And it hardens their hearts against us!!
We’ve been bullying the ordinary people of Cuba because their dictator, now deceased, took from wealthy Cubans and Americans so he could start the process of reversing 500 years of colonialism and minority rule. He repossessed his island in the name of its people and immediately made education and health care a right of every Cuban citizen. And the Cuban government has kept its commitment to serving their people throughout the entire US embargo which, of course, crippled the Cuban economy and tried, unsuccessfully, to turn Cubans against their own government. We even use a small part of stolen Cuban soil, Guantanamo Bay, for practices against citizens of other Third World countries that are illegal within the U.S.
My father was in Libya when Muammar Gaddafi siezed power and was under house arrest for a month until he was released with his life but few of his company’s assets. I understand the losses that occurred. But Libyans, like most people, wanted their own laws, their own traditions, their own language and their own country. Like most colonies, they were sick of foreign laws, foreign rulers and local surrogates for foreign powers. Is that so hard to grasp? Sure, Gaddafi is a brutal dictator. It’s a harsh, nomadic region that’s been ruled somewhat brutally by Greeks, Romans, Turks, Italians, Germans, Englishmen, and Americans. And the discovery of oil made it a place of economic interest – meaning a place to exploit for profit – to First World powers.
We invaded Iraq because someone (one person) said they were working on making a nuclear bomb and it was rumored that they had serin gas. That alone seemed sufficient reason to justify invading a fairly modern and progressive country by ourselves and destabilizing the entire region. This foolish, unwarranted, dishonest, murderous decision by our Commander in Chief shot his approval ratings up to 73% and 99 out of 100 Senators supported it!
We don’t play fair or even close to fair with the people in other countries! And we don’t respect their God-given right to life and the pursuit of happiness. Instead, we pretend that sending bombers over their homelands, smart bombs into strategic targets near their homes, and armies into their cities and villages is, in some never explained or achieved way, fighting for their liberty from a government that many, often most, of them have accepted. And we keep stealth submarines and vast fleets just off their shores so we may retaliate with massive destruction for any violation that any country or ethnic/religious group might perpetrate against us such as the events of 9/11/01.
All the citizens of these small, relatively defenseless countries are on notice that if any of their governments or any organized group of citizens provoke us or retaliate in kind, we can obliterate any spark of civilization within their borders with our vast nuclear arsenal arrayed over every continent but Antarctica and almost all oceans and seas on Earth.
I find it interesting that so few people make the connection between our nuclear arsenal and the fictional Death Star used by Emperor Palpatine.
We insist on trying to rule foreigners by fear when it would be so much easier and effective to simply befriend them and let change happen gradually. We did that with the people of China and, for a time, with the people of the Soviet Union. If they hate their government so much, let them demonstrate that and we can help them through the United Nations or some worldwide and unaligned nonmilitary organization or just let them deal with it themselves.
We were patient and nonviolent with the students of Iran when they invaded our embassy and took 52 people hostage. It took 444 days, but all hostages were returned safe and sane on the day Jimmy Carter left office after his peaceful and effective policies were rejected by the American electorate.
Other countries can sort out their own governments and will in time. Russia and China went from Communist to Capitalist and hardly anything changed. They can choose their form of economy and their choice can be socialism or communism without our world falling apart. They don’t have to speak English, think like us or look like us for kindness and respect to create friendship and goodwill.
Isn’t it time we stopped being paranoid?
We could bring 100,000 troops back from their almost permanent stations in Germany, Japan and South Korea without the world descending into chaos. We could bring almost 200,000 of our forces back home! If we had some effective and unbiased way to combat piracy, we could even bring our navies back home where they belong!
We could spend a third of what we currently spend on a brutal and ineffective “defense” and still have the world’s largest military budget! We could spend a sixth of what we currently spend on “defense” and still have the world’s second largest military budget while having safe borders and two vast oceans protecting us from invasion and occupation! And that would gradually diminish the cost of our Veterans’ Administration and Social Security Survivor Pensions as well as immediately give us the money and manpower to create $824 billion worth of prosperity and goodwill in the U.S. and among the people of our allies and enemies alike around the world.
Furthermore, it would immediately stop covertly supporting oppressive leadership in erstwhile “enemy” countries and let their brutality stand by itself for the world and their population to see and, as in the USSR and China, to topple from within.
It would provide for worldwide prosperity, which is what American workers need to better equalize their wages and benefits with the rest of the world. Prosperity is infectious and spreads like wildfire if not hoarded and squandered by paranoid control addicts.
Soviet Communism died of its own internal rot when Russians realized they’d been lied to about Afghanistan and Chernobyl. Our opposition helped keep dictators and imperialists in power in erstwhile “enemies” just as their opposition helped keep hawks in control of US politics.
Not much changed when Soviet and Chinese communism died and the Cold War ended except eastern Europe was freed by Russia from Russian colonialism while American colonialism remained unchanged, Russian colonialism turned eastward and Chinese colonial aspirations took a long-term economic approach rather than a short-term, ineffective military approach such as used against Tibet (by China), Vietnam (by the US and China), Afghanistan (by USSR and US), Iraq and Kuwait (by England and the US), Israel (by England and the US), and US military outposts all over the Pacific Ocean left over from WWII and other military operations in the region.
If you look into it deeply (as sociologist Robert Pape did), the attacks of 9/11/01 were caused by well-educated people with moderate religious views who were protesting US military forces in the Middle East. Our troops fueled the outrage of these self-styled patriots. Their nationalist fervor was so strong, they chose to die to teach us smug and pushy Americans a lesson we refused to learn.
Our troops overseas often cause terror and resentment. Our troops don’t really belong in other countries as warriors just as any large, armed and organized group of foreign nationals within our own borders would cause us concern (if not apoplexy).
Furthermore, the submissive response we sometimes got as a reward for our bullying has been elusive in the last seventy years. North Korea fought us to a standoff where mutually-assured destruction on both sides keeps an uneasy peace and where they eventually developed city-killing bombs of their own. And Cuba, Vietnam, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and even warlords in Mozambique didn’t back down to the awesome might of the United States when threatened.
If we and our government don’t respect people in other cultures, why should we expect them or their governments to respect us? And if bullying weaker countries is wrong AND ineffective, are profit and pride sufficient rewards to continue supporting violence and unrest in the world?
©David N. Dodson, Phoenix, AZ, April, 2020