Issues2004: Foreign Policy

Issues2004: Foreign Policy

: Here’s the toughest one — not just because the problems frequently look unsolvable and because the relations are often acidic but also because I don’t know enough about foreign relations.

I follow the news like a responsible citizen — though I’ll admit that I tend to wait until a part of the world heats up before I catch up. I’ve warned in all these Issues2004 posts that I’m not an expert and I’m writing these merely as a voter and a citizen but in this category I want to add an extra cup of caveat. So now to the point…

Neither side has yet devised a doctrine of foreign policy that works for the world today.

I don’t object to the words “preemptive war” (now that I’m a liberal hawk and I’m rather intense on the topic of terrorism). But the problem with that Bush doctrine is that you put yourself in the position of proving that you’re preempting something. You’re buying the WMD problem. And you’re fighting a hypothetical. Nonetheless, if people believed that a nation or those that nation supports could or would come after us, they would support a war of preemption. But the standard of proof his now nearly impossible to find.

I have supported the war in Iraq on different justification: essentially the Tom Friedman doctrine. I believe it was a proper — and liberal — humanitarian goal to liberate a people from their tyrant. I stand by that justification. I now see that knowing what we knew, we should have gone in to liberate Germany and Europe and the Jewish people far sooner than we did; what suffering we could have ended. But I also clearly see the problem with this doctrine: Who plays God? Who’s the devil? Which tyrants do you choose to take out? Shouldn’t we liberate North Korea? Shouldn’t we be shuttling to Africa when wars and tragedy break out? Is Saudi Arabia oppressive enough to liberate? And isn’t there a danger — a history — of using this doctrine not to liberate but to overturn for political convenience (pick your own examples of that)? This is not, as we say today, a doctrine that scales. That’s not to say it is bankrupt; there are times when we must liberate a people or take the responsibility for their suffering. But this becomes a know-it-when-you-see-it policy and it’s tough to manage that.

The second half of the Friedman doctrine is that we needed to establish a beachhead of democracy (and modernity, capitalism, education, and prosperity among citizens) in the Arab Middle East. This comes closest to my view of a winning worldview. I don’t mean that we invade every country that is not a democracy. But I do mean that we set democracy and freedom of choice for every citizen as the expected standard of nations. We must use economic and diplomatic means — and, yes, sometimes military will — to secure demoracy. It’s enlightened self-interest. Every human deserves a vote (I do not buy for one second that some nations are not ready for democracy; that is abhorrent political snobbery). And democracies are far less likely to be a threat to the rest of the world. We should expect the United Nations — of all political bodies! — to support universal democracy as a goal and hold it and its member states to that standard.

Finally, there is what I’ll call the Kerry doctrine of cooperation. He wants to get other nations and the U.N. into Iraq (but I agree with those who say there’s a snowball’s chance in Baghdad that will happen). He thinks we should work harder to gather consensus among nations. That’s a fine goal, by the sound of it, but we cannot set that as the standard or else we find ourselves hostage to the French et al. We have to face up to the fact that we are the remaining superpower. Nations do look to us to take an active role in the world and we should. Of course, there will be no agreement about every case (we had people screaming at us to get into Liberia and we had people screaming at us to stay out of Iraq). So we have to set our own standards.

So what are those standards? In foreign policy, they are never clear cut. That’s why diplomacy is diplomacy: It’s politics without laws.

But I think when we turn foreign policy around and look at it from the rights and needs of the individual worldwide, we at least have a clear starting point:

1. We must support the growth and strength of democracy. The vote and control of the governed over government must be seen as a fundamental human right. In this age of worldwide person-to-person communication, the internet will begin to tear down dictatorships. We need to help. We should support democracies with economic relationships and, when need be, military protection. We should reward moves toward democracy and shun leaders who resist.

2. We must protect our citizens — our children and the children of other nations — against the demonstrated and growing threat of Islamic fascism and so we must use the means at our disposal — economic, diplomatic, and military — to root out the terrorists and bring down those who support them. They didn’t say it this way, Lord knows, but that’s the inevitable conclusion of the 9/11 Commission: If you fail to prevent the next attack, you will be blamed.

3. We must respond to human suffering under tyrannical regimes. That response clearly will vary but it is a justification for action.

I’m writing these Issues2004 posts to put my bandwidth where my mouth is. I want us to talk issues, I need to start the ball rolling. But, again, I emphasize that I’m no expert on these topics; you can see why I’m not likely to replace Condie Rice! Still, that’s where I start the discussion. Over to you.

  • http://www.brianbaute.com Brian Baute

    “I do not buy for one second that some nations are not ready for democracy; that is abhorrent political snobbery”
    I think it’s clear that many nations are NOT ready for democracy. However, the best way to get them ready for democracy is to get them democracy so they can do it badly for a while until they can do it well. The worst thing we can do is keep democracy from them “until they’re ready for it.” It’s like learning to drive, or getting married, or writing. Hardly anyone does it well at first, but the only way to learn to do it well is to do it poorly at first and keep working at it and learning it.

  • praktike

    Jeff, here’s the problem with the “beachhead” thesis.
    We already had strong relationships with several Arab governments in the region–Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, and a number of smaller states in the Gulf. We’ve given over 25 billion dollars in foreign aid to Egypt, for instance.
    So why invade Iraq when we could work with our friends to reform their political systems?
    It seems like a crazy bass-ackwards way to go about nation-building to me.

  • http://opinionpaper.blogspot.com Brett

    praktike,
    Why would those nations give up their power to let the people actually choose who runs the government? Those leaders don’t want reform. They want to hold on to their jobs, their positions, their wealth, their power.
    Nations are never friends. There are relationships of mutual benefit, but never friendships.
    It’s like Thatcher said: “The veneer of civilization is very thin.”

  • US

    For the strategy to work, we do need the trust and faith of the people we are trying to help.
    We have to be consistent in our application of it, and in staying true to its ideals. As soon as we are inconsistent, it undermines our relationship with the people we are helping, and our mission.
    I put your three points under the larger heading: “A decent life for all.” Wholeheartedly agree with it. But if we are inconsistent in pursuing it, no one will trust that is our goal, and we will see more and more resistance.

  • praktike

    Brett asks, why would they do that?
    Because we have a lot of leverage over them. We’re major trading partners, we supply their militaries and in the case of Egypt, 40% of their grain.

  • http://opinionpaper.blogspot.com Brett

    praktike,
    Those things will only matter to them if they’re in power. Democracy means that they might not be in power every few years.
    Explain the incentive for them to voluntarily abandon their power to democratic rule.

  • http://roxanne.typepad.com Rox

    I agree, in theory, with your wish to liberate oppressed peoples. That’s why I had no problem with the idea of liberating Afghanistan. I did not support the invasion of Iraq, however, thinking that Hussein’s regime was a much better option for secular women there than the regime an election in a largely fundamentalist Muslim country would bring.
    There is already mounting evidence of the suppression of women in Iraq since we moved in there. And I have no faith that the government the majority of fundamentalists would elect will make it any better.
    This is another reason why “W Stands for Women” is the most ridiculous campaign slogan. Ever.

  • http://opinionpaper.blogspot.com Brett

    Rox,
    “Mounting evidence of suppression of women?”
    Links, please. Interviews that I have read from women there talk of the freedom they now enjoy.
    Here’s one, and I can get more if need be:
    http://www.sacbee.com/content/news/story/10821339p-11739307c.html

  • Noman

    The stated goal of Islam is a totally Islamic world. A significant fraction of 1.3 billion Muslims supports the use of force, including terrorism, to further that goal. If the Bush administration clearly and consistently stated that the US is at war with Islam, then the US would be at war with 1.3 billion people, including millions of US citizens. Many non-Muslims would join against the US or try to remain neutral.
    Instead Bush calls Islam the

  • http://roxanne.typepad.com Rox
  • Jack Tanner

    ‘thinking that Hussein’s regime was a much better option for secular women there than the regime an election in a largely fundamentalist Muslim country would bring’
    I guess you’re right – since Saddam killed non discriminately – however he did seem pretty up on the rape room scene.

  • Tim

    I’d like to contribute resources/thoughts without offering anwers:
    Top 5 competing worldviews today:
    – Cheney/Wolfowitz/Ledeen
    – Powell/Scowcroft/McCain
    – Albright/Holbrooke/Joe Wilson
    – Jimmy Carter/Andrew Young
    – Buckley/Buchanan/Novak
    BC2004: Defending American Lives & Liberty
    KE2004: Defeating Global Terrorism
    Bush’s Lost Year
    The Pentagon’s New Map

  • http://opinionpaper.blogspot.com Brett

    Rox,
    I checked out your links. You might actually study up on these things before you cite them and believe them. Here’s the rundown. Pay particular attention to the last one.
    The first article was not from anyone in Iraq – it’s written by an associate director of MADRE, which is a leftist (progressive) group. You can read more about Yifat Susskind’s background here:
    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&ie=UTF-8&q=%22Yifat+Susskind%22
    The Boston Globe opinion article is opinion by two women, Swanee Hunt and Cristina Posa, not in Iraq.
    The Mercury News atricle is a report on violence in Basra from several months ago, which is no surprise. The thrust of the article is that Shiite Muslim religious extremists are forcing women to obey strict Islamic code. They didn’t do that before Americans went in there?
    Then you reference a blog. Not that I don’t give blogs weight, but I have no clue as to where this woman is, and the fact that she can blog as openly as she does says quite a bit about her freedom. No suppression there. (And her blog is entitled “Baghdad Burning” – obviously a metaphor, since that’s not really happening.)
    You point to an Economist article. You should probably read it before you link to it. The word “Iraq” is not in the article. It’s about Saudi Arabian women.
    The FindArticles link is a New York Times article from May 2003. The war was barely won at that time and says nothing of today.
    The last article actually points to a great development. Although it’s true that the interim Iraqi governing council passed Resolution 137 which put into effect Sharia Law in personal/family matters, it was shortly thereafter that the measure was repealed.
    http://usinfo.state.gov/mena/Archive/2004/Apr/26-665123.html
    “Resolution 137 transferred family law matters from civil administration to religious Sharia law in December 2003 but, under intense pressure and lobbying from women’s rights groups, the council subsequently repealed the resolution.
    “‘It ended up being the best thing that could have ever happened to the cause of women in Iraq,’ Dickow said. ‘When you look at the way the Iraqi women mobilized, they have really grasped onto the concept of representative democracy and grassroots politics better than anyone else inside the country. They got together. They signed petitions. They peacefully demonstrated. They demanded time with the Iraqi Governing Council and they got it. And they spoke their mind. And they succeeded in repealing resolution 137.'”
    What a breakthrough for women in Iraq.

  • http://roxanne.typepad.com Rox

    Brett,
    You don’t like my sources. I probably won’t like yours. Interesting that blogs only have validity for some when they confirm the reader’s POV. No validity if they don’t.
    I do have to clarify, for accuracy, the Economist article. Go back and read it … but, in case you can’t find the relevant section, here’s one:
    Just as disturbingly, movement towards equality in some Arab countries has shunted into reverse. Such is the case of Iraq, a country that during the 1960s and 1970s was in the vanguard of progress. Saddam Hussein’s two decades of war and sanctions crushed the life out of the country’s once large and rich middle class. Their decline discredited social models, such as the nuclear family, which had begun to replace the old patriarchal clan system. The lot of most Iraqi women has worsened even more dramatically since the war. In the cities, women are simply afraid to go out alone. The rise of religious radicalism has prompted many to adopt the veil, out of fear as much as conviction.
    Whatever.

  • http://opinionpaper.blogspot.com Brett

    Rox,
    You seem to care about women’s rights. You would certainly celebrate such a democratic victory for Iraqi women as their successful repeal of Sharia law, wouldn’t you?
    It’s not that I didn’t like your sources. If the articles you cited weren’t purely opinion by people who aren’t there, then they had nothing to do with current suppression of women in Iraq, or in the case of Resolution 137, the full story actually proved you wrong and showed a wonderful victory for women living in an increasingly democratic Iraq.

  • Tony Alva

    Norman,
    Phenomenal post! Your description of the current situation is depressingly accurate in my opinion. I posted earlier that “winning” this war will be Muslims changing the hearts and minds of other Muslims after a very long drawn out hide and seek kind of war. Iraq is only the first theater in what will surely be many fronts and take many years to neutralize the entire threat. The hatred and intolerance for the west that is being taught in primary schools in these theocratic nations will ensure they have plenty of brainwashed soldiers to fight the Jihad (someone explain the difference between what they are teaching Arab kids and what was taught to Hitler youth?). What the most frustrating aspect of our current situation is that many of the doves out there actually think that any of those who proudly count themselves amongst our enemies ranks are actually interested in some sort of peaceful negotiations. It will NEVER happen. Not because WE are unwilling, but because of what you opened with: “The stated goal of Islam is a totally Islamic world. A significant fraction of 1.3 billion Muslims supports the use of force, including terrorism, to further that goal.”
    I wish it wasn’t true, but I have not seen any indication that your statement is an exaggeration to any extent. As I asked in an earlier post, Where is the outrage from the moderate Muslim world at the atrocities being carried out against fellow Muslims in the name of Islam? Forget for a minute what they are doing to the secularized citizens of the world, what about what they are doing to their own kin? Unfortunately, most doves would rather call us bigots than face this simple fact.
    No doubt about it, this war must be won, and it is going to get much uglier before a positive turn is made. The sooner the rest of the world gets over the fact that this is what and who we are in engaged in war with, the sooner we can collectively fight the war.

  • Kat

    Step 1: Dismantle the UN–a bunch of freaking hypocrites with King Hypocrite at the helm. It is a useless tool of human rights abuse countries trying to dictate to us. It is a tool helping muslims in Darfur and Sudan. It helped muslims in Syria islamize Lebanon, it is helping muslims destroy the Pandits, it helped bomb innocent Serbs, it is helping Mugabe kill white farmers, it helped Saddam while Iraqis suffered, it is helping muslims terrorize Jews. The UN is a jihad machine for spreading the muslim disease. Replace the UN with the UN–United Democracies. The UN is the worst foreign policy on earth–a big fat lie.

  • susan

    Rox
    For your information, I am a 43 year old single American female whose freedoms have been oppressed by National Organization of Women.
    NOW has so much power over policy that I am not allowed to have a voice. And, because NOW has dictated and determined any and all feminist rights issues, I will be supporting Bush just to
    spite the dictators running NOW.
    Besides, Bush led the liberation of millions of Afghani and Iraqi bush, for this act alone I thank him. As do my sistas!

  • http://www.theglitteringeye.com Dave Schuler

    I’ve put my observations on foreign policy here.
    I agree with Tony Alva above that reform in Islam is best accomplished by Muslims. The challenge for the Western world is nurturing that process before the whole shebang blows up in our collective faces.
    And may I remind everyone that the unique responsibilities of the President are foreign policy and war? Domestic issues can be handled by the governors of the states.

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