Thursday, November 16, 2006

The First Goal of Foreign Policy Should Be Peace

We have lived in security, across the oceans, and generally safe from foreign violence on our shore, for quite some time now (aside from 9-11). Considering the drubbing everyone else got in World War II, our States never really saw war (since Hawaii and Alaska were still territories). And our democracy and society has brought great wealth. So we have become very belligerent in recent years about trying to force our version of things down peoples throats, because deep down it is a pretty good basic system we had going (although things have been a bit broken down lately). So we forget that in most areas, some of which never really lived under democracy, and have been the worlds battlefields for hundreds of years, the people really just want a respite from violence. They want to live in peace.

We think of the first Iraq war as a spirited jaunt actoss the desert, an amazing tactical and strategic campaign. And it was, from our perspective. But to the people of Iraq, they took 100,000 casualties and had many critical pieces of infrastruture destroued. Then there was the Shia uprising, which we let Saddam crush (the Coalition, which included many Sunni leaders, weren't keen on lending a hand), and instability and war in the kurdish areas. Then crushing economic sanctions (with occasional surgical air strikes against military positions). Then another American invasion and a continuing occupation. Before all this was the Iran-Iraq war, a stupid futile and ugly thing that bled a generation out of each nation for 8 years. Iraq alone had 400,000 + casualties. So things haven't been too pretty there in the last 30 years or so.

Iraq and Iran aren't the only countries in the area that have a large number of veterans, of wars that didn't really go all that well either (which can leave some resentment in a nation). Turkey's been fighting an insurgency of their own for about 2o years. Lebanon? Hell, their last war was just a few months ago. There have been recent conflicts and strife in Syria, Egypt, Algeria, Gaza and the West Bank (Palestine?), Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, etc. All with wars. All with much destruction and loss of life. Some have even lived for years now with a steady drumbeat of war and death in their communities.

So maybe what they are really looking for is peace. Let's just get everybody some damn peace so we can all relax and catch our breath and just try to work things out, instead of shooting for "regime change," or to "shake up the status quo." We are a bunch of democratic revolutionaries with the most powerful army in the world. The last time the world really say that kind of aggression was the French Revolution, after it was seized by Napolean. An acquiescent Republican Congress combined with Bush's imperial presidency (hopefully ending soon), has led our young, idealistic democratic soldiers into the sands of Iraq. It's no Waterloo, but it's still stirring up a lot of ill will and leading people to fearfully unite against us and scramble for ways to defend themselves. They'd prefer we didn't roll in guns blazing and pushing liberty, democracy, whiskey and sexy.

Foreign Policy has many branches, there are always many options on how to finesse a situation. The key is you got to sell what's buying. You'd think an industrious nation like us should recognize this. And the people in the mid-east are ready to buy peace. All the leaders would like some peace, maybe some more trade, and a solution to Israel. Hell, the Saudis have a proposal on the table right now that the other countries are behind, but Israel is being to damned stiff-necked about things (and going off half-cocked like that in Lebanon didn't help much either). So we need to get serious about bringing Peace to the middle east, not more war. Not destabilization. We have created a violent monster in Iraq, in the heart of the middle east. That's not exactly what they were hoping the new century would bring them in the year 2000. And then the second intifada began in September of 2000 when Sharon visited the Temple Mount and everything started falling apart. And since Clinton left, we've only made things worse.

So we need to focus on peace. Forget any of the other goals in mind (democracy, oil security, the neocon desire to show a strong "will," etc.). Make Peace the number one priority, and put some muscle into it, damnit. If the Bush administration put as much effort and face time into this as he did to his ill-conceived social security plan or the atrocious Medicare bill, then something positive could actually happen (although we'll probably have to wait for a new president). Hell, Bush ran away from the whole Palestinian situation from day one, because they viewed it as unsolvable, and so didn't want to look ineffectual by getting involved (always putting spin and perception as #1).

We need to let everyone know that all we want is peace (John Lennon foreign policy, we'll brand it, get a good Beatles soundtrack. Now that's some image management). And mean it. And work for it like its the most important thing in the world. Every trip around the world for Bush is just a photo op with an occasional lecture on freedom. But he never really talks about working for peace.

We prepare for war, so that we may live in peace. But Bush prepared for war in Iraq, got inspectors in and could have secured peace, but choose war. We need to bring peace instead. If our home is attacked, we will respond, like in Afghanistan. But aside from responding to direct attacks, we will focus all our attention to championing peace, to find a way for people to just put their guns and bombs down. And if everyone can just have 10 or 15 years without all this bloodshed, the world will be a much better place. Let's keep the violence we face just from fanatical terrorists, and lets cut off the terrorist recruiting flows by preventing dead children in the streets (especially if killed by US weapons). And if we are living in peace, we can all work together to prevent and stamp out terrorism. Instead of picking fights, let's give the people what they want. The democracy, whiskey, and sexy will come. Just give it time. As Milton Friedman said, “The free market is the only mechanism that has ever been discovered for achieving participatory democracy."

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