Grand County should care about restoring U.S. reputation abroad
July 27, 2008
The Obama campaign is making the point that it is important that we restore American leadership in the world. This begs two questions: Has America really lost its position as world leader, a position it has held since the end of World War II, and what difference does it make to us in Grand County?
Thanks to the policies of the Bush administration, we have not only lost our leadership position, we have given it away. Instead of taking the leadership in peacefully resolving problems with hot spots in the world, we have shunned our roles, and in some cases isolated the United States, forcing us to go it alone when we did not have the ability to do so.
We had all of the sympathy of the free world after Sept. 11 and the Bush administration blew it so badly that his policies have made us a pariah in the eyes of our allies’ citizens, making it difficult to help us achieve what we think is in our national interest.
Before the turn of this century, the world looked up to the United States for the standards of how a democracy should behave internally and externally, and that moral authority gave us an edge in world leadership. This made it easier to bring along allies to support our policies because their citizens also supported our policies.
In the past eight years, we have lost that moral authority with a “do as we say, not as we do” behavior. We invaded Iraq before they attacked us ” the first instance of such use of military power in U.S. history; we indulged in torture, no matter how the Bush administration tried to redefine the term. We held prisoners without the right of habeas corpus and denied them any civil rights while we thumbed our noses at the Geneva Convention.
We refused to join the rest of the world in combating global warming . We refused to play an active role until this year in trying to resolve the Israel-Palestine question, which is still a festering sore motivating the Arab street against us. We appointed ambassadors to the United Nations who were sworn enemies of the U.N.; and above, all, we viewed diplomacy as a secondary tool to military action, only to be undertaken when the country we professed we wanted to talk with already agreed to the U.S. position in advance (the first time in our country’s history diplomacy was ever conducted that way).
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The only time we deviated from these policies and relied on diplomacy was when it was obvious we didn’t have the ability to conduct military operations because we were already fighting a two-front war. That notable instance of relying on multilateral diplomacy resulted in our success in getting North Korea to back down from developing nuclear weapons.
We have also weakened the world’s respect for our military, intellectual and economic power. We rattled sabers pointed at Iran with our military stretched so thin, we could not back up our threats, and the rest of the world knew it. We looked like fools to the world because we relied on bad intelligence and we denied overwhelming scientific evidence of the impact of man on climate change.
We took our eye off the ball; put our resources in to an ill conceived Iraq invasion and occupation, while Al Qaida and the Taliban resurged in Afghanistan and Iran became more powerful because we destroyed their biggest enemy, Iraq. In short: Our policies for the last seven years have weakened our ability to fight terrorism and have made our enemies stronger and made it difficult to get our allies’ support.
Except for John McCain’s recognition of man’s responsibility for global warming and more humane treatment of prisoners, he plans to continue the same style of foreign policy: Don’t negotiate but rattle sabers; and drill more oil so that we can continue our reliance on the same fossil fuels that play a very large role in warming our planet. He continues with a lopsided approach to resolving the Israel/Palestine issue and does not advocate for the United States taking a more aggressive leadership role in solving that problem; and he proposes having our combat troops occupy Iraq, even when the Iraqis themselves say they can live within a timeline of withdrawal by the end of 2010.
He claims he knows how to win a war, but he does not appear to understand how to avoid a war in the first place, or to understand that Iraq’s solution is a political one, not a military one. He continues to couch the terms of victory in Iraq as a military concept, and calls anyone who does not advocate a military “victory,” in effect, a traitor who puts political gain over national interests.
Why should we sitting here in Grand County even care about the rest of the world’s view of our foreign policy? Two good reasons: It makes it more difficult for us to carry out our policies that we view in our national interest and, in particular, fighting our “war against terror.” It does not make us safer. A second good reason: It saps our country’s ability to deal with our own internal economic issues.
When the voters of our democratic allies object to the Bush/McCain foreign policy, their leaders have to balance support of the United States with their internal political support.
The result is that the United States could not rally any significant assistance, other than the British, in our Iraq adventure. Even the British are bringing their troops home in a year. We were left holding the bag with troops and financing the war. The other result is a very large reluctance on the part of important members of NATO to help us in Afghanistan or for other alliances to help us in Iraq. Once again, the burden falls on our economy and our military. To get significant support for our foreign policy from abroad has been like pulling teeth.
Our attempts to impose economic sanctions on countries like Iran and even Cuba don’t work if the rest of the world does not join in. We can’t use that tool if the world does not cooperate. A one-country sanction has little meaning if the target country can find markets and trade with other countries. To be able to use the tool of economic sanctions, we need the rest of the world to join us and we have failed because of the contempt many of our allies hold for the Bush foreign policy. That makes us even more reliant on a military option using a stretched-thin military.
Let us bring this home to Grand County. The cost of the military adventure in Iraq has put us in an economic hole for decades. We are financing what we are doing by printing more money because we are having to pay for all of this ourselves without the help of our allies. We also reduced taxes when we started our expensive military adventures. Our government claims they cannot find solutions to health care and economic development to create jobs because we have neither the will nor the resources to do that. Our financial markets are in the worst shape since the Depression, mostly because of the fallout from the strain of the expense of the wars.
Do you believe Grand County prosperity is immune from the rest of the U.S. downturn in the economy? That our construction industry will not be hurt by a slowdown in second home purchases? That tourists will still drive from the Midwest in spite of high gas prices? That our visitors will continue to spend more money on restaurants and lodging? That our banks will be able to continue to collect on outstanding construction and mortgage loans given these circumstances or even find money to loan? That we can find the money to help the great numbers of medically uninsured in our county? That the I-70 access to Winter Park will be improved anytime soon? Pray, and pray hard, for praying is all we can do if we believe this.
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