Integrating International Policy

“As I walked through countries at war from the Indian Ocean to the shores of the Mediterranean over the last 25 years, I often asked myself whether there are leaders who can lead without an enemy.”
—Giandomenico Picco, former U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs “It has always been a mystery to me how men can feel themselves honored by the humiliation of their fellow beings.”
—Mohandas Gandhi

Following the fifth anniversary of September 11, life is scarier than ever. After a brief show of world solidarity for peace, the forces of division and violence have resumed “business as usual.” Today, the global political climate is even worse than it was on September 12, 2001. We are witnessing record-high levels of anti- Americanism, no sign of calm in Iraq, and a resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan. To compound these woes, more terrorist groups subscribing to al-Qaeda’s ideology and tactics are crawling out of the woodwork.
Sadly, instead of searching for ways to address the root causes of unrest and terrorism, this Administration prefers the simple-minded solution – the military solution. Never mind that every president since JFK has learned (usually the hard way) that overwhelming firepower doesn’t resolve political, social and economic problems. Oh well. You can hardly accuse President Bush of being an “egghead.” Therefore, it’s no wonder that he’s learned nothing from history, which is why he’s pouring endless amounts of money – $600 billion – into a military machine that is incapable of solving anything but … well, military problems.
The conventional wisdom after 9-11 was that terrorists wanted to “disrupt, destroy or ruin our way of life.” Not likely. Nobody can really destroy our way of life except us. In a recent issue of The Atlantic Monthly, David Kilcullen, now a senior adviser on counterterrorism to the State Department, was interviewed on how the U.S. could better fight the “War on Terror.” His insights were compelling.

“Does al-Qaeda still constitute an ‘existential threat’? I think it does, but not for the obvious reasons.” [Kilcullen] said the most useful analogy was the menace posed by European anarchists in the nineteenth century. “If you add up everyone they personally killed, it came to maybe 2,000 people, which is not an existential threat.” But one [European anarchist] assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife. The act itself took the lives of two people. The unthinking response of European governments in effect started World War I. “So because of the reaction they provoked, they were able to kill millions of people and destroy a civilization.”
“It is not the people al-Qaeda might kill that is the threat,” he concluded. “Our reaction is what can cause the damage. It’s al-Qaeda plus our response that creates the existential danger.”

In other words, the terrorists win only if they goad us into shooting ourselves in the foot (or the head). It may behoove us, therefore, to start questioning our policies – to determine if they are actually making the
world a safer place or merely deepening old wounds, wounds the U.S. helped to create.
My mother used to tell me, “If you do something wrong, you must take responsibility for it.” Let’s take this advice to heart. Americans should accept some responsibility, and demand accountability from their elected officials, for the current state of world affairs. I submit the following for your consideration:
– Recently, Jody Williams, founding coordinator of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) and winner of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, said, “There has to be something terribly wrong with a country that spends over $10 billion a day on one war when people [by the thousands] are dying of AIDS.” The U.S. will spend over a trillion dollars on Iraq.
– During the recent war in Lebanon, the U.S. supplied Israel with weapons while sending humanitarian aid to Lebanon. “Is he [President Bush] just trying to fatten us up before he gives Israel bigger bombs to kill us?” asked one Lebanese citizen, who was forced from his home, and had to camp out in a garage in Beirut. Unconditional support for every Israeli action is not a policy; it’s a cop out.
– The U.S. is the largest exporter of small weapons. Many are sent to the world’s most violent and impoverished regions. (See: “The Toll of Small Arms,” The New York Times, September 5, 2006, p. A21).
– The U.S. ties almost all development money to some type of military credit for the purchase of American- made weapons. Of the nearly $6 billion in U.S. aid to Egypt and Israel, for example, over $4 billion goes to weapons credits to buy, you guessed it, weapons from the US.
– As the U.S. fights non-proliferation, specifically in Iran and North Korea, Congress approves nuclear technology sales to India.
– As this Administration pushes for democracy and the rule of law, hundreds are detained in Guantanamo with no legal rights. Now, Congress is poised to sign the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which calls for “commissions to impose upon any person found guilty any sentence appropriate to the offense, including death or imprisonment for life; and Secretary of Defense to carry out such sentences.” No rights, no innocence until proven guilty, and no public defenders, judges or juries. You call this the rule of law?
While we cry for freedom, we watch with disinterest, as nations occupy other countries or commit genocide. We watch as civilians are killed in the name of terrorism. We sell weapons, large and small, to promote peace. Peace. Selling weapons in the name of peace is like selling rock salt as fertilizer.
On the anniversary of 9-11, Americans wanted to talk about their experiences on that horrid day, but no one wanted to talk about how U.S. foreign policy may have fueled the anger that led to such a heinous act.
Americans are hardworking, decent and innovative people, but we have allowed our leaders to create enemy after enemy, war after war. Today, the “chickens are coming home to roost.” Decades of supporting one tyrant after another in the developing world – usually in support of domestic special interests – has created long-term mistrust and resentment in much of the world. And, as the world becomes smaller, U.S. foreign policy must change.
– Listen, learn and act responsibly. It’s time to develop a more integrated policy toward the world. It is time to communicate better both externally and internally with our friends, allies and even our enemies – and to “put our money where out mouth is.” If we say peace, we must really mean peace.
– All sectors of society must be consulted. We must learn how to integrate every sector of society into foreign policy planning. We must consult with the psychological, cultural, social, commercial and political experts before resorting, as usual, to bombs and bullets and bombast.
– All voices are vital. We must take back our right to true democracy. In the U.S., this means the long- overdue establishment of new political parties. In our daily lives, it means finding a way to give voice to all groups. Hearing every voice isn’t always pleasant, but it’s imperative.
I know this seems daunting, but peace is not easy work. It’s always easier to shoot ’em instead of working with ’em. But by committing ourselves to the development of a more thoughtful and integrated foreign policy (underpinned by a realistic understanding of history), we can develop a vision of a more promising future.

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