American foreign policy is taking quite a beating right now. The self-loathing of liberals has turned from limited foci such as the inherent racism of white people to a much broader one: America is the new public enemy number one for the so-called progressive. It is certainly unfortunate that the liberal mindset has to be perverted by those radicals who assume the role of martyr at every turn.
In this instance, “progressives” blame America completely for the terrorist attacks, thereby apologizing for, or even negating, the role of Osama bin Laden and fundamentalist Islam in the equation. I will avoid sinking to an argumentum ad absurdum on this count suffice it to say that fundamentalism is more responsible for terrorism than any actions that America has ever done. If bin Laden and those who share his fundamentalist views are still angered about the Moors being kicked out of Spain in the 15th century (neglecting to mention the fact that the Moors invaded Spain and slaughtered Spaniards in the first place), then it”s reasonable to say that his demands are ludicrous and cannot indeed, should not be entertained.
But that”s not to say that a reasonable look at American foreign policy is not justified. American foreign policy has its share of horror stories, but violent retaliation against the American big dog has been centered in the Middle East. What factors about sectors of the Middle East promote such violence, such radicalism?
In this case, America does play a role, but the role isn”t the obvious one that “progressives” like to point to. This isn”t an issue of sanctions on Iraq we have sanctions on Cuba, but Cubans aren”t manning flights aimed at our buildings. This isn”t about supporting Israel during the civil strife against Palestinians we implicitly support China against Tibet, but Tibetans aren”t threatening a holy war against us.
No, the role of American foreign policy, especially in regards to the Middle East, is a vitriolic mixture of fundamentalist Islam and an insecure, wavering American foreign policy. It”s not that our policies are bad per se, it”s that they seek immediate results while neglecting long-term stability. This lack of follow-through has everything to do with a shifting series of American presidents coming in contact with an unchanging roster of non-democratic monarchs and theocrats in the Middle East. Saddam Hussein has been around for 22 years we”ve changed presidents and cabinets five times since then. Yasser Arafat has been funding suicide bombing for 32 years seven different presidents have dealt with him. Saudi Arabia”s King al-Aziz Al Saud 19 years, four presidents Egypt”s President Hosni Mubarak 20 years, four presidents Libya”s Colonial al-Qadhafi 32 years, seven presidents. All of these nations have some form of Shari”a Islamic law of varying degrees of oppressiveness.
The U.S. clearly suffers greatly from the shifting face of foreign diplomacy, especially in regards to a stagnant leadership in the Middle East. Monarchies are not exclusive to the Middle East, but Shari”a certainly is. Islamic leaders have little concern for their citizens, and are capable of extending national benefits at the expense of citizens indeed, the use of Islam as the backbone of government gives theocrats a moral righteousness for their actions, regardless of how amoral they truly are.
American presidents have their hands tied, at least to some extent, by the vague notion of “public opinion.” Because of this tie to democratic elections, presidents must do what is politically popular instead of what is politically right. It was politically popular to support a less extreme Lebanese government until 241 Marines were killed by a car bomber. After that, the tide of opinion turned and what was politically popular was to pull out of Lebanon and leave their government in tatters and open to attack by Shi”ite fundamentalists. It was politically popular to aid Afghanistan against the Soviets, but it was not politically popular to remain in the region and aid in the development of a representative government. It was politically popular to bomb Baghdad, but not to continue the real diplomatic battle by overthrowing Hussein and allowing Iraqi citizens a representative government.
Only a few examples of an unfinished job done by American presidents who were explicitly tied to popular support.
Perhaps it”s time to rethink these ties. Perhaps it”s time to reconsider whether the American populace with an attention span that can barely handle commercial breaks and an ethnocentrism that gives it the scope of a grade schooler should be the arbiter of foreign policy, especially in an increasingly global society.
The U.S. has implemented safeguards against raucous and uninformed public opinion. The Electoral College and the Supreme Court are examples of this on one hand, the American public is not fully trusted with the decision on who leads the country, while on the other hand, the process of Judicial Review is divorced from popular politics. Both of these institutions are explicit statements regarding public opinion: The American public cannot be trusted fully.
It certainly wasn”t necessary in the isolationist days of America”s birth to safeguard foreign policy in a similar manner. But the U.S. has become an increasingly powerful world player indeed, the end of the Cold War brought about a global situation in which the U.S. is the major international player. In times like this, foreign policy must be safe-guarded against the whims of the American public.
Why not set up a body similar to the Supreme Court that is in charge of the focus of foreign policy? This body would be composed of people with life terms, who set the agenda for American foreign policy without having to be concerned about issues of election. The Supreme Court is an evolving body that is tied to precedent the executive branch is a wildly shifting position that changes ideology in tune with the election cycle. Four- or eight-year presidents cannot properly make headway on the foreign circuit when faced with dictators who have been in power for decades, and who will be in power for decades to come.
Make the president a puppet for this foreign policy body make the president accountable to and responsible for the opinions of that body. If American foreign policy is a slowly evolving set of standards much like our Judicial Review is we as a nation could go a long way toward maintaining some stability in the foreign field.
President George W. Bush has hinted at this need to ignore the American public. He said that, even if the American public tires of this war, he will not. That”s the right idea, except Bush obviously won”t take this war to the level that is required it”s not enough to “smoke (Osama bin Laden) out of his hole” American foreign policy must follow through in its efforts to spread democracy. This means that, once the Taliban is removed from power (and yes, it should be removed from power), America must stick around and create a fair government (and no, a fair government has nothing to do with the Northern Alliance).
At the same time, Bush has hinted that he is tied to public opinion and is being forced to succumb to it. Bin Laden says that his rage is fueled by the plight of the Palestinians, which makes the American population question our ties with Israel. The U.S. should not back down on its peace efforts, and it must be willing to remain involved as long as it takes, to ensure that the emerging Palestinian state is a democratic one.
American foreign policy is worth criticizing, but not necessarily for its goals. The established goal of American foreign policy the extension of democracy is laudable, but the lack of follow-through is not. In a world where the U.S. is demonized by so many, we require a strong, constant set of policies that do not waver with the fancies of the population.
Manish Raiji can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org