Thursday, September 30, 2004

Fixing US Foreign Policy

Well, the first presidential debate of 2004 is over and I think Kerry beat Bush. Still, neither candidate adequately identified what I beleive is the key issue of this race: How US foreign policy should be fixed. Kerry expects you to read his plan online, so you can read mine, too.

My opinion is that "America the Meme" is the US's largest export. It is not McDonald's or the Mouse but the very idea of checks and balances, individual choice and the belief that anyone can grow up to be president. Thomas Jefferson pusued the ideas and ideals of Locke, Bacon and Newton and turned them into a system of governance that many yet aspire to. It is these ideas, not the Mouse and the Big Mac, that make America great and an envy of the world.

Thus, America the Meme is the issue worth defending, growing and nuturing in US foriegn policy. The current administration involved the US in the first unilateral war of aggression since the Spanish-American War of 1898 (in which the US wanted Cuba and was instead saddled with governing the Philippines for nearly 50 years). Wars of aggression are a trait of empires, not of free countries wishing peace and prosperity for all. We must be careful not to sully America the Meme with images of empire building.

My prescription is simple, if a tiny bit radical: America needs to lead morally before (and while) it leads militarily and economically. That may be accomplished by signing and actively pushing an international ban on landmines which kill more children than soldiers; by unilaterally reducing nuclear arms arsenals instead of pursuing new research into nuclear "bunker busters"; by leading the international community on the reduction of pollution (inclusive of signing and ratifying the Kyoto Protocols); by signing and ratifying participation in the International Criminal Court; by treating war as a last resort and by active and consistent engagement of rogue states on issues of peace. In short, we must do the right thing according to our own beliefs in order to morally lead the world back from the fear and partisonship caused by reactionist protectionism.

We are only just learning to what extent the US literally scared the USSR into the Cold War by use of the atomic bombs, constant bomber and surveillance overflights, and arms buildups on its borders. Similarly, Robert McNamara has only recently told us how badly Vietnam was managed, thinking it was about communist expansion - at the same time Vietnamese leaders have told us they initially wanted US support for their revolution from China and France. US foriegn policy, in an effort to protect US interests, has caused fear and uncertainty in friends, adversaries and non-aligned countries alike. We have caused our own worst problems and the fog of war has done the rest.

Moral leadership would seem to be the only answer other than the sort of constant low-intensity warfare which characterized the Roman, Ottoman and British empires. It won't happen that way, under an administration lead by either candidate, but how much better the world would be if the United States of America would lead the world from the moral high ground instead of a bunker of our own design.

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