Some Thoughts on American Foreign Policy Sent to a Friend

I’m in agreement with what you wrote about immigration and Cuba…..  though that is probably no surprise.  Sixty years of the same policy has done little to free Cubans, what could trying a new approach hurt?

And as for immigration, as you know, the Senate passed a bill months ago that the House refused to take up.  I laugh at the Republican “concerns” about security as that Senate bill has an abundance of security measures as judged by the likes of John McCain.   If the concern with security is so important to them, doesn’t letting our present level of insecurity go on and on from year to year make any sense?

In terms of the Mid-East and Ukraine, I don’t think Obama has done a great job, but I think these problems are uniquely complex, new to our time……especially the burgeoning chaos in the Mid-East.  That mess is a result of decades of strong men violently keeping a lid on seething undercurrents and now the lid has been lifted, first by our toppling Saddam and then the so-called Arab spring, which I welcomed at the time, not really thinking through the likely aftermath.

The dilemma seems to be that toppling a strong man in the Mid-East usually leads to a situation even worse.  So, take your pick, suppression or chaos (with the kicker being that suppression doesn’t always work as the Shah of Iran, whom we supported, learned decades ago.)

Here is something I’d like your reaction to.   It strikes me that American foreign policy has long been a stew composed of 1) wanting international stability that suits capitalism, 2) spreading democratic values and 3)  acting humanely.   That’s fine when the values don’t conflict, but they usually do and when push comes to shove it is stability concerns that usually win out, which is why we have supported dictators in the Mid East for the past 100 years, including Saddam Hussein prior to his Kuwait venture.

But the other two values often muck up the realpolitik nature of the policy, such as when GW Bush envisioned setting up a democratic state in Iraq and when Obama’s humanitarianism  compelled him to stop Gaddafi from crossing Libya to exterminate thousands of rebels.

I was all for the Libya intervention, but I did not imagine how little we would help solidify that country afterwards.  Understandably we had become tired of trying and failing to rebuild countries, and neither party showed interest in doing much to develop a secure aftermath.

While Obama can be blamed for not doing more, what have the Republicans done to help?   Conduct hearing after hearing right to the present day in search of ways in which Hillary was at fault regarding Benghazi?  No matter that the country has dissolved into civil war in the mean time.  Most important is to besmirch Hillary right up through 2016.

At this point, with ISIS becoming the scourge of the entire region (now including Libya), we clearly most value strong men who rally to the anti-ISIS cause such as President Sisi of Egypt, who seems more repressive than Mubarak but is tolerated because he is showing commitment to fight ISIS, not to mention applying pressure on Hamas, which Israel welcomes.

It must be nice being a Vladimir Putin with such a clear cut agenda of regaining Russian greatness uninhibited by humanitarian or democratic values, free to conduct foreign policy like a complete thug.

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Why I Write About the Greater Middle East

In my post last week I asked for feedback on my blog and received none.

Greater Middle East

Greater Middle East (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yes, none, not one.   I have to say I am surprised, but not terribly so when I consider my own reading of blogs and editorials, glancing at many and reading some and seldom leaving comments.    It is the way we are these days.  So much information available to us,  and so little time, a situation exacerbated by the misshaping of information to fit someone’s political ideology.   We can not even begin to integrate all that information because so much of it is suspect.

It often strikes me that we have more knowledge and less collective understanding than ever.

If you like a post you linger longer.  If not you move on sooner.   No need to comment unless you really want to and why would you really want to?  Ingest it or just move on.

Hey, I’ll just assume those of you who read this fairly regularly feel the way the reader cited last time  does:  “I’ve enjoyed receiving (the) American Titanic blog this year. You put it together judiciously, pacing its frequency and length just right, to be of passing interest each time. I like your generously including further web-refs, for anyone wanting to follow-through on a particular subject.”

Love that comment.

The other response to my post I listed was from my close friend Judy.  Since she doesn’t want to read about the Mid-East – too complex and too removed from her life – I want to say something about why I want to write about it, even  if hardly anyone else wants to read it.

I want to write about it because of its complexity and its potential for rocking our world.  I have paid attention to world affairs for nearly 50 years and believe I can give some useful perspective to the burgeoning chaos that envelops the region.

Three factors have guided our foreign policy towards the Greater Middle East:  Oil, regional stability and nuclear weapons, either already there or potentially so.  Of course, the three are tied together and all linked to Israel, both a staunch ally and source of ongoing problems.  In our desire to maintain stability, so our sources of oil remained reliable, we often backed dictators, such as the Shah of Iran and Hosni Mubarak of Eygpt and, lest we forget, Saddam Hussein, before he got too big for his britches and invaded Kuwait.

We placed our faith in strong men who could keep their  internal politics stable, and all things considered, that vast region had been much more stable than it is today.

The Greater Middle East has become much more difficult to deal with now, as the age of the strong man has diminished and the age of republics has yet to arrive.  What we take for granted as democratic processes has not been experienced by most of this region.  Except for Israel, India and possibly Turkey, the nature of rule is either strong men, some pretending to lead democracies, chaos or semi-chaos.  Trying to make sense of this gigantic region is particularly difficult these days because so much is unpredictable.

I think I have some useful perspective and worthwhile thoughts on that collective tumult, and so that’s why I will return to the subject again and again in upcoming months.   Much will happen and it won’t be easy judging events when they do.

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