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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Evidence That Demands A Change In US Foreign Policy

If you want to know how bad the present situation in Egypt is, then read the following article from Forbes (click here). According to this article, regarding freedom and human rights,  today's situation  is worse than it was under Mubarak. But contrary to the author's opinion, what is happening in Egypt just might be a successful example of the America's foreign policy, not a failure. Why? It is because our foreign policies from the past have not revolved around freedom and human rights as much as they have around pleasing customers and retaining a measure of regional control. The question becomes what will our future policies focus on. 

Just to review our history in the region, we helped the British replace a democratically elected Mosaddegh in Iran in 1953.  Did we shed a tear or hear any screams when the Shah's secret police arrested and tortured dissidents or was all made obscure by the flow of cheap Iranian oil and the sale of Western goods and weapons to Iran?

And we supported Saddam Hussein throughout the 1980s.  This was true even when he used WMDs on the Iranians and on his own people and we continued to sell him materials for those weapons. It wasn't it until he invaded Bush's rich friends in Kuwait that we called him a Hitler. Yes, Hussein was always a monster; but he was a monster in moderate's clothing, according to both Reagan and Bush. It wasn't until he seized Kuwait that he shed his clothing.

And even if we don't count Israel's brutal occupation of the Occupied Territories, haven't we always supported the dictators in Saudi Arabia? Have we ever shown any significant disapproval of the reign of the Saudi Arabia's royal family? Where was our outrage when Saudi Arabia helped in violently putting down the protests in Bahrain? 

It is in the Middle East's well-oiled dictatorships where America's foreign policy priorities are best displayed. As long as these dictators buy our products, help us with the flow of oil, and don't wander outside of the parameters we have set for them, then all is quiet on the Mid-East front. But as Mosadegh, Morsi, and Saddam, people of vastly different moral characters, have shown is that once one ventures outside of those parameters, there can be a heavy price to pay. 

On the one hand, part of what has been written above must be moderated by the recent restriction in military aid to Egypt. Concerns over the mass death sentences given to those in the Muslim Brotherhood and the suppression of rights of dissidents are the reasons aid has been restricted. Almost one-third of military aid has been restored though. Part of the resumption of that aid was in order to maintain some military privileges as well as for the sake of our military contractors (click here). But we should also note Obama's welcoming phone call to President Isis of Egypt. Certainly he mouthed concerns about rights (click here). Here, the real leverage point in motivating Egyptian dictators is found in controlling the flow of military aid. 

So the above cited article in Forbes tells it like it is about Egypt, that is for the most part. Where the author possibly erred was to presume that American foreign policy in the region, under the leadership of either major political party, has had any concern for freedom and rights. In the past, it hasn't. There seems to be some current concern for rights in Egypt, though that caring about rights has not spread to many other countries (see previous Newsweek link). That is because for the most part, the main goal of American foreign policy in the Middle East, as well as any other part of the world is to secure customers and establish and/or maintain control.

Finally, what can all of this tell us about Iraq? Currently, Northern Iraq is under attack by the Islamic State Of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). This is a Sunni Muslim group that grew out of Al-Qaeda and who seeks to establish a Caliphate in Iraq and Syria based on a radical approach to Islamic law. Its tactics are described as brutal. And it opposes both Syria's President Assad as well as the Shi'ite based government in Iraq  (click here). We should note that according to the Time magazine just linked to, Iraq has brought some of this conflict on themselves for their treatment of Sunni Muslims. Chelsea Manning includes in this mix Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki's killing or torturing legitimate political dissidents all of which was protected by our military (click here). So our choice in Iraq is between 2 brutal leaders with one being far more cold-hearted than the other.

With the conflicts emerging between dueling tyrants, we see American policy's chickens coming home to roost. In fact, an analogy between the moral debt we owe for past support of dictators can be compared to mankind's survivability based on the pollutants we've released into the environment. Have we already passed the tipping point? Possibly. But it does no harm to reverse course and give ourselves a fighting chance to make it. So the days of supporting obedient tyrants must be over. And whether they are over will be demonstrated not just by how we conditionally withhold or restore aid to Egypt, it will be seen by how we interact with all of the other tyrants in the Middle East and the world. Will we continue to support tyrants to make them customers or to gain a measure of control over them, or will we work for justice by opposing all tyrants regardless of what they have to offer us?




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