Monday, March 26, 2007

US Foreign Policy Fault Line

US Foreign Policy Fault Line: in defining security we generate insecurity

March 4, 2007



Wise politicians assess danger with precision. Statesmen distinguish between grave threats that deserve swift action and lesser threats that can be acted upon with measured and calculated efforts.

The United States has been the strongest country in the world for over half a century. America’s military strength continues to grow; the US defense budget today equals the combined military budgets of the rest of the world. Despite the threat of terrorism initiated by the 9/11 attack America remains a powerful and safe country. But watching President G .W. Bush chasing one “evil” doer after another, fighting imaginary enemies and pre empting perceived future threats, one wonders how, ironically, in defining security irrationally the current US Administration may be generating insecurity.

As a young man, in 1938, President Abraham Lincoln observed prophetically that the US was the strongest country with no external threat can that harm it. In a famous speech he speculated about probable internal threats to his country with these words: “At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher”.

In the same psychological vein, addressing the politics of irrational fear, about a century later, President Franklin Roosevelt declared in his first inaugural address to the American people that the “Only thing you have to fear is fear itself”. Roosevelt reacted to real danger in the 1930s when the Great Depression hit this country. Roosevelt lifted his nation out of economic collapse by his massive mobilization against poverty through the well know New Deal reconstruction programs.

In contrast today, the US Administration confuses real sources of danger with imaginary ones. The Bush government saw grave danger in a frail Iraq that had been starved for 12 years of isolation and sanctions and launched a senseless war. This Administration saw weapons of mass destruction and there were none. It pointed with alarm to connections between Saddam and Al-Qaeda and there were none. It anticipated unanimous Iraqi support to an invading US army and the opposite was true. In the Iraqi quagmire, it saw victory in failure.

A delusional foreign policy framework is leading this Administration to “surge” when it should be calming down its mobilization in search for a diplomatic regional solution. No one would deny that Saddam Hussein’s regime had been a major problem to Iraqi society. But for the US to try to end Saddam’s tyranny with an occupation that dismantled a sovereign state and robbed it of its national security was tantamount to killing a fly on a glass-topped dining table with a large hammer.

If Lincoln or Roosevelt were with us today they would see the real threats to America in our declining systems of social planning for the future of our children. They would address an alarming national deficit rather than contribute feverishly to it through misguided war budgets. A recent estimate projects the US national deficit to reach catastrophic levels in the foreseeable future; a per-citizen liability of US $ 400 000.

This Bush regime belittles the significance of a growing health insurance gap, a shrinking social security fund, a phenomenal rate of prison incarceration and increased income inequity between the rich and the poor. Neither global warming nor international distaste for US policy is alarming to the politicians of the Executive Branch.

US foreign policy towards Iran has gone-wild. Many observers question the wisdom of Iran’s rush for nuclear development, the call for the dismantling of the Israeli state, the suppressing of domestic political freedoms and the meddling in the Palestinian, Lebanese and Iraqi politics. But for the Bush Administration to go to war with Iran to try to correct Iran’s behavior would be a violation of international law, an act against America’s best interests and political suicide.

Reports that the US and Israel have already perfected plans to “nuke-out” Iran this year are current headline news. This is happening despite the fact the bi-partisan Iraq Study Group report has recommended for the US to negotiate with Iran and Syria on central issues of conflict. The growing opposition in the Congress and the House of Representatives to the fear mongering policy of the current administration has slowed down the neo conservative pre-emptive defense. But the manufacture of public anxiety by neo-con oriented media about Iran and Syria continue to outdo the opposition.

Three US anti air craft carriers in the Persian Gulf are waiting for Iran to make the next “mistake”. And future mistakes Iran is likely to commit, given its volatile populist leadership. Knowing that Ahmedinejad is predisposed to take his country closer to the brink the US anticipates further Iranian escalation to justify a possible new war with Iran. Most observers have figured that if a new US or Israeli war with Iran takes place the results would gravely widen the Middle East quagmire.

Misguided US politics embraces the entire Middle East. The US sees extreme danger in the current populist Palestinian government. Since January 2006, when Hamas won democratic elections the US has backed an Israeli policy that has collectively punished 3.5 million Palestinian civilians through economic isolation, lack of provisions for daily life and brutal measures of restriction of mobility. As the economy is near collapse the Palestinians are forging a new National Unity government that has potential of negotiating peace with Israel. The European governments are supportive of indirect peace signals that are emerging from Hamas, but the US and Israel remain in total opposition to the new government in the making. This initiative brings together the widest range of democratic representation of the Palestinian people and strong support from the region. The US and Israel do not wish to see Palestinian unity with muscle.

In Lebanon the US is interfering with domestic national reconciliation efforts to end the civic strife that threatens to ruin the country politically and economically. Since Hezbollah is a major party in the current Lebanese crisis the US does not wish to bless the formation of a national unity government, a government that would offer more power to the Resistance Movement. The US mirrors Israel in its viewing of Hezbollah as a “monster”, a “terrorist organization with international tentacles”. Few Americans know that Hezbollah is a popular political party and its military activity is largely restricted to resistance of Israel within Lebanese territories.

Neither Hamas, nor Hezbollah have been on the side of the angels in the Palestinian and Lebanese struggle of state building. But these popular movements can not be crushed with military force or with international pressure. US policy makers ought to realize that these movements have solid legitimate claims that have for long been neglected by the international community.

But there is some hope for an unexpected turn of events. The Bush failure in Iraq and Afghanistan, the growing national deficit, the demographic limitation of US forces and the declining credibility of the neo-con pre emptive security logic may offer international multilateral diplomacy a new lease on life. Iranian moderates are also gaining ground in their covert maneuvers to find a North Korean type solution for the nuclear impasse.

On February 27 Iraq suddenly called for a regional series of meetings (starting March 8) involving Iran, Syria and the US. Is the US suddenly showing a new sign of realism? It is too early to tell what significance this regional meeting will have on the developments in Iraq and the region. My guess is that the US is not ready yet for a major shift in policy.

An optimist might argue that if Iran and the US would stumble over a diplomatic solution of the nuclear crisis, Iran’s political environment and the entire landscape of the Middle East are likely to change. Within Iran progress toward democracy would continue after it had been halted in recent years by a climate of war and excessive populism.

Outside Iran the US /Iran reconciliation would have a positive impact. The Iraqi, Lebanese, Syrian and the Palestinian crises are closely entangled with the Iran/US/Israeli confrontation. To some extent an Iranian US rapprochement would have a positive transfer value at least temporarily.

Regrettably, the US and its ally, Israel, have been “working” on Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Palestine from the prism of a Sunnite-Shiite strategy to divide and rule. In Iraq, the US has almost finished the job of fragmenting the country, first into North, Center and South and then into Shiite, Sunnite and Kurdish territories. After the invasion of Iraq the Mahdi Shiite militia has become the most popular force in this victimized country.

Similarly, in Lebanon the US is funneling funds to new armed (Sunni Al-Qaeda related) groups to try to destabilize Hezbollah as a “Shiite” power. If the contra-Hezbollah funding in Beirut is investigated by the Congress and it its political devious motives are proven it may turn out to be a new “Contra Affair Scandal”, an affair that involved secret sales of US arms to Iran through Israel during the Reagan Administration. In fact, much of what the US has been doing in the region covertly qualifies as scandalous. In times of war patriotism trumps justice.

In Palestine the Hamas government is being squeezed financially and diplomatically (as a Sunnite entity) to beg for peace with Israel. Meanwhile, the US is giving financial and military support to Hamas’s rival, Fatteh. The US indirect fight against Hamas, Hezbollah and Mahdi army is aimed as at weakening Iran and Syria.

While a US- Iran agreement on nuclear issues may have an immediate positive effect on the entire political landscape of the region, US/Arab/Israeli conflicts will remain deadlocked for years to come. The Arabs are plagued with autocracy, neo colonial foreign intervention, a timid and misinformed middle class and proliferation of quasi sectarian resistance movements. Israel is crippled with an apartheid political structure and the US is afflicted with a unilateral imperialist foreign policy.

None of these three interlocking political systems is bound to change soon. We do not expect to wake up one day to see a reformed Arab world. We are not likely to wake one day and witness a secular Israeli state that is ready to withdraw from the 1967 border. But we can dream of the day in the future when the US leadership is transformed into a truly democratic state that can define security in partnership and not in dominance, in empowerment and not in discipline, in sharing of responsibility and not in blaming others.

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