Sunday, November 08, 2009

Shameful and childish foreign policy

There is constant back and forth across the ideological front lines about who the realists are. Claims about the 'reality-based community' and people for whom reality is a stranger are bandied around ad nauseum.

So think about this for a few seconds. The Obama administration foreign policy, such as it can be discerned, is about not interfering with the internal politics of other nations, respecting their sovereignty, and allowing American interests to be subsumed to the interests of the community of nations (please take me to task if I have misrepresented Obamas policy).

That is the policy. Unless you happen to live in Honduras or Fiji. In which case, the United States is acting like the Russians during soviet times when dealing with one of their small satellite states like Czechoslovakia. Everybody but the most obtuse have now come to the conclusion that whatever the initial appearance of events in Honduras, what went on during the expulsion of Zelaya was both constitutional and legal. The State department announced "the termination of a broad range of assistance to the government of Honduras as a result of the coup d'etat that took place on June 28." This despite overwhelming proof as provided by the Honduran Supreme Court and the Honduran Congress that removing Zelaya from power was done in strict accordance with the Honduran constitution.

As for Fiji, there is a constant battle between native Fijians, who constitute about 50% of the population, and immigrant south asian Indians, who also constitute about 50% of the population. Fiji is locked into a racial and ethnic contest for which virtually no democratic solution appears to be possible. But whatever the case, America has no skin in the game. It has never been the colonial power there (Britain was), and has no commercial or other interests in the islands. So why get all heavy with it?

So you can understand this exchange:

'[Ian Kelly, the State department spokesman] was deploring ... a decision by "Fiji's de facto government to expel New Zealand's acting head of mission as well as Australia's high commissioner." That last act, according to Kelly, was "unprecedented in that Australia now holds the chairmanship of the Pacific Islands Forum," so "the United States calls for the restoration of Fiji's independent judiciary and the rights to free speech and assembly that are essential to the country's return to democracy."

The burst of toughness left the reporters in the room perplexed.

REPORTER: Exactly what's the U.S. connection there? The government of Fiji expels diplomats from Australia and New Zealand, and you care because--

KELLY: We care because we care about the restoration of democracy in Fiji. Last April, they--the president abolished the constitution--


KELLY: and dismissed all judges and constitutional appointees and imposed emergency rule.

REPORTER: Yeah, that happened. But the operative word being there last when? Operative words? Last--

KELLY: April.

REPORTER: April, okay. And so--

KELLY: I mean, we have an interest in democracy returning to Fiji.

REPORTER: Well, I understand. But what does the expulsion of the diplomats from Australia and New Zealand have to do with the restoration of democracy?

KELLY: It was--we consider it be an unjust act to expel them out of the country.'

The message seems to be this- if you are some microscopic speck on the globe with no geo-political significance, former history of 'American imperialism' or have a right-wing government, you can expect a torrid time from the Obama White House and the State Dept. Everybody else gets a free pass, no matter how murderous, brutal or un-democratic. Especially if your government is left-wing, hates America, or came into conflict in any way with George W. Bush.

As foreign policies go, that is utterly pathetic, worthy of a high school freshman. Remember, at the same time as President Bush was invading Afghanistan and Iraq, he was also having talks with North Korea, mentoring the European talks with Iran over their nuclear program, and having sparky discussions with the Russians over missile defense. Thats a grown-up foreign policy. Of course you talk to your enemies, often more than you talk to your friends. But you don't give anybody a free pass. You don't stop holding to your fundamental principles because they bring you into conflict with dictators or thugocracies. America has intervened hundreds of times all over the world to help democrats, relieve the suffering of innocent peoples at the hands of their own disgusting governments (Liberia, Somalia, Zimbabwe and many others), and should be proud of doing so.

The reality is that without American intervention, the world would be a much more brutal, hungry and repressive place. No other country has the means or the intention of doing the job America has done for many decades; of feeding the starving and coming to the aid of the powerless. Who provided the great mass of aid to the tsunami victims in Indonesia or the earthquake victims in Pakistan? I'll give you a clue. It wasn't their brother muslims in Saudi Arabia or Iran. They are too busy buying another gold Rolls Royce or pumping more money into IEDs in Iraq to bother with homeless starving muslims who need aid.

I will make a prediction that the current US adminstration will go down in history as a petulant and amoral exception to the general run of US foreign policy, which is by far the most benign and helpful of any great power in history. For shame.

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