Yeah, the good old U.S. has a strong military and we can kick ass when necessary but I think we will all agree that the most powerful element America has in it’s “arsenal” is our economic system. Even as I write this China is being considered as the second largest growth economy in the world, second only to us. But… that number two spot is light years behind us; this is not a close second by any means, in spite of all the current economic doom & gloom. So.. my point is, why don’t we exercise this power to our greater advantage politically?
You have a fair list of belligerent and maverick countries with questionable leaders at their helms that in one way or another send a measure of fear into all of us. Some of these countries “offend” us, and the world with their repressive forms of government; some like to saber-rattle and dabble in nuclear weapons development, and still others simply enjoy anti-U.S./anti-democracy political rhetorical agitation on the world stage. For the most part our response as a nation has been to gather up a few allies (with or without the UN) and impose economic sanctions. For the most part this stuff hasn’t worked all that well… other than to further alienate the citizens of these belligerent countries even more. I have a solution… which really is not a new concept in the poltical arena. Let’s stop being the “bad cop” and start being more like the good cop. Let’s recognize as a nation that while it’s good to keep to the moral high ground that human rights violations on a national scale in many of these countries is not something our nation condones, that there are other ways to “win” this battle other than economic sanctions and political isolation.
Think deeply for a moment here. Our nation has the capacity to lead the economic world in feeding the starving and helping in developing emerging economies while at the same time making us stronger; what benefits our country benefits the world, and vice versa. Americans are a generous people and we love to help those who are suffering whether from disasters or political turmoil. We proudly thump our chests in asserting democratic reforms as being the key to economic security for any nation, and we push human rights as the road to take to get us to be a friend. Given all that, I then ask you, who is truely keeping North Korea isolated? Has it been the Great Leader father and now his kid… or has it been us as a nation? Who is truely maintaining the border along the 38th Parallel and keeping the two Koreas from uniting in any form?
Look at any of those satellite images of the world on the internet that shows all the artifical lights of civilization; towns and cities. When you gaze at the Koreas you can see a huge shadow of complete darkeness where North Korea should be, illustrating the isolation. Why does that even exist in this day and age? As a nation are we really THAT superior that we feel the North Korean people should suffer in an economic stone age because of it’s form of government? Doesn’t that make any Amercian wonder who is really violating human rights here?
Sure.. part of our foreign policy is such that we want to encourage the citizens of Third World countries to revolt and rebel against their imposing authorities just like we did. But in cases like North Korea, where isolation has lasted for decades and generations of citizens have been taught from birth how to think and act, a people’s democratic revolution is likely not going to happen because they simply know nothing to compare. So who’s truly the moral villain in all this?
Cuba is another example of a hugely outdated American foreign policy.. and I suspect it’s all because of politicians trying to cater to the domestic Hispanic/Cuban vote (or the Florida entertainment lobby). We would have “gotten rid of Castro” decades ago if we had normalized relations with the Cubans. U.S. businesses would have opened up Cuba’s economy in droves. For all we know Cuba might have ended up being the 51st state. But we muffed that up… preferring to keep Cuba on some rediculous “(beyond the) axis of evil” isolation list.
Iran is another one. Most of the civilized world is sanctioning this country left and right as the Iranian government seems bent on saber-rattling a nuclear program. Syria, Egypt, and Libya are going through their Arab Springs, but whether or not there will be true democratic reform is to be seen. Venezuela has loud-mouth Chavez bad-mouthing everything American on one hand, and collecting U.S. oil dollars with the other hand. In the meantime the Venezuelian people are considered a Third World developmental nation.
How do we know that normalizing relations with historically nasty governments will work in our favor? Simply look at the fall of the Soviet Union.. and most assuredly the “silent economic revolution” in China since the 80’s. Many years ago during the Vietnam War years I was a teenager with a political idea that the U.S. government should simply declare an end to hostilities with North Vietnam.. allow the country to unite… and feed the billions of bucks we would otherwise be spending on napalm and bullets, into their economy (it was recognized even at the time that the North wanted economic ties with the U.S. because China was a historical “enemy”). Today their economy is rapidly growing with the U.S. in spite of their government being Communist. They like Americans… and our money.
Open up full relations with North Korea. Get them used to American goods and services… and culture. Open up exchange student programs. Let them know Americans can have compassion, that we are not a threat to their existance, and that there is another political system that works much better. Perhaps some day they will merge beyond their repressive regimes, peacefully. Do the same with Cuba… Iran… make them find no reason to go chasing after nuclear weapons.
The point to all this, folks, is that we truly need to re-evaluate our global position on being the world’s policeman. Of course military force is needed from time to time. But winning a people over using the ideology of capitalism and free market makes a lot more sense than isolating an entire population because of the crimes of their authoritiarian governments. It also saves the lives of our kids in the military.. and our grandkids in the military of the future.
Improving human rights in the world begins with promoting who we are… not in what we might want them to be to make us feel better.