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Foreign Affairs: A Closer Look at U.S. Policies and How They Affect the Developing World

With the beginning of a seemingly endless war on terrorism, and a shaky United States economy, now hardly seems the time to examine our general policy towards all other nations, and developing nations in particular. The wreckage of the World Trade Center is still smoldering, and our troops are marching on Kabul as I write. Nationalism is at a height only previously experienced during the World Wars. Every other car you see on the highway has Old Glory proudly flying in their window or on their antenna, some right next to their Rebel Flag.

On the surface it appears the United States has pulled together for one more righteous cause, and evil, or those that oppose the US as they are commonly called, will surely fall. We wont stand for innocent attacks on civilians, and those damned Afghanis and Osama bin Laden had better hide. If you dont believe this, not only are you un-American, but you must be a damn terrorist yourself. Quietly, however, the argument is being made among scholars and free thinkers in the United States that perhaps we are not the innocent victims we portray ourselves to be in the September 11, 2001 destruction of the World Trade Center.

Some forward thinking minds even predicted a tragedy somewhat like this, albeit not on such a large scale. Unenlightened people ask why something like this could or would occur. What would make such a poor and unstable country like Afghanistan decides to stand up to the almighty United States? The answer is not an easy one, and requires a large adjustment in what we expect in foreign relations, and how we see and treat the rest of the world as a whole.

The United States is one of the last remaining super powers of the world, and we have the obligation to maintain and support good relations with the smaller and weaker nations throughout the world. We should take full advantage of this relationship in several different ways, all without exploiting the original peoples or our own power. First the U. S. must focus on investing and trading with those nations who have yet to become economic powers. Second, we must implement a consistent foreign policy towards the Middle Eastern nations, and all third world nations in general.

Third, the United States needs to respect the attempts and results of the democratization and religious revivals in the Middle East and Latin America, while taking a passive role in letting the a Western type of democracy take its course. Fourth, the U. S. must ease and downplay its conflict with those civilizations that dislike the “Western people” and their way of life. Obviously, foreign investment is necessary for the future of developing other nations as well as our own.

There must be an emphasis on foreign investment and trade, otherwise the third world nations will continue to fall behind economically, technologically, and domestically, which could lead to an economic downfall for the U. S. as well. Rodger Doyle states it well, But the huge trade deficit, at a record-breaking quarter of one-trillion dollars in 1999, poses the threat of a large and sudden devaluation of the US dollar if foreign investors become pessimistic about the American Economy. Doyle) The question then arises as to what the United States must do in order to have large trade agreements with struggling and less developed countries. In order for the U. S. to play a more active role in the economic and political development of many of these developing nations, it must first accept a different philosophy than its current one. First, it is imperative for the United States to play a similar role in Latin America to the one Japan has played with many of the developing nations in East Asia. The U.

S. neighbors Latin America, and if it wants to play the role of big brother, it must accept the responsibility. The U. S. must realize that the economies of Latin American Nations will play an important part in the future of our own economy, and that it must begin to lead, invest, and aid not just Mexico, but countries such as Peru, Argentina, Bolivia, and Columbia into the twenty first century. The mainstay in American foreign policy has always been to promote and instill democracy, and with it a liberal economy.

However, in order to do this in a foreign nation, the U. S. must be able to first establish a viable economic relationship and system within the desired nations. We should not expect or want a nation to switch from a total authoritarian government to a market economy; doing so would be a disaster. In deciding who do and do not trade with, the United States rests too much on its ideological beliefs, when there is no need to do so. Foreign countries seek our capital and trade routes, not our morals and culture. We, unfortunately, do not feel this is the case.

The US has traditionally required all or nothing, in regards to demands on prospective trade partners, and political allies. The United States stance towards Cuba is a notable example of this philosophy. Instead, the U. S. has to be willing to allow developing to nations invest in U. S. markets before we invest in theirs, regardless of ideology. In return, a viable export / import system will be established. But it is essential that the economy of the developing nation be monitored and run by its own government, and the United States should only be there for advising purposes.

When a reasonable system has finally been achieved, then a more American, laissez – faire type of economic network will be allowed to grow. If the greatest challenge the United States faces is implementing a foreign policy that is consistent throughout the Middle East, weve done nothing but shoot ourselves in the foot so far. Islamic nations aren’t likely to be responsive to ideas such as human rights, and democracy. These nations will never be responsive to western ideas when the United States continues to levy sanctions against them.

The U. S. is lucky that it has an ally in Saudi Arabia and Israel, allowing them to implement many of these foreign policy agendas against the other Middle Eastern countries, without having to face serious economic consequences in the oil and gas industry. Oddly enough though, Saudi Arabia is probably as much against western ideologies as any nation in the Middle East. Women do not have equal rights, torture is frequent, there is no separation between church and state, and Saudi Arabia is extremely far from developing any sort of democracy .

Yet another testament to the moral incoherence and alliances of US foreign policy involves our relationship with Turkey. We trade with Turkey, and make many sacrifices to keep our military installations there, including looking the other way when the Turks attack the very Iraqi Kurds who we are there to protect from our arch-nemesis Sadaam Hussein. The U. S. regretfully looks the other way as Turkey sends thousands of troops and US made F-16s across the border to shoot fish in a barrel. Its an obscene piece of hypocracy, writes John Nichol, a British pilot shot down and tortured by Iraqis .

Turkish authorities ground our aircraft so that their own can attack the very Kurds we were protecting just a few hours before. (Urbina) Now, when the U. S. promotes democracy and human rights, why does it support one country and condemn the next? Throughout the Cold War, American foreign policy would give aid to any nation who opposes communism. So during that time the U. S. developed a “you’re either with us or against us” type of policy, non- alignment. With this policy, many of the Middle Eastern countries became so called enemies with the U. S. , which has led to unrest and hatred of western democracies.

In this time of global economics, the United States cannot pick and choose which countries to invest in. In order for the U. S. to defeat the challenges it faces in the Middle East, it must start by supporting the entire Middle East. Israel and Saudi Arabia may be the most attractive offers, but Syria and even Iran have vast resources that will be very valuable to our economy in the future. Of course we cannot forget about our dear friends off the coast of Miami, Cuba. What edge does a country like China hold over Cuba besides size? Nothing besides a larger source of cheap labor.

Our current stance on Cuba was correct in 1962. Castro was indeed a communist, but only after the US, who he turned to first, refused to help him. In 2001, however, it seems apparent that Castro has metamorphisized into something else. Castro has done an almost complete 180 in his political philosophy, and some would argue that Cuba is almost a democracy already. If we lifted our ineffective embargoes and opened the trade lines in Cuba, I see no reason why Castro would not open his society even more. Americans are missing out on a chance to change Cuba, both financially and politically.

We have the chance to rebuild an entire economy from the ground up, and all we have to do is invest in it. These opportunities are not hypothetical either, but real as apparent to other countries like Canada and the Europeans. Everyone else in the world knows this already because they have made the necessary attitude adjustments and are in there rolling up their sleeves and getting their hands dirty. Castro knows that he cant do this task of changing his entire structure himself, and its only a matter of time before he finds someone to help that will most likely not be favorable to the US.

It happened before when the US denied him and he turned to the USSR, there is no reason why we should let it happen again. As the supposed leader of the free world we should know better. All the US does is preach about the importance of stability and free market systems, and the need for democracy. With an example like we are setting, why should anyone follow? Why should we do everything in our power to ensure neither survives in Cuba? Its time and has been for a long time to swallow our pride and admit we were wrong. The rest of the free world already knows it.

They sit in their Cuban financed offices, smoking big fat Cuban cigars laughing at our arrogance and us. (Smith) Next, the United States must respond to the problems of democratization and religious revival in the Middle East and Latin America. In the Middle East, there seems to be the notion that attempts at democratization would lead to the downfall of minority rights. What the United States must do is establish a representational or parliamentary process that recognizes all forms of political action. Simply promoting free elections would lead to a backlash in democratization efforts.

The fear is in the idea of one group outlawing another. All factions, whether the extremists or the conservatives must be allowed to participate equally, without outside interference. Similarly, the United States must show complete support for the democratic process in Latin America. How the United States deals with this problem is crucial in maintaining its leadership and future economic entities in both regions. The revival of Islam in the Middle East is a reaction to Western encroachment during and after the Cold War. Traditionalists believe that by opening up to Western culture they are losing their true faith in Islam.

What can politicians in the West do to change this? Perhaps not much, directly. Nothing would be more heavy-handed or counter-productive than lectures from western governments on how the Muslim world should conduct its affairs or interpret its faith. But the West could reasonably ask of its Muslim allies that they should promote a fairer view of the West than the half- truths, lies and anti-Semitic nonsense that are common currency in some Muslim countries–and often in school textbooks, government-owned newspapers and the programs of officially- sanctioned broadcasters. Economist 11/01) The first step in solving this problem might be to recognize that Muslim nations do not embrace every aspect of liberalism. If the United States can establish itself as a legitimate foreign investor and/or trading partner, rejection of Western philosophies will soon begin to diminish. The U. S. should still stand strong in its fight to combat terrorism and radical militant groups, but must also stop showing favoritism in the region (i. e. Saudi Arabia).

The democratic process can work, but it needs to show the nations of the Middle East that it can be reconciled with religious revival. Allowing groups, majority or minority, the chance to reap in the rewards of democracy does this. What role should religion play in U. S. Foreign Policy? The case of Brazil gives us good evidence as to exactly how much religion means to native peoples, and how the U. S. extremely hampers its ability to act as a human rights activist. More and more people feel it is a human right. That’s not to say everyone feels as strongly about this as Americans do.

But if you take religious freedom out of human rights, you take out a very basic building block. Freedom of thought, freedom of discourse, freedom to change one’s mind, to associate freely–all of these come out of what Jefferson called the “first freedom. ” It’s hard to imagine a human rights package devoid of religious freedom. (Seiple) However, what the US considers religious freedom, (ability of other religions to carry out missionary efforts), is frowned upon by many of the native peoples, including those of in Brazil.

In Brazil the church has always embraced the poor. Priests have worked to show that the church is taking an active role in the impoverished lives of that country. Religion then became an integral part of the societys identity, their politics, and their government. In most developing lands, there is no such concept of separation of church and state. An attack then on a nations religion, as the U. S. policy seems to do, is an attack on a nations government.

US citizens have an extremely difficult time dealing with this, feeling religion has no business in the affairs of the state, and fail to realize that not only do some cultures feel the opposite, but that they are basically the same entity. Missionaries from other countries, especially from the US, trying to spread their own religion are seen as a direct threat to the integrity of the native peoples religion. While some do embrace the teachings of Christianity and other foreign cults, others see the work of missionaries as the work of the United States government in a form of divide and conquer.

This is painfully apparent in Latin America where the masses are all Catholic, and the missionaries are Protestant. Admittedly most foreign missionaries see themselves as doing the work of their god, and do so out of the best intentions, but fail to see in all occasions the sometimes-irreparable damage this disruption in culture causes. Mr. Sieple, punctuates this by saying, One of the causes of religious persecution is that people do not understand their faith at its deepest level and do not know enough about their neighbor’s faith to show the proper respect.

When that happens aberrations of faith emerge–like the case of an Osima Bin Laden, using a religious rationale to kill people, or the Lord’s Resistance Army, using a biblical rationale to traumatize children. In the U. S. we have people who under the “pro-life” label feel a religious justification for bombing abortion clinics and assassinating doctors. These cases show what happens when people truncate the faith and pick and choose what they want to use of it and what they want to leave behind. This is very dangerous. (Sieple) So why must the U. S. insist on allowing missionaries and others into foreign lands?

This incurs a great hatred and a feeling of deep-rooted resentment in native cultures. In much the same way most American families have had values instilled by the church since birth, so too have the cultures afar. Although some will argue that the heart of the conflict lies in the ignorance of the native people to the USs policy of church/ state separation, at least some fault lies in the US for not explaining. It has been proven that participation in a regime allows for a greater wealth of resources economically and politically, while encouraging development.

But, if we try to impose our will by force or intimidation, there will be few willing volunteers to follow and join such a movement. The United States will give help in any way that it can, although the U. S. may not be able to give the help other countries expect or want. It is not possible for the U. S. to settle every situation through military strength, but it is possible to provide some type of support in every situation. No other country has the experience or the ability to help any country on earth. Therefore it is our duty to help those countries that are suffering and aid other nations that are doing the same.

Again, the United States needs to respect the efforts of religious revival because it is returning Christianity or Islam to its roots just as the U. S. is trying to establish democracy to its most basic fundamental aspect in many of these developing nations. The U. S. must allow democracy, in whatever form it takes, to grow. This means concentrating on being empathetic and tolerant to the political and economic developments that might occur during this time of change, rather than taking forceful actions that many believe is necessary.

In many ways, the United States needs to learn when to step in, and when to remain passive. Julie Hearn exacerbates this ideal in her analysis of outside influence in South Africa, and its effort to establish a legitimate democracy. During the past five years, it is possible to see a process in which democracy has been redefined. Although half of South Africans still belief that access to housing, jobs and a decent income are essential components of a democratic society, this residual belief in social democracy is being eroded and replaced by the norms and practice of procedural democracy.

It is our argument that the North has played its role in this process by funding the liberal proponents of procedural democracy in civil society, and that, subsequently, political aid has successfully `influenced the rules of the game’. The second consequence is that this has facilitated a newly legitimatised South African state to preside over the same intensely exploitative economic system, but this time unchallenged. External and domestic support for procedural democracy has successfully removed all challenges to the system.

It has ensured that democracy in the new South Africa is not about reconstructing the social order but about effective system maintenance. (Hearn) This unfortunately can be generalized for most of the United States efforts to establish democracies in place of regimes. The role the United States took when communism was being defeated in Eastern Europe and the Western way of life was being pushed to the forefront is the same approach it needs to take with most of these developing nations.

Since the United States is at its peak of power in relation to other civilizations, and Western military power is unrivaled, the U. S. must attempt to redefine its image in the non- Western part of the world. The United States dominates the international political, security, and economic institutions with Western countries such as Britain, Germany, and France. All of these countries maintain extraordinarily close relations with each other, excluding the lesser and largely non-Western countries.

Decisions made at the United Nations Security Council or in the International Monetary Fund that reflect the interest of the United States and its Western allies are presented to the world as reflecting the desires of the world community. This type of selfish global policy can not be tolerated if the United States wishes to be the leader in binding a World Community. This administration has always been forthright that if international agreements weren’t in US interests, they weren’t going to sign them,” says Brett Schaeffer, a United Nations and diplomacy specialist at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. There may be an extra dose of Realpolitik now, where the US agrees to more in exchange for getting something they want against terrorism, but the focus on US interests hasn’t changed. ” (LaFranchi) This view is typical of everything wrong with American policy. The United States does use its accumulated powers to influence these international councils in situations when the so-called anti-American countries are involved. By trying to influence its views through the United Nations and International Monetary Fund on the non-Western Countries, the U.

S. is in fact just building up more negative sentiment towards itself, which can be seen in the support for fundamentalism of all types by the younger generation in non-Western cultures. If the U. S. does not attempt to change its image in the near future, a new generation of fundamentalist will begin to emerge far greater than the world has ever seen. Hate towards the West over unfair foreign policy and favoritism will have been instilled sense birth, and the fundamentalists will feel that means are justifying the cause.

It is through a new approach to policies, agendas, and attempts at foreign investment, and humbleness throughout the world that the United States will be able to maintain its classification as a world power, economically, politically, and socially. If the United States does not act upon these ideas and problems in the near future the results might not be immediate; but we will see the effects well into the twenty- first century when we are no longer regarded as the super power we once were. The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Anthrax scare will merely be the tip of the iceberg.

The United States is the most powerful nation on earth, both economically and militarily, this is a statement hardly anyone can deny. The fact that we are the most powerful nation only says that we should take initiative and guide the world towards peace. It is a responsibility that the United States has to other nations in the world. The reason for this is simple. By concerning ourselves with other nation’s affairs, and recognizing and honoring the belief systems, social factors, and economic goals of a country, we establish allies that will be important in the future.

Granted some look at this as sticking our nose in other countries business, but I do not. With the world balancing on the edge of destruction, with the threat of nuclear war, foreign relationships are extremely important. The United States has a responsibility to the rest of the world to ensure that each country is allowed to blossom and evolve at its own pace with little or no detrimental outside influence. The U. S. needs to pay close attention to this responsibility if it hopes to keep its place as the leader of the free world.

In the winter of 96-97, President Bill Clinton gave a speech at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. He summed it up best with this statement, “We cannot become the world’s policemen. But where our values and our interests are at sake and where we can make a difference we must act and we must lead. That is our job and we are better, stronger, and safer because we are doing it. ” The only problem is deciding which interests are the best for the US, and which are best for the rest of the world.

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