Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Logic (?) of the US Creed, Democratic Ideals, and Foreign Policy

I was inspired to put this together after reading a report a CNN article about the Rand Corp. review of US policy in Iraq (commissioned by the US Department of Defense). I supported the war in Iraq but feel that the strategy of our struggle against terrorism is unproductively skewed towards military tactics.

I've put together a series of interlinked statements that help to explain why I supported the war and how I think our efforts have gone awry. The arguments are political and social, as well as military [Quotes are taken from CNN quotations from the Rand Corp. report (My apologies for not looking them up myself :)].

Here goes:
(1) Every society depends, for cohesion, on a common sense of mission.
(2) The US creed “that all men are created equal” is one of the central elements to this nation’s sense of mission.
(3) This creed ultimately requires us to respect all people around the world both in terms of (a) the value of the lives and (b) their desire for self-government (Again, these requirement relate back to item #1 and are therefore pragmatic, as much as idealistic requirements.)
(4) The paradox of international politics flows from the fact that there exist authoritarian regimes and movements that can undermine societies that adhere to the ideal of “human equality”; it is not always apparent how to stop these regimes without the use of force. The use of force against these regimes contradicts item #3, the requirement that we respect the dignity of every human life (Namely, when civilians are killed in Afghanistan by US forces, our own faith in our national creed is affected.)
(5) In order to both (a) uphold our international commitments and (b) maintain our national faith in our creed, we must never allow violence to be the dominant aspect of our foreign policy.
(6) Over-reliance on violence also erodes our international relationships and exhausts our forces (which are ultimately supported by the morale and treasure of the nation entire).
(7) The attempt to implant democracy in the Middle East is an important element of the effort to spread democracy around the world. This importance is related to (a) the terrorism that has flowed from that region and (b) yes, the importance of oil to the stability of the geopolitical system.
(8) A recent report from the Rand Corp., commissioned by the US Department of Defense, highlights some ways in which we are over-relying on hard power, as opposed to soft power, in our struggle against terrorism. The report focuses on ways in which the US military is overstretching itself and ways in which we are overlooking the possibility of international cooperation to further our goals (see #6).
(9) The report also emphasizes that "Foreign forces cannot substitute for effective local governments, and they can even weaken their legitimacy," However, "when it comes to building these and other civil capabilities abroad, the United States is alarmingly weak." Therefore, "the federal government will need a dramatic increase in civilian capabilities [and] new organizational arrangements . . ." Such an effort would both (a) support the US military (see items #6 and 8) and would (b) help to spread the creed of the US around the world. Such an effort would also help to resolve the paradox contained in item #4, as it would allow us to promote democracy abroad with less reliance on the use of force.