Friday, February 22, 2008

And Now, Back to Bipartisanship

Karen Kwiatkowski lays it out very clearly today:
It would be easy to blame the current situation in the Middle East on George W. Bush, or easier yet, Dick Cheney. But to do that would be to ignore our foreign policy over the past 80 years in that region.

It would also be easy to suggest that the situation in the Middle East is not the result of our intentions, but rather our poor judgment, our misunderstanding of Arab or Persian culture, our lack of sophistication, or even our own democratic system here at home where we shift diplomatic course with each shifting president, and elect Congresses that reflect the changing priorities of the American people, year by year.

It would be easy to say that most of these policies were pursued under the auspices of the Cold War, where we were forced to take sides around the world in order to stop a communist world revolution, to avoid world socialism.

It would be easy to say all of this. But none of that would be true.

In fact, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney came of age and were inspired by a foreign policy of force for both prestige and perceived profit. To be strong as a nation, for Dick Cheney as for Kermit Roosevelt, Jr. required aggression, manipulation of other governments, and subterfuge. How many of us here in the United States study the CIA coup in 1953 (or countercoup, as Kermit called it) that reinstated the Shah in Iran, and voided democracy in that country until populism and anti-Americanism boiled over in 1979? Operation Ajax, we called it.

Our foreign policy may seem disorganized, but in the Middle East it has been deliberate and in many ways, well thought out. It has not shifted dramatically from president to president. Jimmy Carter is often seen as a very different political person than a Dick Cheney, a George Bush, or even a Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton. Yet events in the late 1970s under Carter’s executive watch were both a maturation of the actions of previous Republican and Democratic presidents, and set the foundations for our present-day policies. Do we remember the Carter Doctrine, and the establishment of Central Command? This history was made in my lifetime, and for many of you, only a few years before you were born. Carter set a direction, followed by Reagan and Bush. Clinton left his mark with a pseudo-war that gave us brand new bases in Bosnia and Kosovo – not outposts of southern Europe, but rather forward bases for the Middle East and Caspian Sea theaters.

What seems to be lack of sophistication is nothing more than might making right. When one is a great country in the world, who needs manners?

We have followed in the Middle East, before, during and after the Cold War, a policy of remarkable consistency. To admit that we have behaved much like the colonial powers we once admired, and have perhaps subconsciously stepped into a role the British Empire had long recognized was impossible and unsuitable in the late 20th century, is hard to do.

Can we gracefully untangle ourselves from what has been a quite purposeful foreign policy, over many decades? Well, just as in the 12-step programs, admitting we have a problem is the first step. I want to now address the very needed fourth step in a typical 12-step process – to make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
That's not all; please go read the rest.

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