What a cruel thing is war: to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God had granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world
--Robert E. Lee, letter to his wife (1864)
Much is written about how to succeed in foreign interventions. Frances Fukuyama recently suggested that America fails in winning hearts and minds where Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad succeed, because the later two offer assistance to the neediest of their constituency ("Keeping Up with the Chavezes".)
He says, "Washington stresses democracy and human rights--that is, procedural safeguards that institutionalize popular sovereignty and limited government--as well as free trade, with its promise of economic growth," an approach that appeals to the middle class and the educated, who do not comprise the majority of the populations we are dealing with in the Middle East.
"(I)f true supporters of liberal democracy and free markets are ever to compete successfully with the Islamists and populists of the world, they need to have a social agenda that gives some hope not just to the middle-class and educated, but to those who are isolated and excluded, as well. ...our influence is dependent in large measure on our ability to offer people around the world what they want, and not what we think they should want."Fareed Zakaria recently pointed out how the Bush administration sees the introduction of "an election" as the cure to every problem, ignoring more basic human needs ("The Limits of Democracy," Newsweek.) He suggests only aiding countries that "protect human rights, reduce corruption and increase the quality of governance," rather than pointing to elections as the benchmark for success. Of course, that puts us in a quandry, as we can't rightly stop funding our own government.
It is Maslow's hierarchy of needs. You do not become an entrepreneur before you have food in your stomach and rid yourself of parasites (something we couldn't accomplish in two elections.) Democracies do not flourish without a stable middle class. This is true in Vietnam, Haiti, Bolivia, Venezuela, Iran and Iraq. Fighting wars never addresses these issues.
And while it is true that a working social agenda is needed if you are to deal humanely with an occupied population and gain their trust, it brings us back in a kind of eternal return to the primary question for our nation: Why is this administration choosing to nip and tuck from the meager subsidies available to the neediest among us, our "isolated and excluded"?
Since we're in a new "faith-based" era of social services, it brings to mind the many churches who will send groups on far-flung missions, while they only need to seek across town for their own poor and needy. Alas, that doesn't look too interesting on the Friday film screen. Much more exotic to be standing next to a Malawian in brightly colored wraps smiling broadly near the great white missionary. Just ask Madonna.
If a political party in America could realistically address these domestic needs, then we'd see true democracy here. Only then would we be qualified to address the needs and wants outside our borders. A novel idea: America and Americans first. Our auto makers may be having a tough time of it, but they've got some great slogans. How does this sound: America is Job One.
by Jim and Lisa