I received a surprise package in the mail a couple days ago: a great book and DVD entitled War Made Easy, the latest works by a friend, Norman Solomon. Aside from the fact that I highly recommend this book and documentary film, there was a 1991 quote in them by former New York Times reporter, Sydney Schanberg which got me thinking about the 2008 presidential elections: "We Americans are the ultimate innocents. We are forever desperate to believe that this time the government is telling us the truth."
The upcoming elections are exactly a reflection of this quote -- regardless of party lines (or lack thereof!) -- Americans are desperately seeking leaders who will tell the truth and act based on universal moral values rather then personal greed, misguided ideological dominance, and an obsession with unilateralism. This is true for domestic issues as well as foreign policies.
However, things are in shambles not only domestically (like health care, minimum wage, national service, and education) but also in "foreign policy": being bogged down in Iraq, confusion over the 'War on Terror', and double standards on key concepts that America should stand for, i.e. human rights, democracy and liberty: live and let live -- without engaging in regime change policies.
Unfortunately, these form our foreign policy and ultimately how Americans view (and are viewed by) the rest of the world. And it is frustrating: when it comes to U.S. foreign policy all that seems to matter is 'how we can get maximize our benefits with minimum loss'; traveling on this path results in the 'end' justifying the 'means' and the importance of truth is dramatically diminished. This approach might work (short-term undoubtedly) in corporations and areas where economics rules, but it is rarely successful when it comes to areas where humanity and morality reside. Don't get me wrong: profits are great and capitalism is among the pillars of this great nation -- but somewhere along the line we are being forced to let go of what's real, what's right, what matters. We do not seem to realize that at the end of the day, we -- as in the 'people of the world' -- are in this together and our destinies are intertwined: polluting the air on one end affects the other, and not caring for the sick or helpless across the miles will eventually affect us as well. So here we are now, scrutinizing the politicians who led us astray, and looking to new politicians who can reel us back on the proper path.
Which brings us to Iraq: 'to leave or not to leave' has become the dominant debate among candidates, and despite the heated discussion about the withdrawal of American troops, there is little consideration for the fate of Iraqi people, how to heal the wounds we have incurred on them, and what the prerequisites a departure policy should have to ensure their well being. It is sad that with all the death and destruction, many Iraqis wish Saddam Hussein were still in power rather than the current situation that appears to result in their gradual demise. With more than one million Iraqis killed and the pending danger of civil war, it is unlikely that current U.S. policies will remedy anything. Even with a gradual withdrawal the U.S. should take responsibility and strongly supporting policies which will guarantee a better life for Iraqis.
"Today, America speaks anew to the peoples of the world. All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppressors..." said George W. Bush , President in 2005, President Sworn-In to Second Term. Meanwhile, the administration continued its support of totalitarian regimes like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan without any regards to democracy or human rights in these countries. Add to this list Libya, Egypt and beyond. And let's not forget the failure of the peace process in the Middle East, support of terrorist groups against Iran, and poor management in Afghanistan resulting in the resurgence of the Taliban.
U.S. foreign policy is regarded with severe suspicion and uncertainty by many Americans and most foreigners alike. We are desperate for politicians who can lead us to what's good, honest and profitable, but not be driven by short-term greed without regards to its consequences. Without a serious change in our course, it is unlikely that we will succeed in upholding any of our founding values and domestic plans, let alone achieve any form of success in foreign policies.
It will take a lot of conviction, fortitude and finesse for the next president to correct the course. But the people of this great nation deserve to have a leader who will gain their trust, reestablish their ideals, and preserve their integrity not only domestically, but also beyond the borders, from Mexico to the Middle East.