Wednesday, February 2, 2011
The Right Side Of History
It's no easy thing getting on the right side of history, particularly when it collides with what we call our national interests.
For decades the U.S. has been on the wrong side with regard to the third world, propping up dictators in the Americas and Asia whose sole credential was their avowed anti-communism. We had no problem with corruption supporting Batista in Cuba, with brutal militarism installing Pinochet in Chile and Somoza in Guatemala or Diem in Viet Nam. We called Somoza a son of a bitch but OUR son of a bitch.
With the dissolution of the Soviet Union and communist threat Russia is our new near-friend and China, our creditor. As if waiting in the wings, militant Muslims have become public enemy number one. The tragic 9/11 attack fed both the fundamentalist Islamist terrorism and Neo-Con fundamentalist militarism. Rather than address the grievances that provoked the swell of anti-Americanism our response was a temper tantrum against Iraq and a futile chase in Afghanistan, follies for which we are paying heavily.
Try as he has to align our national creed with our national (corporate) interests Obama must confront near irreconcilable forces. Our thirst for oil has made for some slimy relationships. We turn a blind eye towards the despotism of Saudi Arabia because they are an acceptable theocracy while Iran is an unacceptable one. The one can co-exist with Israel the other can not. Yet both sprout terrorists and are anathema to our democratic values.
The thrust of history moves inexorably toward self-determination however its face may appear. Economic democracy takes precedent over political democracy. Infra-structure, jobs and distribution are far more important to the people than elections. Perhaps our model is not a good fit for most of the developing world and perhaps occupation of another's land does not ingratiate us to the host and perhaps our cultural values undermines theirs.
If the 20th was an American century it was and continues to be a time belonging to emergent nations. A muscular foreign policy is counter-productive. Bank-rolling tyrants carries the seeds of revolution. We need to bring our legions home, to find other energy sources and allow the aspirations of the people to find their own terms.
The subject of Israel is almost too hot to handle without adding to my list of ex-friends. In the fullness of time an just accommodation with their Arab neighbors must be reached. The survival of the Jewish people is essential; less so the survival of a Jewish state. Soil is not sacred, lives are.
A post-colonial world has a different look than the one in our collective consciousness. It is may be more inclusive and less a projection of American values and social mores. We are an empire no longer ascendent and that is not entirely a bad thing.