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Monday, September 17, 2012

Timely advice: Ease world anger with good example, not sermon

UN General Assembly
192 nations Hal

More thoughts on Middle Eastern risings against West
Editing, brief comment by Carolyn Bennett

Arab anger… Where is the gratitude from “saved” to “savior,” from the “liberated” to “liberator”? 

Children should be grateful to their parents? How much more insult will the new world heap onto the very old and wise world?

The questioning of anger and the expectation of gratitude “is predicated on three propositions,” says analyst Andrew Bacevich, propositions which are sacred to U.S. policymakers and would-be policymakers who get together and exchange business cards.

Proposition 1: humanity yearns for liberation ─ as defined in Western (i.e., predominantly liberal, secular) terms. 

Proposition 2: the United States [by divine guidance or godly edict] has an assigned role of nurturing and promoting this liberation ─ advancing what George W. Bush termed the ‘Freedom Agenda.’

Proposition 3: as U.S. intentions are righteous and benign … the exercise of U.S. power on a global scale merits respect, and ought to command compliance.

“Belief in these three propositions,” Bacevich says, “depends on viewing history as ultimately a good-news story. [And] if the good news appears mingled with bad, the imperative for the faithful is to try harder. Forget Baghdad and Kabul ─ onward to Damascus and Tehran.”

But real life is neither fairy tale nor delusion.

History is not a good-news story, the author points out. “Its destination and purpose remain indecipherable, even (or especially) to an ‘intelligence community’ that purports to peer into the future but cannot provide adequate warning of attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities.” Civilian thinkers do noticeably no better.

“The ‘Big Idea’” these days is “marketed as explaining everything in three words or less — ‘Unipolar Moment,’ ‘End of History,’ ‘Clash of Civilizations,’ ‘Indispensable Nation’ ─ [and boasts] a shelf life of about six months.”

West’s “freedom” rejected

“The notion that American power can be counted on to deliver American-style freedom is particularly wrongheaded when applied to the Muslim world. The problem is not that Arabs, Iranians, Afghans or Pakistanis have an aversion to freedom,” Bacevich notes. “On the contrary, they have provided abundant evidence that they hunger for it.”

The problem, rather, “is that twenty-first century Muslims do not necessarily buy America’s twenty-first century definition of freedom—a definition increasingly devoid of moral content.  The varied inhabitants of a dauntingly complex Islamic world want to decide for themselves what the exercise of freedom should entail.

“Many of them believe freedom should consist of something more than individual autonomy and conspicuous consumption.”

Self-determination embraced, projected

On both sides of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, protesters in the Middle Eastern region and beyond, “are demanding their collective right to self-determination,” he observes. “That desire has made them seem stubbornly unreceptive to outside tutelage and painfully sensitive to perceived expressions of disrespect, no matter how insignificant [or significant] the source…”

Collides with intractable, entrenched, flawed foreign relations model

“The United States,” Bacevich recalls, “has aligned itself all too often with forces of despotism and oppression.” On Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s watch, the tendency persists: Consider the year-long protests of dictatorial rule in Bahrain, authoritarian clampdown on nonviolent protesters, physicians and human rights workers with help from the Saudis; the U.S. Fifth Fleet occupies; the U.S. government remains silent as Bahrainis cry for “freedom.”

Solution: change U.S. foreign relations paradigm
Ease Middle Easterners’ justifiable anger

“Sometimes the only remedy for a badly damaged relationship,” Bacevich says, “is to give it a protracted cooling-off period.… Such a breathing spell is very much in order for America’s dealings with nations of the Islamic world.

“No preaching. No invasion. No ‘nation building.’ … Given the poisonous nature of existing relations, an intermission, a breathing spell, of something like a century sounds about right.”

To be effective in the world, to walk in peace and nonviolence, Bacevich suggests that Americans must be “willing to close the yawning gap between the values we loudly profess and the way we actually behave.…

“If we Americans think we have something to teach others ─ let us do it as exemplars.”

As a fellow at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, I expect Professor Andrew Bacevich is not talking about continuing the U.S. example of terrorizing the world with threat, intimidation and chaos, missiles, bombs and drones, contractors and other killers; makers of violence, conflict, destabilization and displacement, particularly but not only in the Middle Eastern region.

Sources and notes

“Bacevich: What the Arab Movie Riots Mean for U.S. Foreign Policy ─ Death of a U.S. ambassador raises questions about America’s foreign-policy assumptions” (Andrew J. Bacevich), September 17, 2012, http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/09/16/bacevich-what-the-arab-movie-riots-mean-for-u-s-foreign-policy.html

Andrew J. Bacevich

Public intellectual and analyst on U.S. foreign and military policies, Andrew J. Bacevich is author of Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War; The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism; The Long War: A New History of U.S. National Security Policy since World War II (editor); The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War; and American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of U.S. Diplomacy.

He is professor of international relations and history at Boston University and a visiting fellow at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame. The Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies on its website says it is “a leading center for the study of the causes of violent conflict and strategies for sustainable peace.” Its faculty “conduct research, teach undergraduate and graduate-level peace studies courses, and contribute to peace building worldwide.” http://kroc.nd.edu/aboutus

Bacevich holds a doctorate in American diplomatic history from Princeton University.  In 2004, Bacevich was a Berlin Prize Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin and has held fellowships at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, the John F. Kennedy School of Government, and the Council on Foreign Relations. He writes widely for general interest and scholarly publications. http://kroc.nd.edu/facultystaff/visiting-fellows


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