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Monday, January 18, 2016

Maybe we should just recognize ISIS...

What is the foreign policy interest of the United States of America? It is the first question of foreign policy as well as the one that seems to never really be answered!

Let me begin by acknowledging a reality that I knew nothing of until two years ago. Many of the military bases and troop commitments that the United States maintains outside the United States are dictated by treaties which the US has signed with foreign countries.  These are not open to the unilateral whims of budget hawks or dovish presidents. One of my friends who attended the United States Naval Academy educated me on this and pointed out that it appeared that not even most national politicians acknowledge or know about this.

So, when politicians proudly claim, they will not get involved in “international adventures” unless American interests are at risk? What are American interests and how do these interests translate abroad. There are several possibilities:1)human rights, 2)democratic ideals, 3)threats to the security of the United States, 4)US overall national economic interest, and/or 5)the specific interest of certain sub-groups. Finally, the dangers of pursuing any of these goals or a combination of them are magnified when the culture and region of any given situation are not taken into account.

I am not a historian. The historical wars of the Spanish-American war, the Civil War, WWI, and WWII are often counted as "the good wars." These were wars that the country took up in self-defense, or to help broaden human rights and democratic ideals. The the narrative of American exceptionalism draws on the history of these wars to support America's claim to be an exceptional country.
It should not be forgotten that even during the so called "good times" the United States was also involved in foreign activities which directly benefitted small groups inside the US with foreign income. This is especially true where democratically elected regimes throughout the Western Hemisphere were toppled by US government action to further the interests of major US corporations that were active in those countries. This is pretty vividly portrayed in the Banana Wars the United States undertook. Soon after these events, retired General Smedley Butler wrote "War is a Racket" detailing how he was commanded to use our military to foster the interests of big business and Wall Street.
It is interesting to me that despite conservative protestations that the government shouldn't choose winners in economics they are quite happy to assert the United State's right to judge and choose winners and losers in politics of other countries based on our mood. I find the idea that we should choose other countries' governments and leaders is idiotic and imperial rather than evidence of American exceptionalism.

So what interest of the US are the politicians talking about when call our country to war against ISIS?
We support Saudi Arabia (bastion of human rights who just executed 47 people) and we supported Saddam Hussein's Iraq (User of poison gas on his own citizens) in the war against Iran. How different is ISIS? They are a repressive "religious regime" so is Saudi Arabia. Have they executed people - Yes, and so have we. One of their greatest recruiting tools is that we have declared they are an enemy and attacked them.

Maybe we should recognize ISIS and see how their state progresses when dealing with their own neighbors within the international system.  Invite them to the UN and let them deal with their neighbors within the international legal framework. In the realm of politics, the politic classes of many neighboring muslim are the real targets of ISIS. In the realm of religion, it is the more complex and deep strains of Islam who have the resources to weaken ISIS.

I hope you enjoyed these thoughts. I am going to be reorganizing my blog to focus on family and spirituality.  I will of course hit on other issues, but I don't plan on spending as much time on these things.

They are frustrating and not always very life-giving or hopeful. I will still vote and sign petitions, but unless I am tabbed for the State Department or an ambassador post that will likely be it! Feel free to share any thought or reactions.

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