'The Ugly American' revisited (2)

American foreign policy at this early stage of the 21st Century does not seem much different from that of a half a century ago. Except, of course, now that the pugnacious competition with the USSR is out of the way, Americans need not speak softly while carrying a big stick. Dubya, the pupil, has made Teddy, the teacher, proud.

America’s unchallenged military power more than makes up for any ineptitude shown in conducting foreign policy, either strategically or in tactical ways. When one has the upper hand, it is easy to shrug off any exposé of arrogance, incompetence or corruption. After all, America is no longer in a position to be judged or placed in a predicament where it must defend its actions. Washington has frocked itself with enough military might to demand the right to judge the world, and not be judged by it.

Truth be acknowledged, American foreign policy has been one and the same from time immemorial. Our politicians have always made it clear, to Americans and to the rest of the world, that when it comes to foreign affairs, Americans, whether Democrats or Republicans, stand united; notwithstanding the fact that over one-third of the population is not affiliated to either party. And our foreign policy, unwritten for the eyes of the world to see, but punctured in Braille by our government’s actions, has been simple and to the point: American interests, anyplace in the world, will be defended at any and all costs. And those interests have most often proven to be of the economic variety.

Never mind social justice, the ideals of democracy, or being good neighbors. These are nice aims, but nonetheless goals which are subservient to the holiest of the holy: the defense of American interests. If in the process of accomplishing such goal, democracy and/or social justice are collaterally achieved, consider it a bonus. But if those things, lofty as they are, have to be sacrificed to attain the principal objective… so be it. Unfortunately, history shows the latter happening on a continuous, repetitive basis.

To ask American politicians to review the United States ’ place in the world, and draft a policy of principles to be followed, is antithetical to what we have come to expect from them. Politicians, at least here in these United States , prove time and again to their constituents that they have one short-term goal, and that is re-election. Development of a foreign policy that deals with the dynamics of an ever-changing international political scene is a task for true statesmen with knowledge, courage and heart; individuals with a vision of a safe and prosperous America in harmony with other nations of the world; individuals who have Americans’ best interests at heart, not theirs. But instead of statesmen from the land of the free, our foreign policy is being written in the Land of Oz. The Wizard, megaphone in hand, and heralding deceit, is leading the cheers of support for a third string foreign policy which will only score by reaching the goalposts of rancor towards our nation.

Which may leave us to ponder… had we developed a fair and unbiased treatment of many nations and groups in the world, and made that a prominent part of American foreign policy, would the United States have experienced terrorism in the same vein that it has?

Within the context of a sane foreign policy, we could look back to the time of “The Ugly American” as diplomacy’s good old days. At least then, we lived with the constant challenge of changing some of our ways, if for no other reason than to improve our score in the competition we faced on a constant basis from the Soviet Union .

Right now, when there seems to be so much more at stake, self-examination as to the criticisms of yesterday seems to carry very little weight. Nothing much has changed in terms of behavioral patterns, and the criticisms thrown at Americans back in the 1950’s, are alive and well today: lack of respect for other cultures and peoples; pride in our mono-linguistic forte; and arrogance often directly proportional to our ignorance.

But none of those things which brought a diplomatic call to arms from Burdick and Lederer had the current effect of rallying people throughout the world against us, tyrannical and democratic nations, former friends and foes… fear and dislike for the United States kneaded into one loaf of leavened hate. Arrogance has now reached epic proportions, and reckless, unilateral actions have become the rubric of the Bush administration.

No matter how many people I talk to from around the world, none that I know having a personal bone to pick with the United States, the same questions keep being asked… which remain unanswered: “If Americans are into empire building, where is the imperial plan?”, or, “Do the blueprints for things to come resemble the helter-skelter approach that has been taken, first with Afghanistan, then with Iraq?”

It is obvious by any reasonable standard that those at the helm in Washington do not have a clue how to plan for the people in their own nation. Not when judged by the crumbling economic infra-structure, or by the limping, deficient general/social well-being that should accrue the citizens of a first-rate industrialized nation. In this light, it seems absurd, and somewhat laughable, for the neo-conservative cadre in Washington to be fantasizing in ways to unduly influence the world.