Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Foreign Policy Agonistes

In the mere span of a week, we've witnessed the airing of the CIA's Enhanced Interrogation Techniques, corporate hacking by foreign adversaries, horror in Pakistan and a diplomatic opening towards Havana. Where to start?

On the CIA issue, can we just cut to the quick?  In order to save many more lives, is 'torturing' a bad guy (really bad guy) justifiable...say in order to prevent a nuclear bomb from going off?  We can talk about Democratic Senate outrage, but those critics knew what was going on. On the other hand, we can say that the sleep deprivation, rectal feeding, and 'near drownings' via waterboardiing isn't torture because our own military goes through it in survival training. True--but they volunteer.  The best analogy is an old Gene Hackman movie line, "If you could cure cancer by killing just one man, wouldn't you have to do it?" Suffice it to say I'm all for curing cancer as long as I'm not the man who has to be sacrificed.

The Sony hacking fiasco, beyond exposing the usual Hollywood social hypocrisy, is yet one more reason we should turn Japan loose in the region. It's no coincidence Sony was the target--a company headquartered in a nation loathed by the likely Chinese/North Korean backed hackers. Yes, poking your adversary in the eye by making fun of assassinating him might provoke things, but this sort of chaos cannot be allowed to stand. And the best way to stop it to once and for all is to end the post WWII fantasy that has the United States 'keeping the peace' in Asia.  Japan will handle a lot of this--if we let them.

Which brings us to the massacre in Peshawar where 141 people, mostly children, were gunned down by Pakistani terrorists. This, in the wake of a rash of beheadings, tends to focus the mind as to just how maniacal these thugs are. And yet, Pakistan is exhibit A in how taking sides in the region is a fool's errand. That is, the moment we support those who are willing to go after the terrorists, we find that they too have committed atrocities. For example, we back the Shiites in Iraq, but opposed them in Syria and Iran. We support Sunni extremists in Syria, but oppose them in Iraq?  The fact is, our so-called allies in the region--from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia to Afghanistan--have often looked the other way on these monsters while taking billions in American foreign aid. Enough.

Finally, Cuba.  A policy started in the Kennedy administration at the height of the Cold War has apparently come to an end. And unlike other executive actions this administration has taken, this one actually looks legal insofar as it is an incomplete loosening of the economic embargo. Nevertheless, it charts new territory and both Democrats and Republicans don't like it. Yet the only reason to economically punish a foreign country is if they pose a military threat to the U.S.  Simply wanting to change the way other countries treat their people is not reason enough to spend American blood or treasure.  Besides, if that were true, we wouldn't be trading with China, Vietnam, or Venezuela.

America's foreign policy should not be determined by domestic political interests or by what powerful lobbies would like to see happen--whether in the Middle East or our own hemisphere.

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