Thursday, September 4, 2008

End American Alienation

The Current Discussion: In their campaign, should Barack Obama and running mate Joseph Biden advocate a clean break in U.S. foreign policy, or should they rely on continuity and experience?

The past eight years of U.S. foreign policy have been perhaps the worst ever for the image of the United States. I am not supporter of either Democrats or Republicans, especially when it comes to foreign policy. The U.S. policy towards other nations has been one of dictation, coercion and feeding off the fear that is being bred within the U.S. domestic policy. The war on terrorism has been made such a priority that upon its pretext two countries were invaded resulting in more than 5,000 U.S. deaths alone (many more than the 2,800 who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks.) After seven years, the man they seek is still at large, Iraq is a mess and unfortunately the U.S. image in almost every country is at rock bottom. It has become such a farce that the U.S. policy makers (and indeed the fellows in Homeland Security, too) do not know friend from foe, and a criticism of U.S. policy has been equated with being an enemy of the U.S. There must be a departure from this policy of alienation that the present U.S. administration has engaged upon.

So what should Obama-Biden do on foreign policy? First deal with the world fairly, and fairly means ALL parties are treated fairly. Bring the Palestinian question to the forefront, open a sincere dialogue with Iran, disengage in an honorable way from Iraq and Afghanistan, and most of all stop propping up governments that are unpopular (Musharraf is gone, though I suspect now 'General' Zardari will be the vanguard against terrorism in Pakistan.) Let the world see that actually most Americans are actually great people. The U.S. is the only true superpower left, which brings a responsibility to show leadership in world affairs, not hegemony. All these things that have to be done to fix things will be difficult, but they have to be done to make the world a better and safer place.

What will the hawks say about terrorism? Terrorism is a threat that has been made bigger than life; more people died in road accidents in the U.S. than by any other violent acts (42,815 in 2002, of which 4078 alone died on the roads in California, according to Fatality Accident Reporting System and the IRTAD.) Does this mean we wage a war on automobiles? More than 35,000 people each year are killed in the U.S. by guns and another 65,000 are injured, and yet there is no noise about this being an epidemic. But the war on terrorism has been pushed into such a major problem that the broader picture has been ignored.

The U.S. has to lead and it has to assume a responsibility to lead with fairness, a problem-solving attitude and statesmanship that has been frankly absent on the world scene. It is time to bring this all together; it's time for Obama and Biden to step up and do it. There cannot be another way forward because confrontation has never solved issues. While this may sound too aggressive, all I can say is that we have seen a major failure of U.S. foreign policy and it is now time to fix it.

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