Thursday, May 12, 2011

Making the Consensus of America Transparent - A Foreign Policy

By: Randell A. Monaco
May 12, 2011

Following news of Bin Laden's demise one of the first questions to be raised was, "[i]s 'spiking the ball' a matter of public safety?" After three decades of a declared war on terrorism our Nation finds itself in a state of an anxious uncertainty.

This seems particularly the case in these moments when no one can take seriously Pakistan's protestations of innocence. The perceived complicity of Pakistan in shielding Bin Laden more than justifies our concerns about their allegiance.

Speaking to the issue of credibility, it has been said that it is like your virginity - you can lose it only once. Fortunately, for both Pakistan and the United States, in the world of international diplomacy that doesn't seem to be always the case.

As the Reagan administration came into office in 1985, it was announced that the "evil scourge of terrorism" in the Islamic world would be at the core of U.S. foreign policy. (New York Times, 18 October 1985). The consensus of public opinion was ignored and the President announced a state of national emergency because of, as then President Reagan put it, "the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States." This state of emergency was annually renewed over and again, then fully realized on 9/11.

Using the same rhetoric as the first declaration twenty years earlier by the Reagan administration, the war on terrorism was redeclared on September 11, 2001. What few Americans are likely to realize, or recall, is that the overthrow of the Taliban regime was a rationale thrown in to make the war seem just for the benefit of intellectuals who would follow and write about the war.

The people of Afghanistan were informed that the United States and Britain would continue their attack until they handed over the wanted suspects responsible. As the big dog on the block, George Bush made it clear that we do not defer to any authority or accept the idea that we should have to offer evidence or bother with the formality of even a request for extradition. Despite the almost certainty that the U.S. would have easily obtained clear and unambiguous authorization, George Bush saw no reason to bother with international protocol and flatly rejected the option of obtaining UN Security Council authorization.

In the eyes of the world, as in the mirror of our own hypocrisy, are we truly above abiding by the moral truisms that we pretend to revere? How are we to be secure or trusted as partner in a global society when we continually fail to apply to ourselves the standards we apply to others?

Today, the idea of diplomatic credibility seems ever more dubious given the financial influences of corporate money conflicting our own government policies and the enticing promise of rewarding Pakistan with long term commitments of assistance through trade benefits in exchange for their diplomatic cooperation. Preventing extremists from acquiring nuclear weapons from Pakistan seems a matter for counter-terrorism operations not incentivized diplomacy.

As a Nation, we must come to reconcile our past and those policies which will continue to vilify the ire of hate against America. It's unlikely that America's failure to observe international law has been forgotten or overlooked even if we were to begin doing what we demand of other nations.

What seems best for Americans is that we assess the true costs of our misguided policy and earnestly attempt to understand more about the justifications that have fueled extremist growth. The time has passed in which we can look beyond our own lack of citizenship and accept the scripted we-know-best arrogance of those who have obtained power on our behalf.

A milestone opportunity presents itself for America - no longer should we allow ourselves to be marginalized by our all-knowing leaders whose judgments are becoming ever more conflicted by money. We must demand accountability, transparency and carefully question all future policies to act as an enforcer state outside the stream of vilification without keeping to the most elemental moral standards of equivalence.

Despite the efforts of our elected government to prevent transparency, Wikileaks and others whose missions are of similar values will continue to proliferate. Increasing transparency and the fluidity of global communication must become a means to prevent the marginalization of individual voices in America. The consensus of American opinion should never again be ignored.

With the news of Bin Laden's finality, we now have the opportunity to reexamine the direction of American foreign policy. Whether it would be too naive or the world is now too evil to suggest that we be a good neighbor in the next era of American foreign policy, it should become a matter of public consensus, not arrogance-elect. Let our elected government convince us and explain our choices - we'll all be the better for making the will of the American people transparent to the world.

Maybe it is time for America to lead by example without the calculated use or threat of violence. Our actions going forward, for no other reason than the history of our misguided policies, should now be a matter of public consensus and never again ignored . It is doubtful that, had the collective opinion of America in 1985 been followed and not been ignored, the costs would have been greater than the course chosen by our all-knowing leaders. Hegemony is not our only option, let the world hear Americans speak.

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