Americans Need Education on Foreign Policy Print
Commentary/Politics - Editorials
Tuesday, 25 September 2001 18:00
After September 11’s horror, it has never been more important for the American people to engage in our country’s foreign policy. It is time to get educated and informed about exactly how we conduct our foreign affairs. As a governed people, we know precious little about it. We are content to leave it to our elected officials because we have more immediate concerns, like paying the mortgage and keeping our kids on the right path. But the luxury of ignorance in the matters of foreign policy is over. It is our kids who will be the ones to fight this new war.

America’s foreign policy has always been reactive relative to its involvement in war. We are not the invaders; instead we respond militarily to invasions perpetrated on other countries by imperialists. This policy is evident throughout America’s brief history. With the exception of the Indian wars, the Revolutionary War with Britain, and World War II when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, we have never engaged militarily against foreigners inside America’s borders. We have always crossed the ocean to engage armies on foreign soil. The over-simplified rationale has been that we are protecting against some form of political tyranny, especially where America has had significant economic interests at stake. But always the crisis involves some entity forcing itself into the military arena, and America stepping in to fend them off.

In this new war, the enemy is not a specific governmental entity or country, but a collection of terrorist cells, whether in the form of not-for-profits, financial institutions, or political factions, such as the Taliban, which has no sanctioned legitimacy within the framework of diplomacy. There is no single country, no individual political organization to hold accountable. The Al-Qaida is a collective group of anarchists operating under the umbrella of religious theocracy rather than political organization. Al Quaida invokes Jihad, which is holy war according to Muslim scripture, as the justification for its own brand of imperialism. They invade many countries at once, only in small numbers. They are a diverse network of individuals and facilities that operate independently of one another most of the time. The common goal that threads them together in this loose network is to reclaim Muslim holy sites and free Muslim lands from US occupation. If it means the annihilation of innocents, then this is acceptable if it achieves these stated goals. Because of the sporatic nature of their organizational structure, terrorism is their primary weapon. Once we understand this, and that for them life and death have no intrinsic value as it relates purely to the human condition, then we can begin to deal with the magnitude of what we are up against. By we, I mean all civilized people who value life and freedom.

The Afghan people have been co-opted into this nightmare. There is no governmental entity other than the Taliban, which inserted itself after the defeat of the Soviet Union. It is hypocritical of bin Laden to claim this country his sanctuary when he is not native-born, but is an invader himself of Afghanistan. Meanwhile, with all his wealth and resources, what has he done to improve the quality of life for the Afghan people, who are starving by the thousands? Bin Laden is no better than the Soviet regime in this regard. Sadly, it was American resources that allowed bin Laden to position himself as the patron of terrorism. As his ally against the Soviets during the invasion of Afghanistan, we provided training and weapons. The Taliban and bin Laden had access to the most sophisticated strategies and arms against the Soviets. When Russia was defeated, bin Laden turned his aggression on the United States. We became the next infidel to be eradicated from Muslim occupation.

There is so much more to the story, however, than this narrow overview. It just barely demonstrates the complexity of international relations, the global economic structure and our interdependence. British author Martin Amis put things is perspective in a recent article published in the Guardian (September 18, 2001):

“It will also be horribly difficult and painful for Americans to absorb the fact that they are hated, and hated intelligibly. How many of them know, for example, that their government has destroyed at least 5% of the Iraqi population? How many of them then transfer that figure to America (and come up with 14m)? Various national characteristics - self-reliance, a fiercer patriotism than any in Western Europe, an assiduous geographical incuriosity - have created a deficit of empathy for the sufferings of people far away. Most crucially, and again most painfully, being right and being good support the American self to an almost tautologous degree: Americans are good and right by virtue of being American. Saul Bellow’s word for this habit is “angelisation.” On the US-led side, then, we need not only a revolution in consciousness but an adaptation of national character: the work, perhaps, of a generation.”

Americans need to get out of their cultural cocoons and learn about the dynamics that are fast propelling us into another world war. We must be able to direct our elected officials by being informed. We must execute our philosophies and our wishes through our vote. We must demand that those who want to participate in the political arena are qualified and educated about these serious issues if they are to lead us. It has never been more important to become civically involved, to pay attention and learn. But more important than any other single thing, we must engage in the most American liberty of all—voting!

Vote YES for River Renaissance

We have a local election coming this fall: the primary election for city government is October 9, and the general election is November 6. We also have an extremely important special election coming October 23, where the county voters have the opportunity to vote YES for River Renaissance. Now more than ever we need the economic stimulus that a $113 million project would provide for our community. We must lock that money in or it will surely go elsewhere as different needs arise. If we vote no on River Renaissance, then we jeopardize all the Vision Iowa money that has been earmarked for Scott County. Some other county in Iowa will get it. Can we possibly be foolish enough to lose that money? By voting in favor or River renassaince, we say YES to all the jobs that will be created with this project, as well as the additional cultural amenities that will dramatically improve our ability to attract companies with high-paying jobs to Scott County. Of course we will have to pay close attention to make sure that we get what we are paying for, but we have the State of Iowa to help with this oversight and accountability. The petitioners who organized and secured the right to vote on this issue have already won. Their efforts paved the way so that voters now get the opportunity to have a voice. So let our collective voice be unified in saying YES to River Renaissance to better ensure a vibrant and economically healthy future for Scott County.

Mayoral Candidate Forums to Attend

As stated above, there is no greater privilege, no more sacred right, and no more American duty than to vote. Davenport has a primary election on October 9, when voters must choose between seven mayoral candidates: Bob Yapp, Charlie Brooke, Pamela Davis, Luana Stoltenberg, John Waddell, Bill Sherwood, and Denise Hollenback. Davenport faces some of the most important issues of the new millennium and needs qualified, honorable people to serve. Because the selection is so large, it is important to hear the candidates. The forums listed below will give voters an opportunity to weigh in with the candidates and hear their positions on the issues, as well as to get an idea about their demeanor, public persone, and how well they understand the issues. It is vitally important for the public to attend these forums to demonstrate just how seriously we take the business of electing candidates. (At the QC Rental Association forum, only four candidates showed up: Bob Yapp, Pamela Davis, Luana Stoltenberg, and Denise Hollenback. Send the message to the no-shows that you expect them there for an examination of their suitability to serve.) At a time when America needs solidarity, they also need to reaffirm the duties and obligations incumbent upon all citizens that continue to make us free. Nothing contributes more to our democracy than voting. And nothing gives more meaning to voting than being informed about the issues, then choosing candidates who will best represent the voters.

Central High School (student-organized), Thursday, September 27 at 9am, CHS Auditorium, 1120 Main Street, Davenport, 323-9900.

United Neighbors, Sunday, September 30 at 7pm, 808 N. Harrison Street, Davenport, 322-7363.

DavenportOne, Tuesday, October 2 at 7:30am, Clarion Hotel, 227 LeClaire Street, Davenport, 322-1706.

CASI, Tuesday, October 2 at 10:30am, 1035 W. Kimberly, Davenport, 386-7477.

WOC and River Cities’ Reader, October 4 at 7pm, Central High School Auditorium, 1120 Main Street, Davenport, 344-7000.

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