04 March 2008

When in the course of human events...

When looking at the ability of the US to promulgate this thing known as 'Foreign Policy', it really does help if the Nation had some true goals and objectives to work towards! Yes, we hear fine things about 'spreading democracy' and to help this along the current Administration puts forward a lovely concept from the State Dept for the Middle East. Now, in an era where a Mercenary Congress can find in its vast wisdom the ability to hand $25 million to spinach farmers for lost income due to an FDA health advisory, how much do you think is spent on this vital idea known as 'spreading democracy in the Middle East'? Don't go to the page and *look* and remember this is everything outside of Iraq and Afghanistan, so think first and ask yourself the following:

1) Is it a worthy thing of the United States to actually advocate democracy for the Middle East? If you don't think its worth the time and effort to spread this concept there then, of course, $0 is what you would want. Mind you this is to try building it in such places as Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Lebanon, and reinforce it in such places as Egypt and Jordan, and maybe a bit of sustainment to places like Turkey. Do you think that democracy is worth advocating as a system of government to help People find a good way to govern themselves?

2) If it is a *worthy* goal for the US to advocate, then is it something that should be pushed as a side-light? The US is, after all, based on a concept of representative democracy in a republic to have a Westphalian State. Since we enjoy this as a concept and as an enactment of the rights that we espouse to be Universal since the Declaration of Independence, should we make this the *center* of Foreign Policy? Or is it secondary to something like, oh, trade? As the US fought for 'no taxation without representation' do we espouse that *trade* is more important than Liberty? Or are we pushing a concept of 'no representation without trade'? What is the placement for *you* of these ideals when seeking to associate with a Foreign Nation? Funding should indicate the primacy of concepts that the US holds dear for itself and its interplay with other Nations, shouldn't it?

These are not idle questions as the concept that we have come to know in this modern world of ours is that 'money talks'. By wanting to put a value on all things we do, effectively, tag the importance of things with how much we are willing to spend to get it. Other Nations do pick up on this American concept and so we get judged on it by our prioritization of outlays of funds. The US, back in the 19th century, actually found other ways to promulgate democracy and such things as 'civics' without spending a much in the way of Federal funds. We believed in civil government, representative democracy and the republican form of government that a number of religious and civic organizations actually placed *schools* in the Middle East to teach these things on a secular basis. Some Federal funds would often help out, but the initiative was Citizen based, not Government led. Of course that was 'before the modern era' in which all things bright and beautiful made the world such a better place that these private initiatives got dwarfed by Federal spending and hoopla. In truth much in the way of sustainment of those 19th century outlooks is still done on the private side, but the attention paid, by Americans, to them is scant.

Remember, what we have today is supposed to be *better* than what was before.

Thusly, the commitment of the Federal government must be much, much, much higher than anything a mere private organization can do in the promotion of democracy! In this fantastic modern era we should have so much in the way of schools, medical facilities and all sorts of other outreach to a place like the Middle East that it would make our forebearers blush for the tightness of their charity. Right? That is what the folks in both political parties have done by centralizing so much authority and money in the Federal realm: they are saying to the American People that this government knows better than YOU how to spend YOUR money for the National Interest.

From the State Dept we get the 2005 FY figure for this lovely 'espousal of democracy in the Middle East' concept... this thing we had done as Citizens, by and large, without help from government in the 19th century... and it is: $22 million. And the pork spending for peanut storage subsidies was pegged at $74 million.

Yes, we aren't even spending peanuts on espousing democracy in the Middle East!

This is highly bemusing because of this bit I picked up from Hugh Hewitt's site and his citation of an article by Bill Keller in 2003 on the surprise of finding himself a hawk on Iraq. Here Mr. Keller quotes Ronald Asmus one of the experts on Europe from the Clinton Administration:

"The question is, is this about American power, or is it about democracy?" Mr. Asmus asks. "If it's about democracy, we'll have a broader base of support at home and more friends abroad. The great presidents of the last century -- F.D.R., Wilson, Truman -- all tried to articulate America's purpose in a way that other parts of the world could buy into. Bush hasn't done that yet." Before long, we'll find out if he cares to.
At $22 million I can safely say that whatever our Foreign Policy might be, the sustainment or creation of democracy and helping others to get it is *not* a priority. Woodrow Wilson 'talked a good game' but when it came to putting lives and blood on the line to help defeat the entire gamut of those aligned with Germany, he said: 'No thanks, trade will set them free.'

That hasn't worked out too well in the old territory ruled by the Ottoman Empire, has it?

And what, exactly, did FDR and Truman do to help build democracy in the greater Middle East? Whatever they *did* apparently didn't work out too well. Still, whatever this thing was that they did kept on being done for nearly 60 years so that it would continue not to build democracy. A bi-partisan inability to espouse democracy! What was it that these lovely Administrations from FDR onward *did* that *didn't* bring democracy to the Middle East after Woodrow Wilson promised, for sure, that the place would be so much better off being left alone and the US just trading with it?

That is, of course, what we did: trade. Lots of trade. Probably spent more on 'trade fairs' and 'business outreach' year on year, than this thing known as 'building democracy'.

I call this a lack of Foreign Policy.

When so many wanted to make the US Government so big to handle so much, we forgot that it is the WORST institution to try and spread democracy overseas. It handles things like Treaties and Wars pretty well, but the actual concept of 'building democracy' is left up to individuals to demonstrate by doing. That is why the Constitution is set up to give ONLY trade and war declaration powers to Congress: it is a useless body for the espousal of democracy overseas and not trusted by the People because it is full of politicians.

A President can and should espouse democracy, but has his or her hands tied by the fact that Congress only allocates funds as it sees fit and it is only given to funding those things it can be persuaded to fund for the State Dept. And as Congress is given limited scope of power and is jealous of the money it hands out, it usually hampers Foreign Policy by not funding it well. This is good because it requires that the President turn to Americans for help overseas. Convince the American People that something positive needs to be done and we will decide, on our own, if it is worth doing. Collectively the US hands out far more in *charity* than the entire Federal government does in its ability to sustain Foreign policy outside of the warmaking realm. It is made that way by design so that We the People do not forget the importance of democracy to us and that we hold it dear and show others how good a system republican government with representative democracy is. Superior to ALL other forms of government, or so we hold in our founding documents.

Trade can be used to build and support democracy, but not in a 'free trade' without any strings attached concept. Trade for the sake of trade ends up supporting tyrannies and democracies *both* and gives no incentive to move towards democracy as it showers its benefits equally. What can be done is to deny trade to authoritarian or tyrannical governments and deny them the benefits of trade with us. Some will point out that this allows other Nations to step in and gain benefits of such trade. That is correct, they gain monetary benefit. Our benefit is holding that self-government from consent of the governed via Liberty and Freedom gives valid income, while that garnered from tyrannical systems is a form of mollification of populations with goods so that we may profit and that government have no reason to wish to change to something more representative. Profit garnered from those under repressive regimes ensures that those regimes have no incentive to ever become less repressive. We gain by the suffering of others when we give such support and we lessen our Universal message of Liberty and Freedom via representative democracy with republican government.

That system has worked so well in the Middle East and China that they remain just about where they were when we started trading with them! And such profit was garnered for ourselves... and so much repression and suffering caused to give us such funds that we should be ashamed to even think of ourselves as supporting Freedom and Liberty as a concept. This has had bi-partisan support for decades, and has yielded the ugly thing that is transnationalism that seeks to destroy Nations and end Freedom and Liberty for all of mankind in its various, noxious forms. Of course we also hear that capitalism is the beneficent creation of mankind that will instantly bring about liberty and freedom, just don't mind the fact that capitalism is an economic system that has found itself at home in such places as Germany under the Kaiser and, later, the National Socialists, and even in such places as Argentina under Carlos Menem who, while being 'pro-US' helped Hezbollah to get a nice foothold in South America that spreads to this very day. China's crony capitalism of today has created horrific working conditions, low standards of quality for industrial output and, by having a banking system that will not hold anyone accountable for bad debts if it suits the political power structure, now bases most of its production on unsupported debt. If capitalism were so benign we would not need things like anti-monopoly laws and child labor laws now would we? Or is it that capitalism held under a representative democracy in a republic can aid liberty and freedom, so long as its abuses are kept in check by the laws made by the People?

If that latter argument is used, then *why* do we place trade ahead of promulgating a good system to CONTROL IT? Foreign Policy of the 'realist mode' that seeks economic stability and the spread of capitalist trade *before* having a democratic system to hold it accountable to the People of those lands we wish to export it to has given us the lovely, unfree and yet highly profitable world for the few that we have today. America's deep prosperity is not based on capitalism, but because we put the People before the economic system so as to control it and ensure that it does not destroy the basis of Liberty. That basis is allowing an individual to utilize the fruits of their labor as they see fit to do with the least amount of taxes. America is not a rich land because of its capitalist system, it is a free land that allows prosperity to expand via Liberty and the Freedoms necessary to support that Liberty. Any economic system that allows *that* to happen and to be accountable to the People will flourish and capitalism is just one system that does such.

When I was growing up, this was part of what the "Liberal Hawks" were talking about: use US military power to keep tyrannical regimes in check and give them NO room to maneuver. That was, of course, aimed at those Nations that supported the US, like Argentina under Menem, that were not so free with liberty for the People there. Unfortunately many on the Liberal side saw no reason to hold systems that were Leftist to account to this, and the US soon began to give leeway to less free systems on that side of things, too. The bare few that the US did stand up to from the Cold War onwards, North Korea, Cuba, Syria and Iran, were the most vile of governments that impoverished their People to create chaos as far as each of those could reach or imposed highly authoritarian or totalitarian methods upon their people. Mind you there are lovely folks who want to ease up on ALL of those, today, so that tyranny and despotism have a chance to expand their power against liberty and freedom. The "Liberal Hawks" had their feathers plucked out, year by year, so that transnational ideals promulgated by 'progressives' could flourish, and those ideals saw no reason to actually promote liberty and freedom.

The conservative side of the equation, the one promoting a high interplay of ideas to sustain dialogue of how to keep liberty and freedom has succumbed, very slowly, to the promotion of capitalism and of trade before democracy and freedom. If capitalism is such a great system, then will not a People, of any Nation, gravitate towards it once they are free from tyranny? Pushing capitalism first has not proven out in Africa, the Middle East, China, and many Nations in South America, to be something that actually gets you a system in which liberty is upheld so that freedom and democracy may occur. That has been done for generations and the result is obvious in the state of the world as it is today: transnationalism liquidating concepts of the Nation State, un-ruled and ungovernable areas that put Nations into chaos via promoting unaccountable organizations that seek to empower themselves and build nothing, and the impoverishment of the human spirit and economy in vast regions of the world that the only freedom there is is that of 'survival'. That was *not* the grand and glorious goals set out by Wilson, FDR and Truman, and yet those are the results of that outlook. Nor were these the goals set out by Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton.

This is something that the entire political spectrum has brought about because it has no coherent view of the role that liberty and freedom play in creating governments and economies. Somehow, in supporting trade and government power over trade *first*, ideals of liberty and freedom have had to go to the back of the bus... with the emergency door there open and those two ideals pushed out the back to be left behind. When I, personally, hear about all the lovely things that *trade* and *capitalism* are supposed to bring, and look at places with authoritarian or totalitarian societies that are just a smidge less worse than those we detest, and we have been trading with them for decades, I begin to wonder exactly what the rate of transformation *is*. President Wilson looked at it in the terms of trade transforming the Middle East to become some lovely society that would be transformed by trade and Christianity. Mind you, it got him out of actually having to *do anything* there!

So 90 years further on, just how *free* are those regions once ruled by the Ottoman Empire? How better off were they for the US not going to war there? Much better? A lot better? A little better? No better? And anyone pointing to Iraq is making that exact *point*: US military power has transformed one of the most authoritarian of Nations nearly overnight, and it is only the expedient of US power that accomplished that. The cost in money and lives has been high, though nothing like either of the World Wars and more on the scale of the Philippine-American War, given the fraction of the society and economy involved.

China since the mid-1970's has gotten over its charismatic totalitarian government and has put in its place one that utilizes State control over regulated capitalism to achieve State ends. So, pretty much a highly government-centered, authoritarian Nation, with limited liberty and freedom. So much accomplished in only 35 years! Some of the most highly polluting industries on the planet! Political and social repression still rampant! A mountain of bad debt that is supporting their industrial output due to corruption in the regime! Trade has been so *good* for the US... and China? It has helped the State, no end, but the people? And just what sort of Nation is it that is described as having 30-60% of its industrial infrastructure built on bad debt? A thriving one? Does anyone remember when Japan had a mere 10% of its economy built on same during the late 1980's? Do the words 'bubble economy' have any meaning to those glorying in trade and the freedom it supposedly brings? Is this really such a *good thing* to have supported with increased trade, to the point where our economy now depends heavily on one with a bubble beyond the scale of anything seen since... oh.... the 1920's?

Then there was the idea of using *trade* to support Yugoslavia, so that it could get a 'soft landing'. Just how did that go? A bit of ethnic cleansing? Terrorism getting a bit inculcated there and melding with organized crime and narcotics groups? Standing up a Nation that has a leadership that was backed by al Qaeda? Just what did that trade buy the US? In theory it helped the US, but just what is the status of Yugoslavia? What? Ah... it is 'The Balkans'... again.

Finally there is NAFTA. Quite the rustling has been heard when Sen. Obama proposed that maybe the US should pull out of it! The Canadians were a bit more than teed off, saying that they would sell their oil elsewhere... which is their right, as a Nation, although the stuff is damned fungible on the open market. But if they really wanted to disconnect their pipelines and no longer utilize those of the US and the US storage facilities and port outlets, why I am sure that Canada is more than prepared to build similar inside their Nation. So while Canada might be selling direct to China, they might also take awhile to have to build up their infrastructure, port facilities, storage facilities and such... and as oil is an 'open market', who knows where the stuff might get shipped to.

Say, why don't we just utilize 'open markets' as a concept instead of 'free trade'? You know, let buyers and sellers set prices based on their economic outlook and National constraints? And if some Nations wish to subsidize their exports, then others could put these 'tariff' things in place... cumbersome, yes, but it would generate revenue for Nations willing to have such. And it might, just possibly, protect National pathways for citizens to work their way out of poverty without having to worry about being undercut by a highly productive Nation able to produce goods at a low cost due to inherent efficiencies of their production schemas. Mexico could have, actually, used something like that to protect their poor farmers who, when put in competition to US agribusiness, failed to make enough on overproduction to make farming worthwhile. Farming did help feed their families and generate some income... but the US agribusiness under cut that severely.

The Mexican people did buy cheap food from the US!

Until those wanting to make ethanol were able to pay a higher price, that is...

And all the folks illegally seeking employment in the US?

Ever notice the increasing violence due to organized crime in Mexico the last couple of years? Organized crime turns out to be a pretty good 'employer of last resort'.

That 'free trade' worked out so well as to produce those lovely side-effects.

It seems that 'free trade' between Nations of equivalent technical capability and economic status, along with productivity efficiencies works pretty well: there is a relatively level playing field amongst such Nations.

For those at a disadvantage, however, 'open markets' allow for discrimination against goods from 'more efficient producers' as, sometimes, the lower price for someone else's higher efficiency means cutting off parts of one's own society and offering little in return. It may make 'economic sense' but it may not make 'social sense' so as to sustain and uphold the society within a Nation. If one remembers there is a slogan that is pertinent to this:
No Taxation Without Representation
It was a stamp tax on tea being brought into the colonies and it was imposed royally, without the colonists having any representation or say on it. It was not a revolution to *abolish* taxation on trade, as the colonies were paying off debts for the French & Indian wars. The colonists were more than willing to pay taxes that they had a say upon... it was those imposed without referring to the people who had to sustain their society that caused the grief. The Nation was founded upon the concept that trade can be taxed, but that the people must have say on it so that their society would not be put at peril due to the tax regimen.

Perhaps we could stick to an ideal of 'free trade' with those Nations that have been long-term friends and allies, supporting us through thick and thin, and we doing the same with them. Currently, looking over the border and seeing an organized crime insurgency slowly becoming worse than Iraq, we seem to have created a mess through our good intentions. And when I see Nations that have supported the US or who have thrown off the shackles of tyranny, then I really must ask: why are we not offering 'free trade' to them? Places like Poland, Hungary, Romania, Israel, Bulgaria... they are at a distance, yes, but they have helped us in Iraq and Afghanistan and been supportive of US goals of liberty, freedom and democracy. Or is 'free trade' only worth it when transportation is *cheap*?

I do think that Sen. Obama went a bit far on NAFTA: we should encourage and support free trade with Canada, a long term friend and ally. Mexico, however, has had its problems with the US and has been not fully supportive of US goals and ideals over the decades. Having three 2-way treaties means that only a portion of them can be set aside. Perhaps that is too 'nuanced' this 'supporting friends and allies of the US and supporters of liberty and freedom' thing.

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