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Old Apr 23, 2011, 10:28 PM   #1
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The Problem With U.S. Foreign Policy

Can Buy Me Love- Newsweek.

The story of how Gaddafi bought his way out of the International doghouse by buying those eager for his oil. And guess who was El Presidente at the time?

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It was a deal none of them could resist. Libya’s oilfields would be fully opened up to the West, and U.S. and European banks and corporations could resume tapping the country’s revenue stream. And Gaddafi would publicly renounce his putative nuclear-development program (much of which had never even been uncrated). Having invaded Iraq in search of nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, the Bush administration could claim that in Libya, at least, its efforts were bearing fruit. The plan seemed to have something for everyone—everyone, it eventually turned out, except the Libyan people.
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Old Apr 24, 2011, 12:18 PM   #2
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No government, anywhere, has much concern for the liberty of its people. No government, anywhere, exists for the benefit of the governed.

Aside from remaining in power and in democratic-process countries getting elected or re-elected, governments want a certain amount of serenity, peace and quiet. Whatever keeps things halfway peaceful and quiet is by definition good--in the eyes of the bosses, anyway.

So, the Bush deal with Gaddafi was merely business as usual. It was that way before him, it is that way right now and it will be that way in the future.

Yes, it's all about oil. Without oil there is no modern industrial society, anywhere. Won't be any wealth of serious amount for TPTB to steal.

Our methodology for foreign policy decision making appears to me to mostly be short-term expediency. Maybe that derived from the Cold War necessities, trying to restrain the USSR. Kipling called it "The Great Game" of international relations; Disraeli first commented about nations only having interests, not friends. I liken it to chess, but it appears that our leadership is still struggling with tic-tac-toe--then and now.

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Old Apr 24, 2011, 02:35 PM   #3
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Kipling called it "The Great Game" of international relations; Disraeli first commented about nations only having interests, not friends.
"Interests" is fine, but it has to be the right interests. Interests which will give everyone more opportunities and better choices. The main problem seems to be short-termism, but since the alternative is dictators-for-life, perhaps we're better off muddling through and hoping eventually to find some leadership candidates with vision and ability.
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Old Apr 25, 2011, 08:28 AM   #4
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I understand the concept of "interests". Large powerful countries, although large and powerful, don't control the "action" everywhere. I see the idea of dealing with the devil if it benefits your country. Although we supposedly believe in a set of moral standards, we are not responsible for actions of every country around the world, nor should be expected to "save" all those who need saving in the name of our standards. It's not a black and white situation, but it would be nice if we could keep our morals somewhat in sight even when making $$ deals with dictators.

Short of instigating revolutions I see how a country's foreign policy, through unsavory deals might gains some sway in a region. But the problem is, usually when dealing with dictators, the sway you gain does not overcome the lack of morals required to make deals with a bad leader and ignoring the plight of downtrodden people. And I can see how the people of that country might hate you for dealing with their dictator, including radicals such as someone like Osama Bin Laden (regardless of their overt political/religious objectives). I'm not making excuses for Bin Laden. I'm observing how the U.S.'s foreign policy could be improved.

This could be a case where giving extremists moral ammo has been bad for us. What I'd find interesting is that if we had not been meddling in the Middle East, cozy with dictators, scurrying for oil, would we still find ourselves the target of radicals? Maybe...
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Old Apr 25, 2011, 08:49 AM   #5
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No argument, skunk.

I dunno. I think back to such things as the use of our navy and the Marine Corps to back up United Fruit's desire for calm market conditions in Central America as an example. Or with Mossadegh cozying up to the USSR and the CIA installation of the Shah. From the standpoint of national interest at those times, there was logic. The long-term effects, however, finally bit us.

Huntn, all during the 1950s and 1960s, all that any little thug had to do to start up his future financial security was to tell our State Department that he was anti-communist. The USSR effort at world domination was quite real, of course, but we wound up in bed with some horrible creatures. From a moral standpoint, far beyond "coyote ugly". I guess you could say that our government regarded those populations as pawns on a chessboard, but the end game was for our national survival.
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Old Apr 25, 2011, 09:01 AM   #6
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All during the 1950s and 1960s, all that any little thug had to do to start up his future financial security was to tell our State Department that he was anti-communist. The USSR effort at world domination was quite real, of course, but we wound up in bed with some horrible creatures. From a moral standpoint, far beyond "coyote ugly". I guess you could say that our government regarded those populations as pawns on a chessboard, but the end game was for our national survival.
That depends on whether you believe that achieving unrivalled supremacy often at the cost of other countries' futures is synonymous with "survival".
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Old Apr 25, 2011, 09:08 AM   #7
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No argument, skunk.

I dunno. I think back to such things as the use of our navy and the Marine Corps to back up United Fruit's desire for calm market conditions in Central America as an example. Or with Mossadegh cozying up to the USSR and the CIA installation of the Shah. From the standpoint of national interest at those times, there was logic. The long-term effects, however, finally bit us.

Huntn, all during the 1950s and 1960s, all that any little thug had to do to start up his future financial security was to tell our State Department that he was anti-communist. The USSR effort at world domination was quite real, of course, but we wound up in bed with some horrible creatures. From a moral standpoint, far beyond "coyote ugly". I guess you could say that our government regarded those populations as pawns on a chessboard, but the end game was for our national survival.
I agree with your assessment in that appeared to be an honest view of our leadership during that time frame. However U.S. foreign policy really went off the rails for the 2nd Gulf War, a war of aggression to remove an Iraqi dictator with weapons of mass destruction pointed right at us...the loss of life, the expense and suffering. Some of us can sit around and ponder the morality (or lack there of). This is not a critical statement directed at you.
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Old Apr 25, 2011, 11:25 AM   #8
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skunk, I think you're adding "unrivalled supremacy" all on your own. Sure, thee may have been a few with that view, but it was nowhere near being mainstream.

As far as GW II, I can see a national interest. And it was no bad thing to get rid of a genocidal megalomaniac like Saddam Hussein--although I always thought that the harping on WMD wasn't necessary. 17 UN resolutions ignored, and 100,000 murdered Kurds, not to mention the murdering in the south after GW I..

But going in short by 100,000 men--against the Pentagon advice--allowed the border jumping which caused most of the post-combat mess. Not enough troops to control the borders long enough to establish order so we could pull out and leave a base or three behind with a friendly government, and continue to project power into the region without having the fleet trapped in the Persian Gulf.

IMO, I have less concern about what was done, but I have a negative attitude about how it was done stupidly. Bush, no strategist, got bad advice.

Be that as it may, my view of our State Department and Cabinet people--common in other countries, as well--is that they see masses of people as mere ciphers, unimportant in the grand scheme of things. Common among Congresscritters after a term or three in office. That's why they are so regularly taken by surprise by such events as at present in the MENA.
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Old Apr 25, 2011, 12:07 PM   #9
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As far as GW II, I can see a national interest. And it was no bad thing to get rid of a genocidal megalomaniac like Saddam Hussein--although I always thought that the harping on WMD wasn't necessary. 17 UN resolutions ignored, and 100,000 murdered Kurds, not to mention the murdering in the south after GW I..
I'm sure you understand we have spent trillions ($1,000,000,000,000+) there and as a result this country is about to go tits up? Care to sell your house and turn over your paycheck but you'll feel good knowing the bad dictator is gone, even if they still don't love us?
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Old Apr 25, 2011, 12:30 PM   #10
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skunk, I think you're adding "unrivalled supremacy" all on your own. Sure, thee may have been a few with that view, but it was nowhere near being mainstream.
As has been said, every country looks after their own interests first.

The U.S. however is No. 1, in using their Department of Defence, to defend the American way of life, all over the World. At all costs.
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Old Apr 25, 2011, 03:20 PM   #11
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Huntn, SFAIK, the direct cost of the Iraq mess, over and above "normal" military spending, has been approximately 100 billion per year. Sure, even one trillion for the rather poor results we've seen so far is a bummer, but our social spending has been far greater.

What with Iraq, Afghanistan, the Balkans and now this silly Libyan adventure, we're burning through somewhere around, what, $250 billion a year? Trouble is, our deficit this year is to accumulate to some $1.65 trillion.

We're broke. We can't afford our foreign policy, and we can't afford our domestic policy. The foreign adventures, being far more noticeable, draw more attention--insofar as they can compete with Oprah, Nascar, the NBA and LiLo...
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Old Apr 25, 2011, 04:14 PM   #12
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but our social spending has been far greater.
But social spending delivers results.
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Old Apr 25, 2011, 07:44 PM   #13
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It help bankrupt us and china will replace us in four years.
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Old Apr 25, 2011, 08:04 PM   #14
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Eraserhead, social spending can bring positive results if set up in wise manner. Unfortunately, most of our systems have been set up to buy votes and voting blocs. This has led to the total package of social transfers becoming too large to sustain. Unaffordable. It was a strain when we were a wealthy nation. We are no longer wealthy.

As Michaelgtrusa pointed out, "We're Number 2!" is our coming war cry. We've already gone from 30% of world GDP to 18%. What GDP growth we have is due to federal spending. If, more properly, the deficit were subtracted instead of included, we could see how it is contracting, not growing. You don't get out of debt by borrowing.
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Old Apr 26, 2011, 08:46 AM   #15
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Eraserhead, social spending can bring positive results if set up in wise manner. Unfortunately, most of our systems have been set up to buy votes and voting blocs. This has led to the total package of social transfers becoming too large to sustain. Unaffordable. It was a strain when we were a wealthy nation. We are no longer wealthy.
Are you suggesting that when Medicare and SS were set up, they picked the age and limits and set it up to buy votes? I mean, at the time it was set up, they picked an age to qualify and set payments at a level designed to assist the elderly who actually needed help. Are you suggesting that they anticipated that those programs (and healthcare in general) would be so successful that people would live 10-20 years longer? Are you suggesting that they knew there were going to be so many baby boomers? If so, that makes those social programs the most successful, long-term, political act of all time.

Personally, I think the programs were set up in a postive and wise manner, but times have changed. A reasonable argument could be made for increasing the retirement age, increasing eligible income for taxes, and doing a lot of other things to take those programs back to their original intent.

On the other hand, they have been successful. Arguably, far more successful than anyone ever had thought or hoped. Almost every senior citizen has affordable health care available to them. There are far fewer seniors dying in deep poverty thanks to social security. Based on that, I think there is a better argument for expanding medicare and increasing the benefits provided by SS. Don't cut, grow. I'd pay more for this type of government that actually works, and works well.

Oh, one minor correction. We are a wealthy country. The problem is that most of that wealth has been highly concentrated into the hands of a very small number of incredibly wealthy people. In addition, there are corporations that have taken US money and US jobs overseas in order to make even more money.

We have resources. We have people. We have manufacturing capacity. What we don't have is a third world economy with people willing to work for pennies a day, or an economic model that is designed to unfairly push its businesses (like in China).
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Old Apr 26, 2011, 10:05 AM   #16
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We're broke. We can't afford our foreign policy, and we can't afford our domestic policy. The foreign adventures, being far more noticeable, draw more attention--insofar as they can compete with Oprah, Nascar, the NBA and LiLo...
I'm enjoying this discussion with you. No we can't afford our current domestic policy, but to understand it you (not accusing) can't use blinders to cut off history at the Obama Presidency. Lots of **** went down under Rule O W and some of todays **** is an attempt to correct. Secondly we can't afford to give this responsibility to the Republican Party who only cares about the well-to-do. If they are given free reign, the rest of us will be sucking hind tit. For the last 30 years they have consistently been the Spokes-Party for the wealthy and running a psychological campaign on their behalf. They suffer oh so much. Please, please give them a break!

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But social spending delivers results.
More so than weapons of war unless the country is under a direct substantial military threat.

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Oh, one minor correction. We are a wealthy country. The problem is that most of that wealth has been highly concentrated into the hands of a very small number of incredibly wealthy people. In addition, there are corporations that have taken US money and US jobs overseas in order to make even more money.

We have resources. We have people. We have manufacturing capacity. What we don't have is a third world economy with people willing to work for pennies a day, or an economic model that is designed to unfairly push its businesses (like in China).
Good comment. Unfortunately the Republican Party would like to turn us into China. Not a good deal for average Joe.
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Old Apr 26, 2011, 12:44 PM   #17
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Look: I don't really doubt that when SS and such were first set up, the intentions were good. That holds for pretty much all such programs. Trouble is, some folks game the system. Medical technology and higher incomes have extended life spans. The percentage of the population who are Olde Pharts has grown beyond expectations of the 1930s.

Medicaid was "sold" in Florida with the forecast of a cost of no more than $50 million a year. Within ten years the costs had risen to $500 million.

All social programs have grown in this fashion. Look at the pie charts of government spending. The total percentage has become way too much of our tax burden, and "taxing the rich" absolutely cannot solve the problem.

"We are a wealthy country. The problem is that most of that wealth has been highly concentrated into the hands of a very small number of incredibly wealthy people."

If they don't spend it or invest it, what good is it to the country? How is it available? It might as well not exist. And remember that those incredibly wealthy people have been and are close friends with both parties in government. That goes back many decades before Bush II and is in place at this time.

Federal government debt is $14 trillion and due to increase in perpetuity. Sorry, but that is not an indicator of a wealthy society. Owing 100% of GDP is a sign of a failed system. Further, realize that were government accounting to be on the GAAP system instead of its present cash-flow system, the federal debt would be above $80 trillion.

Item: When the Eurozone was created, and the Euro, the central bankers of the zone, the IMF and the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) all agreed that a deficit of over 3% of GDP was a sign of financial trouble. Anybody here have more expertise than those people? I don't. But the US deficit is right at 12% of GDP.

As far as wages and such, if you're not competitive in a marketplace, what's your solution? What do you suggest be made which will sell in world markets, beyond what we now do? We've had several threads here in the past about jobs going overseas, but way too many folks merely holler about the evil "they" and never look at the causes. The beginning is the lack of competitiveness in the world marketplace. All well and good, but no one cause holds sway. Wage differences are merely a part of the problem.

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Old Jun 7, 2014, 08:48 AM   #18
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This kind of insightful writing is rare these days. It is why I hold Atlantic Magazine in such high esteem. Thread revival!

Putting Ukraine in its Place- thought provoking Atlantic Magazine article on the the problem with US Foreign Policy. It slams conservative hawks and makes a case that a strong economy is a must for us to be able to have an effective foreign policy.

There was a time (WWII) when the US actually had priorities based on our countriy's interests which did not include the entire world. Some places were not deemed worthy of our protection based on our self interests.

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Let’s briefly review the American foreign-policy debates of the past year. Last August, President Obama declared that he would bomb Syria for defying his call to not use chemical weapons. Then, in a sharp about-face, he decided instead to work with Russia to dismantle the weapons, and was denounced as weak by hawkish critics. Obama’s supporters said he had done as well as he could have under the circumstances. Two months later, America and its allies struck an interim nuclear deal with Iran. Hawks called it appeasement. Obama’s supporters said it was as good as one could expect under the circumstances. Within hours of the deal, China claimed the right to monitor and possibly take military action against aircraft crossing a disputed area of the East China Sea. Hawks denounced Obama’s response as weak. The president’s supporters said it was as strong as possible under the circumstances. Then, in February, Russia began menacing Ukraine. Hawks called Obama’s response weak. His supporters said the president was doing all he reasonably could.

Each debate resembles the others, but occurs in splendid isolation. Today’s foreign-policy disputes rarely consider the way America’s response to one crisis might affect another. Adopt a tough stance on China’s air-defense zone, for instance, and Beijing is less likely to join the West in condemning Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. Severely punish Russia for that aggression, and Moscow is less likely to help America enforce sanctions against Iran. Take an ultra-hard line on Iran’s nuclear program, and Tehran is less likely to help broker an end to Syria’s civil war that the U.S. can live with. Instead of discussing each threat in isolation, America’s politicians and pundits should be debating which ones matter most. They should be prioritizing.
But with the advent Of the the Cold War, every place the USSR stuck their nose, became our business. And after the Cold War we moved from "containment" to "engagement". It ends by saying our resources are not unlimited that we are now feeling the pinch of less resources that hinders our ability to act around the world without discretion and we'd better get back to prioritizing and focusing on what is really important.

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Promoting democracy and defending human rights were considered expressions of American values. Any country that opposed the expansion of American power was deemed a threat. But without the language of interests, as Kennan had warned, championing American values and opposing foreign threats were limitless endeavors.
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Foreign-policy strategy requires harmonizing means and ends, yet during the first two decades of the post–Cold War era, American foreign-policy commentators stopped trying to “define the limit” to America’s overseas ends. The results of this shift are especially troublesome today, as America struggles with reduced means. After years of post-9/11 increases, America’s defense budget is decreasing. There’s also less money for foreign aid. Challengers like China, Russia, and Iran are fighting the enlargement of American power and American-style government. Obama, by withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan and Iraq and resisting military action in Syria and Iran, has tried to better align America’s overseas obligations with its domestic resources. But he’s encountered relentless criticism from hawks who want America to push forward, as hard as possible, on every frontier.
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The point is not that the U.S. should see China as an enemy. Americans will be far better off if the relationship between Washington and Beijing never deteriorates into cold war. But what America needs now with regard to China is leverage: the leverage that comes from a strong economy, a strong military, and strong relations with China’s neighbors. American foreign-policy debates should focus on how to achieve these things. And if doing so requires the United States to temper its responses elsewhere, so be it. If you can’t decide which parts of the world matter less, you can’t influence the ones that matter most.
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Old Jun 8, 2014, 12:31 PM   #19
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Wait ... there's only one problem with US foreign policy?
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Old Jun 11, 2014, 08:47 AM   #20
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Insurgents Sieze Iraq City Of Mosel

What was it we we achieved in Iraq? Oh yea, we destroyed Saddam's WMDs. A complete waste of our resources and dead soldiers. Thanks Bush and Cheney and the GOP for perpetrating this scam on America. When is the trial going to start? Oh wait, we only impeach Democrats for inappropriate sexual activity in the White House...
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Old Jun 12, 2014, 05:46 AM   #21
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The problem w/ American foreign policy appears to be that the person at the top, POTUS, doesn't have a clue about [write issue here].
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Old Jun 12, 2014, 05:48 AM   #22
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The problem w/ American foreign policy appears to be that the person at the top, POTUS, doesn't have a clue about [write issue here].
Are you talking about Bush .
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Old Jun 12, 2014, 09:38 AM   #23
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The problem w/ American foreign policy appears to be that the person at the top, POTUS, doesn't have a clue about [write issue here].
Which potus? Please clarify. They are not all the same.
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