With the beginning of a seemingly endless war on terrorism, and a shaky United States economy, now hardly seems the time to examine our general policy towards all other nations, and developing nations in particular. The wreckage of the World Trade Center is still smoldering, and our troops are marching on Kabul as I write. Nationalism is at a height only previously experienced during the World Wars. Every other car you see on the highway has Old Glory proudly flying in their window or on their antenna, some right next to their Rebel Flag. On the surface it appears the United States has pulled together for one more righteous cause, and evil, or those that oppose the US as they are commonly called, will surely fall. We wont stand for innocent attacks on civilians, and those Afghanis and Osama bin Laden had better hide. If you dont believe this, not only are you un-American, but you must be a terrorist yourself. Quietly, however, the argument is being made among scholars and free thinkers in the United States that perhaps we are not the innocent victims we portray ourselves to be in the September 11, 2001 destruction of the World Trade Center.
Some forward thinking minds even predicted a tragedy somewhat like this, but not on such a large scale. Unenlightened people ask why something like this could or would occur. What would make such a poor and unstable country like Afghanistan decide to stand up to the almighty United States? The answer is not an easy one, and requires a large adjustment in what we expect in foreign relations, and how we see and treat the rest of the world as a whole. The United States is one of the last remaining super powers of the world, and we have the obligation to maintain and support good relations with the smaller and weaker nations throughout the world. We should take full advantage of this relationship in several different ways, all without exploiting our own power.
First the U.S. must focus on investing and trading with those nations who have yet to become economic powers. Second, we must implement a consistent foreign policy towards the Middle Eastern nations, and all third world nations in general. Third, the United States needs to respect the attempts and results of the democratization and religious revivals in the Middle East and Latin America, while taking a passive role in letting the Western type of democracy take its course. Fourth, the U.S. must ease and downplay its conflict with those civilizations that dislike the “Western people” and their way of life.
Obviously, foreign investment is necessary for the future of developing other nations as well as our own. There must be an emphasis on foreign investment and trade, otherwise the third world nations will continue to fall behind economically, technologically, and domestically, which could lead to an economic downfall for the U.S. as well. The question then arises as to what the United States must do in order to have large trade agreements with other countries other than Japan and Mexico. In order for the U.S. to play a more active role in the economic and political development of many of these developing nations, it must first accept a different philosophy than its current one. First, it is imperative for the United States to play a similar role in Latin America to the one Japan has played with many of the developing nations in East Asia. The U.S. neighbors Latin America, and if it wants to play the role of big brother, it must accept the responsibility. Japan has invested, traded, and been a guide for many of it’s neighboring countries in East Asia, making them grow politically and economically while also profiting economically itself (Japan Remains 1996). The U.S. must realize that the economies of Latin American Nations will play an important part in the future of our own economy, and that it must begin to lead, invest, and aid not just Mexico, but countries such as Peru, Argentina, Bolivia, and Columbia into the twenty first century. The mainstay in American foreign policy has always been to promote and instill democracy.
However, in order to do this in a foreign nation, the U.S. must be able to first establish a viable economic relationship and system within the desired nations. We should not expect or want a nation to switch from a total authoritarian government to a market economy; doing so would be a disaster. The United States rests too much on its ideological beliefs, when there is no need to do so. Foreign countries seek our capital and trade routes, not our morals and culture. We, unfortunately, do not feel this is the case. The US has traditionally required all or nothing, in regards to demands on prospective trade partners, and political allies. The United States stance towards Cuba is a notable example of this philosophy. Instead, the U.S. has to be willing to allow developing nations to invest in U.S. markets before we invest in theirs, regardless of ideology. In return, a viable export / import system will be established. But it is essential that the economy of the developing nation be monitored and run by its own government, and the United States should only be there for advising purposes.
When a reasonable system has finally been achieved, then a more American, laissez – faire type of economic network will be allowed to grow. If the greatest challenge the United States faces are implementing a foreign policy that is consistent throughout the Middle East, weve done nothing but shoot ourselves in he foot so far. Islamic nations aren’t likely to be responsive to ideas such as human rights, and democracy. These nations will never be responsive to western ideas when the United States continues to levy sanctions against them. The U.S. is lucky that it has an ally in Saudi Arabia and Israel, allowing them to implement many of these foreign policy agendas against the other Middle Eastern countries, without having to face serious economic consequences in the oil and gas industry. Oddly enough though, Saudi Arabia is probably as much against western ideologies as any nation in the Middle East. Women do not have equal rights, torture is frequent, there is no separation between church and state, and Saudi Arabia is extremely far from developing any sort of democracy (Miller 58).
Now, when the U.S. promotes democracy and human rights, why does it support one country and condemn the next? Throughout the Cold War, American foreign policy would give aid to any nation who opposes communism. So during that time the U.S. developed a “you’re either with us or against us” type of policy, non- alignment. With this policy, many of the Middle Eastern countries became so called enemies with the U.S., which has led to unrest and hatred of western democracies. In this time of global economics, the United States cannot pick and choose which countries to invest in. In order for the U.S. to defeat the challenges it faces in the Middle East, it must start by supporting the entire Middle East. Israel and Saudi Arabia may be the most attractive offers, but Syria and even Iran have vast resources that will be very valuable to our economy in the future.Of course we cannot forget about our dear friends off the coast of Miami, Cuba. What edge does a country like China hold over Cuba besides size? Nothing besides a larger source of cheap labor. Our current stance on Cuba was correct in 1962. Castro was indeed a communist, but only after the US, who he turned to first, refused to help him. In 2001, however, it seems apparent that Castro has metamorphisized into something else. Castro has done an almost complete 180 in his political philosophy, and some would argue that Cuba is almost a democracy already. If we lifted our ineffective embargoes and opened the trade lines in Cuba, I see no reason why Castro would not open his society even more. Americans are missing out on a chance to change Cuba, both financially and politically. We have the chance to rebuild an entire economy from the ground up, and all we have to do is invest in it. These opportunities are not hypothetical either, but real apparent to other countries like Canada and the Europeans. Everyone else in the world knows this already because they have made the necessary attitude adjustments and are in there rolling up their sleeves and getting their hands dirty. Castro knows that he cant do this task of changing his entire structure himself, and its only a matter of time before he finds someone to help that will most likely not be favorable to the US. It happened before when the US denied him and he turned to the USSR, there is no reason why we should let it happen again. As the supposed leader of the free world we should know better. All the US does is preach about the importance of stability and free market systems, and the need for democracy. With an example like we are setting, why should anyone follow? Why should we do everything in our power to ensure neither survives in Cuba? Its time and has been for a long time to swallow our pride and admit we were wrong. The rest of the free world already knows it. They sit in their Cuban financed offices, smoking big fat Cuban cigars laughing at our arrogance and us. (Smith)
Next, the United States must respond to the problems of democratization and religious revival in the Middle East and Latin America. In the Middle East, there seems to be the notion that attempts at democratization would lead to the downfall of minority rights. As Judith Miller pointed out, “The promotion of free elections immediately is likely to lead to the triumph of Islamic groups that have no commitment to democracy in any recognizable or meaningful form” (Miller 59). What the United States must do is establish a representational or parliamentary process that recognizes all forms of political action. Simply promoting free elections would lead to a backlash in democratization efforts. The fear is in the idea of one group outlawing another. A democracy might be based on majoritarian rule; but all groups, whether they are Islamic fundamentalist or even Christian, must be able to participate in the political process. Similarly, the United States must show complete support for the democratic process in Latin America. When Salvador Allende was elected President of Chile, the West feared the thought of a complete Marxist government (Rosenberg 28). Not only did we try to kidnap his main general and fail miserably when we actually killed him, we set forth to overthrow a legitimately elected official and went against everything we have preached over the last 150 years about respecting democracy and working within a system. What needs to be respected is not the political ideology of one group or country, but rather its democratic process. Because democracy neither forms countries nor strengthens them initially, a multiparty system is best suited to nations that already have an established bureaucracy and a middle class which pays income tax, and where the main issues of property and power-sharing have been resolved. Leaving two politicians or parties to argue about the budgets, and letting the tax payers decide who should come to power. (Kaplan E9)A problem then arises as to the issue of Islamic and Christian revivalism, because as countries become poorer and poorer, religion plays an ever-increasing role in citizens lives as they search for any glimmer of hope to believe in. Occasionally an extremist group like the Taliban will gain power with ease.
How the United States deals with this problem is crucial in maintaining its leadership and future economic entities in both regions. The revival of Islam in the Middle East is a reaction to Western encroachment during and after the Cold War. Traditionalists believe that by opening up to Western culture they are losing their true faith in Islam. The first step in solving this problem might be to recognize that Muslim nations do not embrace every aspect of liberalism. If the United States can establish itself as a legitimate foreign investor and/or trading partner, rejection of Western philosophies will soon begin to diminish. The U.S. should still stand strong in its fight to combat terrorism and radical militant groups, but must also stop showing favoritism in the region (i.e. Saudi Arabia). The democratic process can work, but it needs to show the nations of the Middle East that it can be reconciled with religious revival. Allowing groups, majority or minority, the chance to reap in the rewards of democracy does this.
Can religious revival be intertwined with economic development or democracy in Latin America? The case of Brazil gives us good evidence as to whether it can or cannot. “The theory of liberation grew out of the militant priests’ direct involvement with the working poor, both urban and rural” (Haynes 100). In Brazil, the church has always embraced the poor. Priests have worked to show that the church is taking an active role in the impoverished lives of that country. Religion then became an integral part of the societys identity, their politics, and their government. In most developing lands, there is no such concept of separation of church and state. US citizens have an extremely difficult time dealing with this, feeling religion has no business in the affairs of the state, and fail to realize that not only do some cultures feel the opposite, but that they are basically the same entity. The idea began to spread through out the slums and the pueblos, and the poor were soon being encouraged to participate in some sort of political movement, no matter how minor or trivial it seemed. This was the first evidence of a nation undergoing a religious revival and taking steps toward development and democracy. However, missionaries from other countries, especially from the US, trying to spread their own religion are seen as a direct threat to the integrity of the native peoples religion. While some do embrace the teachings of Christianity and other foreign cults, others see the work of missionaries as the work of the United States government in a form of divide and conquer. This is painfully apparent in Latin America where the masses are all Catholic, and the missionaries are Protestant. Admittedly most foreign missionaries see themselves as doing the work of their god, and do so out of the best intentions, but fail to see in all occasions the damage this disruption in culture causes. This incurs a great hatred and a feeling of deep-rooted resentment in native cultures. In much the same way most American families have had values instilled by the church since birth, so too have the cultures afar. Although some will argue that the heart of the conflict lies in the ignorance of the native people to the USs policy of church/ state separation, at least some fault lies in the US for not explaining.
It has been proven that participation in a regime allows for a greater wealth of resources economically and politically, while encouraging development. But, if we try to impose our will by force or intimidation, there will be few willing volunteers to follow and join such a movement. Again, the United States needs to respect the efforts of religious revival because it is returning Christianity or Islam to its roots just as the U.S. is trying to establish democracy to its most basic fundamental aspect in many of these developing nations. The U.S. must allow democracy, in whatever form it takes, to grow. This means concentrating on being empathetic and tolerant to the political and economic developments that might occur during this time of change, rather than taking forceful actions that many believe is necessary. The role the United States took when communism was being defeated in Eastern Europe and the Western way of life was being pushed to the forefront is the same approach it needs to take with most of these developing nations. Since the United States is at its peak of power in relation to other civilizations, and Western military power is unrivaled, the U.S. must attempt to redefine its image in the non- Western part of the world. “The United States dominates the international political, security, and economic institutions with Western countries such as Britain, Germany, and France. All of these countries maintain extraordinarily close relations with each other, excluding the lesser and largely non-Western countries.
Decisions made at the United Nations Security Council or in the International Monetary Fund that reflect the interest of the United States and its Western allies are presented to the world as reflecting the desires of the world community” (Huntington 39). This type of selfish global policy cannot be tolerated if the United States wishes to be the leader in binding a “World Community.”The non-westerners view this global decision making in such a way that it in effect makes “the West look as if it is using its international institutions, military power, and economic resources to run the world in ways that will maintain Western predominance, protect Western interest and promote Western political and economic values” (Huntington 40). These views do have merit to them nonetheless, because the United States does use it worldly powers to influence these international councils in situations when the so-called anti-American countries are involved. Because one nations civilization and culture are totally different from that of the Western nations, the US should not deem which cultures are acceptable and non-acceptable in the realm of the world. Because for the most part as Huntington states “Western ideas such as individualism, liberalism, constitutionalism, human rights, equality, liberty, the rule of law, democracy, free markets, the separation of church and state, often have little in Islamic, Confucian, Hindu, Buddhist or Orthodox cultures” (Huntington 40). By trying to influence its views through the United Nations and International Monetary Fund on the non-Western Countries, the U.S. is in fact just building up more negative sentiment towards itself, which can be seen in the support for fundamentalism of all types by the younger generation in non-Western cultures.
If the U.S. does not attempt to change it’s image in the near future, a new generation of fundamentalist will begin to strike with terrorist activity against the U.S. more devastating than the World Trade Center bombing, and far more widespread. Hate towards the West over unfair foreign policy and favoritism will have been instilled since birth, and the terrorist will feel that means are justifying the cause. It is through these policies, agendas, and attempts at foreign investment, and humbleness throughout the world that the United States will be able to maintain its classification as a world power, economically, politically, and socially. If the United States does not act upon these ideas and problems in the near future the results might not be immediate; but we will see the effects well into the twenty- first century when we are no longer regarded as the super power we once were. The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Anthrax scare will merely be the tip of the iceberg.
Haynes, Jeff . Religion in Third World Politics. Boulder, Colorado: Lynee Rienner, 1994.
Huntington, Samuel. “The Clash of Civilizations: The West Versus the Rest.” Foreign Affairs Vol.72 (1993). No.3: 39-41.
” Japan Remains Pacific’s Largest Trading Partner.” Sunday Star (1996): Star Publications, (Maylasia) Berhad. (Transmitted From Netscape).
Kaplan, Robert. “Democracy’s Trap.” New York Times 24 Dec. 1995: E9
Kennedy, Paul. Winners and Losers in the Developing World: Preparing the Twenty First Century. New York: Random House, 1993.
Miller, Judith. “The Challenge of Radical Islam.” The Other World: Culture and Politics in the Third World (1993) 57-58.
Rosenberg, Tina. “Beyond Election.” The Other World: Culture and Politics in the Third World (1993) 28.
Savona, Dave. “Choosing a Nerve Center Overseas.” Foreign Trade Nov. 1995: 11-22, 50.
Smith, Wayne S. Cubas Long Reform. Foreign Affairs. Vol 75 (1996) No. 2: 99-112