- Politics and Social Issues
US Foreign Policy 2017
Muhammad Ali and Vietnam
Muhammad Ali brought his own style to boxing. He also spoke his mind.
“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?”
Ali did not buy the patriotism bit that politicians feed citizens. He took a personal decision that challenged U.S. foreign policy and refused to be drafted into the army on the 28th of April 1967.
U.S. Foreign Policy Beyond 2016
When America re-elected President Barack Obama for a second term in the White House in January 2013, they not only voted for the man, but for his signature in what should be done at home and abroad.
The man or woman who will become the 45th President of the United States of America will decide what the country does abroad i.e. to other countries, from Canada to Korea.
The abroad part is called foreign policy, something that citizens all over the world know little about because it is decided behind closed doors, in Commonwealth, NATO, EU, OAPEC (Organisation of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries) conferences, or between two country leaders taking a stroll on presidential lawns.
Your Vote and Foreign Policy
What is foreign policy and why am I, as a voter in my country responsible for bomb blasts in Northern Ireland, Turkey, Brussels, or Mumbai?
How was I responsible for war planes bombing villages in Vietnam, Afghanistan, the murder of Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, or Canada accepting Syrian refugees?
Why do I feel that my country has the licence to kill in order to impose a certain way of life or religion?
We don’t know much about foreign policy because during elections, politicians speak about bringing the boys back home, or stopping terror, but never use the term foreign policy.
It would be interesting to stand in Time Square in New York, Soho in London, Montparnasse in Paris and Washington D.C. and ask passers-by about foreign policy. Can they define it? Probably not, but heated views about Barack Obama's last name, foreigners, Jews, Muslims, Mexicans and Osama Bin Laden.
We can loosely define foreign policy as a military or diplomatic action a country takes to protect its citizens abroad. What interests do citizens have abroad?
These are interests necessary for a country’s survival, for example the U.S. and oil or a small poor country like Britain going to Australia, Africa, Asia and other parts of the world to legitimately steal land and resources, in the name of His or Her Royal Highness.
Foreign policy is not on our minds on a daily basis because we are ruled by the economy, the need to survive or acquire more material goods if we are wealthy.
Foreign policy seems far away, until an explosion happens down the block, in our own country. We dismiss it as something that affects other countries, with people who don’t look like us, pray like us and have what we call strange cultures and languages.
Not when you are in an occupied country. Foreign policy is real. Children go to school through army check points or wake up in refugee camps. Women are abducted and raped in the name of religion.
Presidents and prime ministers get away with murder because they wave the patriotism flag, then men and women go to foreign places to bomb innocent children while theirs go to daycare or play in the snow with no fear of death. It’s all for ‘the good of my country.’ Nobody knows what that good is.
Very few soldiers can define it because they joined the army for personal reasons. For example, some African Americans might join the army because they cannot get jobs, so they go to foreign places to die for the United States. Black Vietnam veterans returned home to the same racism and joblessness.
Racism in Foreign Polcy
People in Europe, North America, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia do not have sleepless nights over the people their sons kill in faraway countries.
Are these people human beings? It’s easier to kill them if they don’t look like us, speak languages and practise religion we do not understand.
President George Bush invaded Iraq knowing full well that it had no nuclear weapons, but the U.S. did not invade Russia in the 70’s for having ballistic missiles.
Instead Russia and the U.S. signed what is called the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT). History students are taught about SALT 1 and SALT 11, a gentleman’s agreement between men who look alike and believe they have a right to supremacy.
It’s difficult to define foreign policy because how we view other countries is subjective, extremely personal. Foreign policy begins next door. Canada and the U.S. are good neighbours because they perceive themselves as the same.
Israel and Lebanon are not. Lesotho, a country totally surrounded by South Africa has no option but to be nice to its more powerful neighbour.
Regionalism comes after neighbourliness. Countries in a particular region come together to protect their interests. Europe for example. We have the European Union (EU) which was put together to facilitate free movement of people and goods in Europe.
Who is the enemy?
Traditional foreign policy used to be about land. Europe, an impoverished continent even had a name for it: The Scramble for Africa.
The modus operandi was, attack, drive people off the land, call them half-human, send the Jesus men with bibles to promise them life in heaven, force them to work for wages so that they could pay taxes to finance their own slavery and give occupied territories English, French, German, Italian or Spanish names.
That is no longer the case because victims of foreign policy are no longer in a particular country. The following are a few examples which indicate that they are on train stations, concerts, hotels, tourist places and buildings like the World Trade Center.
- · Turkey 2016 attacks
- · Saudi Arabia embassy bombing in Tehran in January 2016 to protest the execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr
- · The two attacks on Paris in January 2016 and November 2015
- · What is known as 9/11: the bombing of the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001,
- · Bombing of the Taj Hotel, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station and other targets in November 2008
Old Rules Don't Apply Anymore
There are many factors attributed to the end of America’s Vietnam War. One of them was the question: why is the U.S. there?
Career soldiers who get paid for waging war and policy makers need to understand one thing. The theatre of operations has changed. We can no longer send tanks and submarines across borders.
The war is now waged on the internet, on computers and mobile phones. Race and class no longer matter because all of us can be killed on the subway or tourist places.
Countries need to re-visit their perceived right to wage war on other countries. Who gave them the right and how will they feel when their own children die like kids in ‘those countries’?