A long passage is quoted here by way of showing what all these various writers are concerned about: (Kane, 2003)May 2002 brought the odd spectacle of ex-President Jimmy Carter standing shoulder to shoulder in Havana with one of the U.S. government's oldest enemies, Cuban president Fidel Castro. Carter, on a mission to convey a message of friendship to the Cuban people and to seek some common ground between Cuba and the United States, made a point of meeting and encouraging local democratic, religious, and human rights activists. In a televised address, he endorsed the rights of dissidents and urged democracy on the island nation (Sullivan 2002). He also advocated an end to the U.S. embargo on Cuba (a call immediately echoed at home by 20 Democratic and 20 Republican representatives in Congress).
President George W. Bush's administration responded angrily to Carter's latest adventure as international arbiter. A senior state department official tried to sabotage the ex-president's visit with a carefully timed release of a report claiming that Cuba was conducting bio-weapons research and sharing its findings with other "rogue nations." Bush himself was quick to reaffirm the sanctions on trade and travel, demanding free elections and a liberalization of Cuba's economy as preconditions of U.S. relaxation. Bush was of course concerned with the votes of large numbers of Cuban-Americans in Florida whose Republican sympathies are closely tied to a strong anti-Castro stance. He was also reportedly angry, in a week when he was finalizing an arms reduction deal with the Russians, at being upstaged in the media by the peripatetic elder statesman. Nevertheless, there was a certain irony in his implied charge that Carter, who had once put human rights centrally on the foreign policy agenda of the United States, was giving aid and comfort to a notorious violator.
There was also an interesting question as to the essential difference, if any, between Carter's excursion and Bush's own previous visit (in February 2002) to China where, in a similarly televised address, he had issued a democratic challenge to the Chinese Communist leadership (Allen and Pan 2002). Bush had not, of course, made continuing U.S. Chinese trade dependent on democratic progress in China, but policy inconsistency is not what concerns me here. (Kane)
It seems rather clear that only the approved members of the American community are allowed to speak and they are only allowed to speak approved sentiments. As a former President and someone who apparently keeps up with what is going on in the world, why should Carter not do his part to help the cause of peace? Further, human rights, not American values always was an issue for Carter. Kane (2002) writes:
President Carter's human rights initiative was a direct response to this crisis of faith in American values. The attraction of human rights was that they were precisely not American, despite having a great deal of commonality with traditional American values. With its foreign policy at the service of universal human rights, America could conceivably avoid the charge of cultural imperialism. Significantly, Carter did not reject the exceptionalist tradition but intended rather, by this means, to save it. A human rights policy would ensure consistency and dispel hypocrisy in foreign policy, thus realizing at last the unity of American power and virtue.(Kane)
It rather appears, for all the statements the current administration, particularly, makes, peace isn't really on the official agenda. It does appear that the writers who are deeply concerned about America and its future have the right of it to be concerned.
The final writer whose ideas will be dealt with here is Robert Dallek. In his book the American Style of Foreign Policy: Cultural Politics and Foreign Affairs, Dallek, (1983) a professor of history at University of California, Los Angles, puts forth the idea that the reasons America, or any other country goes from one war to another, have to do with dealing with internal pressures and needing to distract public opinion from what is going on -- or not going on at home. He opens his first chapter with this quote:
Corruption dominates the ballot-box, the legislatures, the Congress, and touches even the ermine of the bench. The people are demoralized;...the newspapers are largely subsidzed or muzzled; public opinion silenced; business prostrated; our homes covered with mortgages; labor impoverished; and the land concentrating in the hands of the capitalists. The urban workmen are denied the right of organization for self-protection....The fruits of the toil of millions are boldly stolen to build up the collasal fortunes for a few...From the same prolific womb of governmental injustice we breed two great classes -- tramps and millionaires.
Is it written by a communist? No. It sounds like it comes right out of a magazine article or editorial opinion piece of 2005. Actually, it was written in 1892 by Fredrick Jackson Turner. The implication of this quote in Dallek's book seems to be that American government doesn't learn from its mistakes and doesn't change how it behaves. President Grover Cleveland was quoted in August of 1896 as saying..."There seemed to be an epidemic of insanity in the country just at this time." In Dallek's view the unrest at home was responded to with the Spanish-American War. The 1890's were a time of great tensions due to public feelings about what was going on in the country. It was a time that spawaned many protest movements, humanitarian movemnts and other ideas that "threatened to revolutionize American life." Dallek quotes a historian who says, "War with monarchial, Catholic, Latin Sapin had no purpose but to relive emotion." Dallek further says:
By acting to resuce Cuba from Spain's destructive rule, Americans were also rescuing themselves from oppressive conditions at home. Further, by fighting the war with local militia rather than a well-integrated national army, Americans made the conflict into a celebration individualism and small-twon culture, prized values of their past.
Is that what is happening now with the war in Iraq? The U.S. economy has been taking a pounding due in large part to thirty years of open trade. The good paying manufacturing jobs have been either farmed out overseas or deeply mechanized so that the numbers of actual workers have been cut. The only real growth area seems to be low paying service sector jobs. Did the American government need some way to distract people's attention. In the late 1890's, the foundation disruption to the American way of life was industrialization -- the change from small towns and farm life to big cities and factories. It seems as though the reverse is now happening and it is causing just as much disruption so America needs another war -- maybe many of these wars. Will the U.S. finally get itself embroiled with all of the Middle East? What kinds of madmen see war as the answer to everything?
America is now at war in Iraq. The people were bombarded with information about Saddam Hussein and how awful he and his regiem were. However, this is what Zunes (2003) has to report:
With antipathy towards Iraq so strong as to lead the United States to engage in an ongoing low-level bombing campaign and to lead the most devastating sanctions regime in modern history, it is perhaps surprising that the United States tolerated the abuses of Saddam Hussein's regime for as long as it did. Most of us familiar with the Middle East did not have to wait until Iraq's August 1990 invasion of Iraq to know that Saddam Hussein was a vicious dictator. Many of the crimes committed by the Iraqi ruler now cited by U.S. officials as examples of the heinous nature of his regime were actually committed in the 1980s when the U.S. was quietly supporting Saddam in his war with Iran. (Italics added)
It is ironic that it was the senior George Bush who, as president, first emphasized how Saddam Hussein had "used chemical weapons against his own people." The March 1988 massacre at Halabja, where Saddam's forces murdered 5000 civilians in that Kurdish town with chemical weapons, was downplayed by the Reagan Administration, in which he was the vice-president, even to the point of claiming that Iran, then the preferred enemy of the U.S., was actually responsible....When a 1988 Senate Foreign Relations committee staff report brought to light Saddam's policy of widespread extermination in Iraqi Kurdistan, Senator Claiborne Pell introduced the Prevention of Genocide Act to put pressure on the Iraqi regime, but the Bush Administration successfully moved to have the measure killed.
Dallek's ideas that America goes to war to relive internal pressures are in some ways echoed by other writers as these quotes from Zunes show:
Why then, when Iraq had only a tiny percentage of its once-formidable military capability, did the U.S. suddenly start portraying Iraq as an intolerable military threat in 1998? It is no surprise, under these circumstances, that so many Americans, rightly or wrongly, suspected President Clinton of manufacturing the crisis to distract the…