S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Who has the right . . .

To implant democracy around the world? The United States has great potential capacity for exercising raw military power almost anywhere on earth. But there are several other kinds of power that can be used by a nation - economic, moral, diplomatic, as well as the power of ideas. Does that mean that imposing it is the right thing to do? When an individual, an entity or a nation decides that there is an inherent right to choose for others it then becomes dominance, hubris or hegemony. Our current president (OCP) has the idea that he can speak for all people in the world. And that style of leadership just does not sit right with me. Quoting from an article in the Financial Times (11/20), "US President George W. Bush on Monday dismissed suggestions he should alter his policies to win over opponents in the Muslim world, insisting his desire to promote democracy and freedom were echoed by the majority of people around the world." One of my favorite bloggers recently participated in a forum on at the Hudson Institute called "Is Democracy Good for the Middle East?" He posted about the forum yesterday (11/24/06). To quote a bit from Steve,
. . . in my view it is important to remember that democracy promotion needs to be organic and come from within a country.
Also democracies are not ballotocracies, as Richard Haass calls them. Civil institutions, courts, the media, and other elements of civil society, the rights of minorities are as important if not more important than popular voting and should not be minimized or detached from political choice.
The word "democracy" is interpreted by many in the Middle East to be a trojan horse for "regime change." I think it's important to either modify our language or to reconstruct what genuine democracy means -- which must build off the aspirations of those in the Middle East for self-determination and justice. . .Lastly, as I said in this meeting, the first thing I said actually, our obsession with democracy in America will not undo or fix our real problems in the Middle East -- which are anti-Americanism, anti-Israel sentiment, and terrorism.

To control space? Just because we can boost heavy rockets with big or incredibly complex payloads into space, that does not mean that going there means ownership for the U.S. The earth is round and inhabited by diverse peoples with inherent rights unto themselves. Self defense has implied territorial limits, it seems to me. When we go into space, often in tandem with other nations, the journey carries with it an implication of going on behalf of all humankind, not the U.S. alone. Can the top U.S. priority in space thus be defense? I do not think so, because "defense" carries with it the idea that space will not remain peaceful and jointly owned. A recent Washington Post (10/18/06) story is about recent revision of overall space policy. The headline reads, "Bush Sets Defense As Space Priority. U.S. Says Shift Is Not A Step Toward Arms; Experts Say It Could Be." Quoting from the article by Marc Kaufman,

President Bush has signed a new National Space Policy that rejects future arms-control agreements that might limit U.S. flexibility in space and asserts a right to deny access to space to anyone "hostile to U.S. interests."
The document, the first full revision of overall space policy in 10 years, emphasizes security issues, encourages private enterprise in space, and characterizes the role of U.S. space diplomacy largely in terms of persuading other nations to support U.S. policy.
. . . Some sections of the 1996 Clinton policy and the Bush revision are classified. There are many similarities in the unclassified portions, and the NSC and the Defense Department emphasized that continuity. But there is a significant divergence apparent in the first two goals of each document.
Bush's top goals are to "strengthen the nation's space leadership and ensure that space capabilities are available in time to further U.S. national security, homeland security, and foreign policy objectives" and to "enable unhindered U.S. operations in and through space to defend our interests there."
Clinton's top goals were to "enhance knowledge of the Earth, the solar system and the universe through human and robotic exploration" and to "strengthen and maintain the national security of the United States."
To ignore Africa? The foreign policy of OCP has been remarkably neglectful of Africa. And the mainstream media has barely noticed it. Before 9/11/01 OCP had been relatively quiescent beyond the White House lawn. The neocons who had taken over his administration quickly introduced him to the Middle East, and eventually the so-called "global war on terror." But it never included Africa. There are several kinds of terror. Surely famine, starvation and genocide carry a certain kind of terror for the victims. We had four healthy, happy babies born into our family. The thought of losing any one of them as an infant is a terrifying one for me. Thus the infant mortality rate in Africa is astonishing. Many of these early deaths are preventable, according to a recent BBC News story, from which I quote:
More than one million African babies each year die within their first month of life, says a report. The World Health Organisation reveals many newborns are dying from infections which could be cheaply prevented.
But statistics show even in the poorest African countries, investment in ante-natal and newborn care could dramatically reduce mortality rates. . . As many as 500,000 African babies die within 24 hours of being born.
The report says they die of things which are easily and cheaply prevented, starting with ante-natal care.
. . . Then, once the babies are born, they can succumb to common newborn infections - things which are a nuisance and a bit of a worry to parents in the developed world are fatal for infants in Africa.
To make parenting classes compulsory? On a much less serious note I would like to close with a final question. How would you like to be required to learn correct parenting? I have no idea how widesperead this is in the United States, but I assume it is rather rare. The right of the state to dictate on this question is questionable. I was thus surprised to come across another article in the BBCNews, which reports that officials in the United Kingdom are forcing certain parents of misbehaving kids to get parenting training. What do you think? To quote,
"Super-nannies" are to be brought in to try to improve parenting in 77 areas of England with high levels of anti-social behaviour, PM Tony Blair has said.
Mr Blair met people who had been on parenting courses and experts at No 10 to discuss the £4m scheme.
A "helping hand" was needed to make parenting easier, he told them.
But crime reduction charity Nacro said parenting courses should not be compulsory and that "support rather than a punitive approach" was needed.

Who has the right to impose democracy or ignore human suffering, to control space or even parenting? The West has no corner on wisdom, no record of unqualified success, nor do we even have a majority of the world's population. Our globe is home to billions of people, many very unlike us and far removed. We have no inherent right to act or speak for all of them, just because we say we are the most powerful nation. It would be good if we back off and refocus just a bit, starting in 2007. What do you think, Democrats?

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