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Democracy's Drawback

[ Posted Monday, January 31st, 2011 – 16:15 PST ]

America is a strong supporter of democracy worldwide. Except, of course, when we aren't. That piece of doublethink has been at the center of American foreign policy pretty much since World War II, and it is the heart of the conundrum we now find ourselves in regards to what is happening in Egypt and other countries in North Africa and the Middle East. Because we're conceptually all in favor of democracy -- right up until the "wrong" person or group wins an election. According to our definition of "wrong," of course. This is the key drawback to democracy (and American support of democracy in the rest of the world) -- sometimes the "wrong" people win.

At heart of this dichotomy is the realpolitik fact that America promotes its own ideals and values, while simultaneously looking out for its own national interests. When the two conflict, we almost always choose our national interests (as we see them at the time) over our lofty ideals. Sometimes this leads to disaster, sometimes it leads to stability, and sometimes it leads to an American president pulled in two different directions -- as President Obama is right now over the Egyptian protests.

During the Cold War, American foreign policy was a pretty black-or-white affair. If a country's leaders were against communism, then they were OK with us -- no matter what else they did to their citizens or their regions of the world. Anti-communism was the overriding acid test for whether countries would garner our support or not. Democracy was a distant second, in terms of who we supported on the world stage. This led us to back dictators, despots, and autocrats (take your choice) across the globe -- in Central and South America, in Africa, and in the Far East. As long as a strongman denounced communism with sufficient fervor, we turned an enormous blind eye to pretty much anything the strongman did to crush his own people to stay in power. Examples of this abound throughout the past 65 years of history. The flip side to this coin was just as bad, too -- if a country held a fair and free election, and the voters of that country elected someone we didn't like, then we denounced the country (or, sometimes, even worked to overthrow the freely-elected government, either overtly or covertly).

To put it quite bluntly, when American values conflicted with American national interests, our national interests always trumped our values. This mostly continues today, although the communism/anti-communism divide is largely a thing of the past. Today's world is more complex and nuanced, but this hasn't changed our basic foreign policy equation much, if at all.

The classic example of this is a quote attributed to Franklin D. Roosevelt. When his secretary of state supposedly pointed out (these quotes are unverified, at best) that one of the dictators we were supporting wasn't exactly a nice man ("Somoza's a bastard!"), F.D.R. was said to have responded with: "Yes, but he's our bastard."

That is exactly the problem Obama now faces. Sure, Mubarak's may be a bastard, but the problem is that he's our bastard. Which makes calling for his ouster rather touchy. Denounce Mubarak too forcefully, and it becomes obvious that we've been propping this bastard up for three decades. Show too much support for him right now, and it becomes obvious that all that fancy talk about how we "support democracy" is nothing more than window dressing, when the rubber meets the road.

American conceptual support for democracy has always had its limits, because of democracy's inherent drawbacks. American politicians (of both parties) love to give flowery speeches extolling our supposedly unlimited support for the democratic form of government, but this is belied by the facts on the ground in plenty of places in today's world. We still support all kinds of dictatorial leaders around the globe. We conveniently "look the other way" when some of these leaders hold sham "elections" whose results are questionable, at best -- and downright laughable, at the worst. "Stability" still trumps "democracy" in our core foreign policy in plenty of countries. Sometimes, as with Egypt, this is because the policy is inherited and ongoing. Sometimes, as with Afghanistan, this is because we don't really see any better options to supporting the current leader (even if his recent election was closer to the "laughable" side of that scale than not). And sometimes, as with countries who elect Islamist groups (that we label "terrorist organizations"), we completely deny or ignore the results of democratic elections because we just flat-out don't like who won.

This is the worry, currently, when it comes to Egypt. If we support a pro-democracy movement, what happens if they elect someone (or some party) into power that we don't like? Our support of an election is going to be seen as awfully hypocritical if we refuse to deal with the legitimate victor of such an election. But supporting the pro-democracy movement exposes a different type of American hypocrisy as well, because we have been such a staunch support of Mubarak up until this point.

American foreign policy spokespeople love to talk pie-in-the-sky American values, when addressing this region of the world. People like George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Condoleezza Rice, and Hillary Clinton have given plenty of speeches over there which touch on our supposed support for free speech, free elections, human rights, women's rights, and secular governments. At the same time these speeches are given, we shovel billions of dollars in military aid to leaders who deny all of these things to their people. Egypt is so good at torturing prisoners that we de facto subcontracted some of this work out to them with our own prisoners. How, exactly, do we square that uncomfortable fact with all of our pretty speeches about human rights?

For the most part, we don't. The American public largely follows our government's lead in "looking the other way" on such touchy issues. It's so much more comforting to do so. But the people living in the region are not so adept at this American species of doublethink. They see the tangible results of American foreign policy, from the missile casings to the tear gas canisters that are stamped "Made in America." They judge us much more concretely on what we do, as opposed to what our leaders say. They watch as we cozy up to leaders of countries that we have a strategic military need for (and hand them billions of dollars in military aid), without a single thought of how these leaders treat their own people. Such things get swept under the "it's just their own domestic problem" rug, as we praise them for "standing with us in the war on terrorism."

It gets even trickier when you consider our history and the unintended effects of our support in the region. President Obama got a lot of heat politically for not coming out and embracing the street demonstrations in Iran, a while back. But the people who criticized him at the time were guilty themselves of oversimplification, because due to our history of interjecting ourselves in Iran's politics (including a C.I.A.-led coup which installed the Shah decades ago), if America had offered its full support of the Iranian street movement, it would have been a death knell for that same movement -- because the entire region would have read it as "America's puppets in Iran trying to achieve America's goal of regime change." Rather than allow the democracy movement to be painted as a stooge for us, Obama had to hold back in his support. His hands were tied by our own history -- not just of previous regime change, but of decades of support for a strongman who just happened to be "our bastard." The American public was barely aware of these nuances, but you can be sure the people in the region were fully cognizant of what Obama's outspoken support for the movement would have meant.

All of the pros and cons of supporting the Egyptian people's uprising are currently being weighed in Washington by the Obama administration. Supporting democracy -- in the abstract -- is always easier than supporting a real, live revolt in the streets. The overarching question on everyone's mind at the State Department is: "Will supporting full democracy for Egypt change our relationship to them, to Israel, and to the entire region -- and if so, for the better, or for the worse?" Unfortunately, this is an unanswerable question (unless we participate in rigging the election itself, which shouldn't be seen as a realistic option). There are too many unknowns to answer this at this point in time.

Even in Iraq -- where we overtly imposed a democratic form of government on the country by force -- the jury is still out on whether it's going to turn out to be a good thing for us or not. The recent return of Muqtada Al Sadr (who is never referenced in the American press without his proper media-friendly label: "Anti-American Cleric"), who now controls a major bloc of votes in their parliament, shows how it is still an open question as to what the U.S.-Iraqi relationship is going to look like a few years down the road. We may eventually wind up denouncing a freely-elected government in a country where we set up the democratic forms of government in the first place. Such irony may be mostly lost on the American public -- but it is definitely not ignored in the region itself.

Because, as always, American interests (be they economic, military, or other) trump American values and ideals. We support democracy and democracy movements around the world right up to the point where they elect the "wrong" people. From that point on, the demonizing begins and all talk of the wonders of "democracy" fades quickly.

So far, President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seem to be doing a pretty good job of walking the tightrope on Egypt. Obama and Clinton seem to be making the right moves -- working feverishly behind the scenes to get Mubarak out of power, working behind the scenes with the military to insure stability in our two countries' military relationship during whatever transition time takes place, and working to avoid outright chaos for the Egyptian people. Clinton appeared on every Sunday political show possible yesterday, projecting a message that was couched in diplomatic terms, but was still pretty clear -- America wants an orderly transition of power, supports the concept of non-violence, and is not going to dictate to the Egyptian people what form of government they should have. She didn't explicitly call for Mubarak to step down, but she did everything but -- making it clear to anyone who can read between the lines that we're now telling him to pack his bags and book his flight out of the country. The movement in the street is not going to accept anything less, and Clinton had several supportive things to say about the protest movement and their goals -- again, not giving full-throated support to the movement against Mubarak, but doing everything but offer such explicit support. She quite rightly pointed out that Mubarak has been a United States ally for Mubarak's entire term, and that we want a close relationship between our countries to continue after he is gone.

All in all, it's a tough needle to thread. Republicans, for the most part, have offered support for (or, at the least, haven't denounced) Obama's diplomatic efforts. Cries for Obama to do more (or, even, "less") than he is doing currently are mostly muted and from groups with specific interests of their own.

While appealing for calm and an orderly transition of power is pretty standard diplomatic fare, openly supporting full democratic rights for Egyptians is a gamble. If we openly get behind the democracy movement and fully support a truly free and fair election in Egypt (one in which opposition party members aren't arrested, jailed, and thrown off the ballot, for instance) -- then we're going to have to live with the results of that election, even if some of the "wrong" people get elected.

That's what supporting democracy is all about. It's always a gamble. Which is why supporting a dictator who consistently sides with the U.S. is so much easier to do -- and why we continue to do so in many parts of the world today. Strategic national interests have always been more important than ideological purity of values when it comes to American foreign policy.

Currently, fans of George W. Bush are cheerleading that "Bush was right" on the Middle East, and that the dominoes are falling precisely as he predicted they would after invading Iraq. Democracy, in this storyline, is spreading like wildfire across the region, which is cause for celebration. These will be exactly the same people who will denounce any elected government in any of these countries who is deemed the "wrong" winner of an election. If the people of any country in the region wind up electing an "Islamist" government, or a "puppet of Iran" even, then look for demonizations from the same people who are cheering today's developments.

Because, whether we like it or not, this is what democracy truly means. A country elects a leader that the people of that country want -- and not a leader that some other country prefers. This, when it comes to American foreign policy, is the big drawback to supporting worldwide democracy -- because people in the rest of the world can't be counted on to elect the leaders America would prefer. But that is as it should be, to anyone who truly supports democracy.

 

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-- Chris Weigant

 

22 Comments on “Democracy's Drawback”

  1. [1] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Chris,

    I would suggest that the irony is that the "wrong person" may win an election in many instances precisely because the US government is only conceptionally in favour of democracy. If any lessons are being re-learned in the White House these days, I hope one of them is that support of authoritarian dictatorships for the sake of stability over democracy does not, ultimately, lead to the desired outcome.

    I hope it's not too late for Obama/Biden/Clinton to take advantage of this historic opportunity and act to mitigate against the ill-effects of a decades long policy of supporting this decidedly undemocratic government and demonstrate a little faith in the Egyptian people who long for democracy, including free and fair elections.

    If President Obama is making decisions based on the unsubstantiated fear that Muslim extremists might prevail in a democratic Egypt, then he won’t be doing anything to improve US credibility in Egypt or throughout the Arab world. And, that is very bad for US national interests.

  2. [2] 
    Michale wrote:

    While I will address CW's commentary later, I need to post something that is long overdue.

    A Belated XMAS Gift to all CW.COM Readers....

    As many of you know (at least those who read my posts) I am the proverbial pain in the ass here at CW.COM.. For the most part, ya'all indulge (or ignore :D) my little idiosyncrasies and respond with insight, humor and, (usually :D ), respect.

    It is in the spirit of the season (belated though it may be) that I make the following XMAS gift to all..

    No, I am not leaving CW.COM :D

    For all of 2011 I offer to the readers of CW.COM full repair services for PC laptops, XBOX 360s and Playstation 3s....

    There are a few caveats....

    "There are a few, uh, provisos. Ah, a couple of quid pro quo. "
    -Robin Williams

    1. This offer only applies to PC Laptops (no MACs or Apples), XBOX 360s and Playstation3s. I can also repair Plasma TVs and LCD TVs, but shipping on that would probably be prohibitively expensive. But hay... If you want to ship it to me, I'll repair it.. :D

    2. This offer applies to service only. Any parts required are responsibility of the repairee (that's you :D ). However, I am able to acquire quality parts at greatly reduce prices. For example, if you were to take a laptop into Best Buy for a motherboard replacement, they would charge you about $750, if they would do it at all.. I do the same motherboard replacement for around $250, parts and labor. In this offer, labor would be free, but parts would be the responsibility of the repairee. I have professional grade reflow equipment that allows me to repair laptop motherboards, XBOX 360s and PS3s with fixes that are usually permanent..

    3. Any repair arrangement would be completely and utterly separate and distinct from chrisweigant.com. CW would have absolutely no obligation or responsibility here at all..

    "I have no responsibilities here whatsoever."
    -Sam Weinberg, A FEW GOOD MEN

    4. Repairee would be responsible for shipping costs, both to me and return shipping. The only exception to this is that, if I can't fix the item in question (yes, it occasionally happens :D) I will pay for return shipping.

    5. This offer is only available to readers of Chris Weigant commentaries. If anyone would like to partake of this offer, simply send an email/msg to Chris requesting service and he will forward the msg to me. Once that is accomplished, CW.COM is absolved of ANY connection with the service.

    That's about the extent of ya'all's "Xmas present"... :D

    It's just my way of "giving back"..

    Michale.....

  3. [3] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Michale,

    No, I am not leaving CW.COM :D

    Whew. You really had me worried there for a second. Seriously.

    Very nice gesture - good luck with the offer!

  4. [4] 
    dsws wrote:

    "Rather than allow the democracy movement to be painted as a stooge for us, Obama had to hold back in his support."

    Noises of support, yes. Actual support, I'm not convinced. If Obama had gotten on the secure phone lines with Vladimir Putin, Hu Jintao, and a few other bigwigs, and said "I want to see this Green Revolution work, and I'm willing to give some ground on ___, ___, and ____ if you can make the difference in Iran."

  5. [5] 
    SardinianJewel wrote:

    Thank you!
    I always read this site + comments from Italy and I find this analysis simply perfect!
    (Excuse me if my English is not perfect)
    As an Italian I know a couple of things on how the CIA made sure that our government could never become too "leftist" during (and somewhat after) the Cold War.

  6. [6] 
    Michale wrote:

    The problem with allowing Democracy simply for democracy's sake is it's very short sighted... One must approach with a certain degree of common sense..

    The suffering of the Palestinian people has been prolonged because Hamas was "democratically" elected..

    Sometimes, the US must act as a parent and do what's best for developing countries in spite of what they may think is best for them...

    As far as Obama and the Iran protests...

    The protests died an ignoble death even with Obama's hands off approach. Who's to say that things wouldn't have been better if the US had gave more assistance to the protesters??

    "If we are to be damned, then let us be damned for what we truly are."
    -Captain Jean Luc Picard

    Michale.....

  7. [7] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    SardinianJewel -

    First, let me say welcome to the site. Your first comment was held for moderation (to combat comment spam), but you should be able to post comments now immediately, as long as you don't post multiple links in your comments.

    As for your comment, "Non ti preoccupare" -- your English is better than some folks who comment here.

    :-)

    Sadly, Italy is not alone in knowing the difference between America's stated goals and our actions. What is ironic to me is how America would react if any foreign country tried to meddle in our politics the way we so routinely do in other countries. We'd be outraged... but then, we wonder why others get outraged when we do so...

    Sigh.

    Anyway, as I said, welcome to the site!

    -CW

  8. [8] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Michale -

    Actually, a lot of people do say it would have been a lot worse if Obama had involved America in any way in the Green Revolution in Iran. If the potential for a much worse outcome is extremely high, and the potential for a better outcome exists but is lower, which do you choose?

    The US, under Bush (and probably under Obama, as well, to be fair) has been pouring tens (possibly hundreds) of millions of dollars into Iran in the past 5 years to undermine the regime. This is a fact. Given this fact, the potential for the Green Revolution to be painted as US puppets was extraordinarily high -- which is why Obama's hands were tied. Also, because of Mossedegh and what happened in 1953.

    What would America think if another country did the same to us? You think we'd resent outside influence? So why are you so surprised that others would react the same?

    -CW

  9. [9] 
    Michale wrote:

    CW,

    Actually, a lot of people do say it would have been a lot worse if Obama had involved America in any way in the Green Revolution in Iran.

    Perhaps.. But what do they base that on?? General run-o-the-mill anti Americanism???

    Or something more concrete??

    If the potential for a much worse outcome is extremely high, and the potential for a better outcome exists but is lower, which do you choose?

    Tough call... I would have to have some ironclad intel to back up either position.. If it's just some vague, "Oh ya better not go there!! It would be bad!!!" then I would have to err on the side of the best interests of the US....

    And, in the case of Iran, the best interests of the US is to get that psycho Ahmedjihadist out of power, along with the nutso religious fanatics...

    The US, under Bush (and probably under Obama, as well, to be fair) has been pouring tens (possibly hundreds) of millions of dollars into Iran in the past 5 years to undermine the regime. This is a fact. Given this fact, the potential for the Green Revolution to be painted as US puppets was extraordinarily high -- which is why Obama's hands were tied. Also, because of Mossedegh and what happened in 1953.

    But my point is still valid.. The Green Revolution failed... Could it have been worse if Obama did back them??

    Possibly...

    Could it have been better??

    Possibly...

    How can we claim we are for Democracy then let a scumbag psycho-path crush a democratic revolution??

    What would America think if another country did the same to us? You think we'd resent outside influence? So why are you so surprised that others would react the same?

    Call it an elevated sense of exceptionalism :D But if another country can influence how we do things here (intentionally, mind you) then maybe we deserve it... :D

    I say "intentionally" because, while many countries DO influence how we do things (Mexico, for example) it's in a way that they definitely did not intend. :D

    "With great power, comes great responsibility"
    -Peter Parker

    Michale.....

  10. [10] 
    Michale wrote:

    Sadly, Italy is not alone in knowing the difference between America's stated goals and our actions. What is ironic to me is how America would react if any foreign country tried to meddle in our politics the way we so routinely do in other countries. We'd be outraged... but then, we wonder why others get outraged when we do so...

    Look at it as a Parent/Child relationship..

    Parents are allowed to do many things that children are not..

    On the face of it, it's hypocritical...

    Yet, it is simply the way things are....

    Like it or not, as the sole remaining Superpower, the US is often placed in a parental role vis a vis the rest of the world.

    Granted, that role is weakening..

    Not because the rest of the world is "growing up", but rather the "parent" is developing a drinking problem.... :^/

    Michale....

  11. [11] 
    SardinianJewel wrote:

    Michale-

    Look at it as a Parent/Child relationship..

    Parents are allowed to do many things that children are not..

    See, I know you were being ironic, but I can assure you that to the people involved it's never funny. It means death, prison, torturing, dictatoriship, limitation of democratic powers to vote or protest...and more.

    And thinking to be entitled to a parental role is extremely insulting. And dare I say racist in a Victorian kind of fashion (the burden of the civilized man/American).

    Although the American people can be extremely generous, there is not one intervention abroad the US has made that I can think of that was solely moved by selflessness. Each and every time it was to maintain some kind of interest.

    That's "real politik", ok, I understand. But I would define the self appointed role the US has given itself as "Police" not parental.

    I'm heated, but I can assure you this tipe of attitude is what enrages masses of people against American policy all over the world.

  12. [12] 
    SardinianJewel wrote:

    CW-

    Grazie! Molto gentile.

  13. [13] 
    Michale wrote:

    SJ,

    See, I know you were being ironic, but I can assure you that to the people involved it's never funny. It means death, prison, torturing, dictatoriship, limitation of democratic powers to vote or protest...and more.

    And yet, as in the case with the Palestinians, it's those exact kind of people, the dictators, the torturers, the murderers and the terrorists, that the people actually elected...

    That is what I mean when I say that, sometimes, you can't have Democracy just for Democracy's sake.

    There are people out there who simply can't handle it. As in the case with the Palestinians and Hamas..

    And thinking to be entitled to a parental role is extremely insulting. And dare I say racist in a Victorian kind of fashion (the burden of the civilized man/American).

    It's not a question of being "entitled" as it is a question of it's the role that's been thrust upon the US, as the only remaining superpower.

    It IS insulting.. And for that, I apologize.

    Perhaps a better analogy would be a big brother/little brother situation.

    But it all boils down to the same thing. One cannot allow a people democracy if it's a proven thing that they can't handle it..

    As far as it being racist?? Not even close. :D Just a logical acknowledgment of the facts on the ground.

    Although the American people can be extremely generous, there is not one intervention abroad the US has made that I can think of that was solely moved by selflessness. Each and every time it was to maintain some kind of interest.

    What's wrong with that? I don't think there is anything wrong with making sure our aid does not harm our interests..

    The fact that it HAS happened (our aid harming our interests) also belies your claim..

    But I see nothing wrong with wanting to ensure that first and foremost, we do no harm to the US.

    That's "real politik", ok, I understand. But I would define the self appointed role the US has given itself as "Police" not parental.

    Once again, it's not a "self-appointed" role, but rather a role that the world has thrust upon the US..

    Your "police" example is a good one, but I would think that would be even more insulting than the parental one..

    Regardless, if the countries of the world do not want the US as the world's police, then they need to stop accepting our aid to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars a year...

    I'm heated, but I can assure you this tipe of attitude is what enrages masses of people against American policy all over the world.

    I am sure it does pisses the masses of the world off.

    But, I think it's mis-directed anger. They are not angry at the US. They are angry at themselves for being in the position of supporting the US's role as the world's police..

    OK, OK, that's a bit too psycho-babble, I admit. :D

    But there is some truth to it..

    When someone is dependent on another, gratitude can often turn to anger.

    Anger at the dependency, but directed towards the provider..

    All things being equal, I tend to believe the best in people. I don't think the US, as a whole, is out on a big power trip, eager to control the world. I would imagine it would be very nice to be a nice small country like Austria or Costa Rica with absolutely no responsibilities outside of our own borders..

    But that is not the role the world has chosen for the US.. So, we simply play the hand we're dealt in the best way we can. Sure, we make mistakes.. Sure, we have some leaders that are assholes and scumbags..

    But, by and large, we try our best and, more often than not, our best is pretty damn good... :D

    Good talk.. :D

    Michale.....

  14. [14] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Michale -

    You seem to be making the point the article makes. If the "wrong" people get elected, then we just ignore the results of the election, or try to overthrow them. That's gotten us into a lot of hot water in the past, and in the present. I don't have any magic answer as to what to do differently, but I thought it was at least worth pointing out.

    As for [9], when it was happening, the only calls I heard for Obama to "do something" or "say something" came from his domestic political opponents. Without exception, when actual Iranians were interviewed (both those who supported the people power movement and those who didn't) UNIVERSALLY agreed that Obama stepping into the middle of it -- even by just offering words of support -- would have had exactly the opposite effect. It would have branded the movement as an American puppet, and delegitimized it completely. American politics aside, I listened closer to the people who actually knew the country and knew what they were talking about -- and they were all saying the same thing: don't interfere, because the unintended consequence would have been to pull the rug out from under the very protesters we were trying to show support for. They were basing this thought on the fact that there are plenty of people in Iran with personal memories of what happened in 1953 -- it is not some dusty footnote in a college-level history text to them, it is personal memory and they have NOT forgotten about it.

    If the goal was overthrow of the government, Obama did exactly what he should have to achieve that goal -- not get involved. He took heat for it domestically, but not among the actual Iranian protestors themselves.

    As for:

    How can we claim we are for Democracy then let a scumbag psycho-path crush a democratic revolution??

    We do it all the time. Tiananmen Square ring a bell? We're still doing business with the Chinese, aren't we?

    -CW

  15. [15] 
    Michale wrote:

    CW,

    You seem to be making the point the article makes. If the "wrong" people get elected, then we just ignore the results of the election, or try to overthrow them. That's gotten us into a lot of hot water in the past, and in the present. I don't have any magic answer as to what to do differently, but I thought it was at least worth pointing out.

    Yes, that's exactly the point... There isn't no GOOD answer, other than to make damn sure that, when we promote "democracy", that the people in question are ready for it and won't step on their wee-wees.. Again, like the case with the Palestinians...

    As for your point regarding my #9 post, you are correct.. To a person, each one interviewed said that Obama's intervention would have been worse..

    But that is what you would expect them to say, given the anti-American climate of the region...

    With apologies to SJ, it would be like asking a child if it is a bad thing that his parents make him drink his milk and go to bed at 7:30 every night.

    Of course, the kid is going to say, "Yea, it's horrible!!"... But that doesn't mean that the kid's perspective is accurate...

    If the goal was overthrow of the government, Obama did exactly what he should have to achieve that goal -- not get involved. He took heat for it domestically, but not among the actual Iranian protestors themselves.

    We'll never know what might have been...

    "Of all sad words of tongue or pen....
    The saddest are these, it might have been....."

    While Obama may have stayed true to SOMEONE's ideals, he surely did not stay true to AMERICAN ideals..

    And that seems to be the problem with Obama, a LOT of the time...

    When American ideals and Leftist ideals come into conflict....

    Obama seems to always choose the Leftist ideals....

    We do it all the time. Tiananmen Square ring a bell? We're still doing business with the Chinese, aren't we?

    Yea, don't remind me... China should have been dealt with back then... Now they are too big and too strong to take down...

    Michale.....

  16. [16] 
    SardinianJewel wrote:

    Michale,

    There is no role that was thrusted upon anybody. Interest is the engine.
    It's not the other way around.

    I've been writing and erasing a more specific answer for you all day, but a post is not enough.

    I for one am glad that Obama is showing respect for the intelligence of the people of foreign countries. It's a good start for talking and it goes a long way.

  17. [17] 
    Michale wrote:

    SJ,

    It's not about showing respect for the intelligence of other countries..

    It's about the other countries being WORTHY of said respect...

    Respect is earned, not given...

    We gave the Palestinians the respect to be self-determining..

    They proved that they are not worthy of such respect by electing terrorists to represent them..

    It is this type of example that should govern US diplomacy...

    Michale.....

  18. [18] 
    SardinianJewel wrote:

    Michale,

    The problem is precisely that you believe to be entitled to judge if a country and its people are worthy of respect.
    If a country is worthy of being a democracy.

    The colonialist mentality has produced many many disasters, not to mention how unethical it is.

    And from a more pragmatic poit of view: in is not efficient. To govern conflicts in a colonialist framework you need a lot of resources. I believe those resources could be better used differently.

    Even if you don't have a high opinion of the person you are talking to, I believe it is more intelligent
    to keep it to yourself and show respect for their opinions, beliefs, etc. Listening goes a long way in solving problems, and you may still get advantages.

    SJ

  19. [19] 
    Michale wrote:

    The problem is precisely that you believe to be entitled to judge if a country and its people are worthy of respect.
    If a country is worthy of being a democracy.

    It comes from over two decades of military and law enforcement experience..

    Even if you don't have a high opinion of the person you are talking to, I believe it is more intelligent
    to keep it to yourself and show respect for their opinions, beliefs, etc. Listening goes a long way in solving problems, and you may still get advantages.

    Oh, I am not saying don't listen..

    In this regard, I simply follow the sage Road House advice.

    "You be nice. Until it's time not to be nice"
    -Patrick Swayze, ROAD HOUSE

    :D

    Like it or not, there DOES come a time when NOT being nice is the best course of action..

    As I mentioned above, respect should not be freely given.

    Respect must be earned or it is meaningless.

    Michale.....

  20. [20] 
    Michale wrote:

    After thinking this over a little bit, I have come to the conclusion that "respect" is not the word I should be using.

    Because, you are correct, SJ.. All things being equal, basic respect SHOULD be afforded to all peoples. For example, I respect your opinions and such...

    That kind of respect should not have to be earned..

    The word I SHOULD be using is trust... In the concept of Democracy, trust must be earned. We trusted the Palestinians and allowed them to have democratic elections.

    The Palestinians betrayed that trust by electing terrorists and murderers...

    So, I concede your point. Respect should be afforded to all peoples, all things being equal..

    However, within the concept of Democracy, trust is the key...

    And that trust must be earned...

    Michale.....

  21. [21] 
    SardinianJewel wrote:

    Michale,

    This exchange with you was very stimulating. Our points of view are different, in Italy we say "Il mondo è bello perché è vario" (Something like "Variety is the spice of life").

    Thank you

    SJ

  22. [22] 
    Michale wrote:

    SJ,

    I have enjoyed it as well..

    It's nice that two people on opposite sides of the world and political spectrum can discuss issues w/o acrimony..

    This is the kinds of discussions I live for.. :D

    Michale.....

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