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Posts Tagged ‘foreign affairs

Missing 20th Century Republican Roots….

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Regarding the desire of many on the left and among Democrats to see the GOP die, I have very mixed emotions. I remember a very different GOP: one which had lived through the Great Depression and WWII and was firmly committed to fiscal responsibility, rebuilding and renewing the homeland, staying out of foreign military engagements as much as possible, and creating economic growth and security for everyone.

With this ignorant and bombastic GOP, I say keep up the publicity ’cause they’ll continue to lose and maybe lose even more sooner if the current Democratic fundraising push has legs, provided, of course, that the GOP doesn’t rig the electoral game too much more in their favor regardless of what is in the best interests of a constitutional democratic Republic. (FYI, a lot of these sneaky gerrymandering, etc., actions were Cheney’s grand idea. Another reason to hate that rotten old SOB.)

Movement conservative GOP libertarian ideology

Yes, I do want them to lose because they do not represent the GOP I grew up knowing and appreciating for their conservative yet economic moderation, understanding and knowledge of fiscal realities, their desire to rebuild and renew the American physical and economic landscape, and to keep Americans out of more wars. The modern conservative movement, and its many faceted coalition, no longer represent, let along understand, what those earlier Republicans stood for or helped build. Let alone why.

On the other hand, I’d like to see a renewal of a more centrist, post WWII like GOP, aka Eisenhower or Rockefeller Republican party, who were fiscally responsible (as in raised taxes to keep deficits and spending down), did not believe in American Imperialism or being the world’s great cops and liberty bringers, and recognized that the way to create both wealth and a strong functioning society was build the up middle class by providing economically family sustainable jobs and economic opportunity (including quality k-12 and affordable higher education) to anyone who worked hard enough to rise up through the ranks as two of my uncles did within major corporations to senior management ranks.

Those same old-fashioned Republicans, now called RINOs and who have been driven from the party by the Limbaughs, Ericksons, Coulters, and Hannitys of the GOP infotainment media universe, were the ones who also believed in efficient but enforced financial regulations that kept our financial system sound for 50 years. A financial soundness they knew had never happened before in the nation’s history, but at the same time empowered tremendous growth and development of new businesses, quite often through the sharing of financial and information resources of combined government and private enterprise.

Those Republicans had lived through the Great Depression and deeply understood the economic, family, and social harm caused by that speculative financial crash. Even Reagan proudly said he was an FDR Democrat (and a union head) until the ’60s when Democrats went too far left (and yes, Reagan was wrong on Medicare – the best thing the nation could do today economically would be to let go of its obsession with employer provided health care for one of the other OECD models in order to save well over a trillion dollars annually. But many like Reagan believed the AMA denunciations of Medicare way back when).

They, too, had experienced real war, unlike most in the GOP today who either like McCain cannot forget, let alone forgive, leaving Vietnam without winning, or hold to a Cheney-Kristol neo-con belief in American Imperialism that would have been antithetical to the Greatest Generation Republicans who fought WWII. Anyone who had read the dispatches of Ernie Pyle – there’s an out of print book of them and his diaries – quickly understands why Eisenhower kept the US out of more wars. Most of today’s leading GOP pundits and followers hold fast to their guns but have absolutely no knowledge or experience with actual realities of war. I’d bet few of them have ever seen the mid-1950s TV series, “Victory at Sea” that was aired every Sunday morning. They think guns, shooting, et al, are all fun and games kind of like a video game. But Ernie Pyle wrote about the dirty, bloody underside of war. Embedded with Army, he wrote about slogging through the mud, the American GIs (and himself) exhausted and worn out; seeing the bombed, bloody body parts of American GIs he knew spread across the landscape; seeing and feeling death and destruction everywhere as the Army moved north in Italy towards Germany.

My father and mother’s generation had lived through the hell of the Great Depression and WWII. My Dad rode the rails as a teenager, looking for work to send money home to his family and to support himself. My mom’s family lost their home and moved into a cousin’s barn, while my grandfather walked the highways and streets of eastern Washington, selling spices door to door. My dad convinced his mother to lie about his age so he could join the Army and later transferred to the Army Air Corps because he was allergic to horses. He and two other uncles became part of the USAF during WWII. Dad flew missions over Africa. My two other USAF uncles flew missions over Germany. Another uncle was lost when his ship was sunk in the Pacific. That is what Eisenhower knew about war and what today’s neo-cons have never experienced war and do not know…and have never experienced. They never joined up. They have never known the dirt and exhaustion, the horrors of the killing and the ugliness of death.

These prissy gun-toting haters of our social safety net have never experienced the fear, loss and devastation that my parents and grandparents went through. Worse, they don’t care to even learn or even understand. But the Eisenhower and Rockefeller Republicans knew just as Democrats of that era knew. Just as my Republican parents and grandparents knew. They had seen and lived through the worst of deregulation and speculation as well as the real horrors of war. They demanded stability, economic growth and opportunity for a better life than the one in which they had grown into adulthood. They demanded some sense of economic security and the knowledge that the killing was over. They supported reasonable, sound gun laws, as did the NRA in those days, to end the killing of which they had seen far too much.

They supported a social safety net because they knew how easily it was to lose everything they had worked years to achieve to be left with nothing: not homes, not jobs, not businesses, and often without families. They approved of restrictive regulations on Wall St. to prevent another Great Depression, caused by over speculation and gambling. Even the very McKinley-like Lochner SCOTUS eventually finally gave way to public demand for more social equity that put workers on a equal footing with owners and eventually gave way for more new business development and opportunity.

These are the reasons why Reagan was an FDR Democrat until the overreach of Democrats in the ’60s. For all of the GOP’s glorification of Reagan, they have quite literally forgotten, or chosen to ignore, what he had lived through and who he really was. They’ve twisted him into a McKinley laissez-faire hero he never was. In truth, he probably felt closer to a Rockefeller Republican with a great deal of sympathy for 1950s McCarthy-Bircher anti-communistic ideology. There is no where in his record of actions, legislation or speeches in which he preaches a laissez-faire, libertarian ideology. He was a real product of both the Great Depression and World War II…not of the cynical, selfish, ignorant modern movement conservative. I know. I lived in California, as an adult, during his Governorship as well as his Presidency. I watched him and I saw him. He is nothing like what modern conservative claim him to have been. Even his breaking of the Air Traffic Controllers Union was a product of union over reach rather than a hatred of unions. As a union negotiator, he knew and understood the values of unions in protecting the membership’s wages and benefits as opposed to inflating corporate profits at the expense of workers.

So, if and when the GOP returns to its 20th Century, post Great Depression, roots, I will begin to root for it as my parents did. Until then, I will pray – and work towards – for the national and state wide demise of its current incarnation. I believe our nation – and all her people – deserves better than the current GOP.

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Fact Checking the Final Debate

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Romney-Obama In Presidential Debate

After a lot of confusing debating on foreign policy…with a bit of domestic policy, the debate is over. So, what are the financial and known facts? Washington Post’s ever diligent Wonkblog staffers have provided those facts and data. If you want more information or to confirm the accuracy was what was said then go here.

So far, it appears Obama won the debate. How that changes the ground game, who knows. Nevertheless, Romney softened his arguments, even going so far as to backtrack on all he said during the primaries. During the primaries, he took a very aggressive stance, even going so far as to state he would be willing to unilaterally strike Iran, a la Geo. Bush, almost immediately upon becoming president. During the primaries, Romney said leaving Afghanistan on schedule was a mistake. Now he agrees with that date. And that is only one instance during these three debates that Romney has changed his position while claiming he did not. What? Did what I hear watching the primary debates part of my imagination?

Nevertheless, my biggest concerns about Romney’s foreign policy stances have more to do with his advisers: most of them were all part of GW Bush’s initial foreign policy team. All are neo-con war hawks. That should scare every American because the neo-cons are not afraid of starting wars. They firmly hold to an idea of American Imperialism that always, always has been alien to this nation which is why Romney says he’ll increase defense spending well above what the Defense Department wants to another $2 trillion over 10 years.

Look, I’m a military brat. My dad was a master sargeant in the Air Force for over 23 years, mostly in the Strategic Air Command. My husband is a Vietnam Vet. I care about our GIs and how we behave around the world. How we are viewed by the rest of the world. That is why I endorse both Geo. Washington and Eisenhower’s view of military might. I also agree with TR’s “talk softly and carry a big stick.” We’re doing that now by being more strategic in our weaponry and getting our allies and the rest of the world to go along with us. Eisenhower said war should always be the last option after all other options had been exhausted.

We don’t need neo-con war hawks deciding foreign policy. Nor should we allow them any say in foreign policy. We cannot afford the lives and financial costs they would choose to rack up. Our children should be far too important to us than to use them as pawns in a game of Imperialism.

Written by Valerie Curl

October 22, 2012 at 8:34 PM

Obama Practices Pragmatic Foreign Policy a la Eisenhower and GHW Bush

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Eisenhower and Obama - practioners of pragmatic foriegn policyThis week’s edition of The New Republic has two great articles explaining Obama’s policies, particularly in contrast with the sometimes hyperbolic rhetoric of Romney. The first article deals with how much businesses actually depend upon government, at all levels, to support and help them build and sustain their business. However, the second article, Love Classic Republican Foreign Policy? Vote For Obama by Jonathan Rauch, receives my attention today.

For me, this article deserves special attention because I grew up in the military and my ex-husband is a Vietnam vet. The first 25 years of my life were dominated by the military and national security, stretching back to Dwight D. Eisenhower. I was too young to remember Truman, but I do fondly remember Eisenhower.

As a result of being a military brat and wife, I hold a profoundly different view from Romney’s neo-con advisers, all of whom worked for GW Bush. Those neo-cons, none of whom served in the military or grew up in the military, express a hegemonic view of US foreign policy based on the US military war powers. Yet, that kind of militarism is fairly new in American foreign policy that only took effect after the end of the Vietnam War.

As Rauch writes, anyone who remembers and enjoyed the modesty and pragmatism of Eisenhower and GHW Bush should appreciate Obama’s foreign policy.

Two diplomatic officials, one current and one former, balk at calling Obama a realist; he is not coldly manipulative or indifferent to human rights. (For example: Obama has done more to stand up for gay rights internationally than any previous world leader.) But they concur that he is outcome-oriented, a pragmatist rather than an idealist or visionary. “He’s focused on the bottom line: what are our key equities and how do we protect them,” says the serving diplomat. At the Brookings Institution, Tamara Cofman Wittes, a former Obama State Department official, says Obama believes in bending the arc of history, but also believes you can’t bend it at right angles. “He’s playing a long game and doing it pretty well.”

The kind of realism Obama practices is founded not on Machiavellian amorality but on a theory about where peace comes from. For Republican hawks and neocons, peace comes from American strength and hegemony; for Democratic doves and internationalists, peace comes from international cooperation and transnational institutions. Obama’s realism, like that of Ike and Bush 41 holds that American strength and international cooperation both have their place, but that peace comes from equilibrium between contending forces. To realists, power may not be admirable, but it must always be dealt with; and, in dealing with it, conserving and effectively deploying America’s power, a scarce and precious commodity, is Priority One, for it is the commodity upon which human rights and U.S. hegemony alike ultimately depend.

A realist may choose to upset an equilibrium now and then, but never lightly. Power, like a floodtide surge, has its own hydraulics. Once equilibrium is gone, it can be very hard and costly to restore. For very different reasons, human rights activists and neocons deplore Obama’s slowness to jump into the fray when rotten and antagonistic old orders tremble in places like Iran, Libya, Egypt, and now Syria. Eisenhower and Bush, however, understood well the importance of looking before leaping, whether in Suez and eastern Europe in the 1950s or in Ukraine and the Balkans in the early 1990s. Obama is in their mold.

Obama’s quiet accomplishment, in foreign policy, has been to do just as he promised: take the best ideas from the other side, integrate them into his own party’s tradition, and put them to work to strengthen the country’s position. Being a dab hand at foreign affairs will not, it’s true, save him in 2012, any more than it saved Bush 41 from the soft economy 20 years ago. What it has done is kept him viable in a miserable environment, improved the Democrats’ credibility on national security, taken from the Republicans the foreign-policy real estate that they used to own—and left Mitt Romney standing in a puddle of his own shallow verbiage.

Nevertheless, I disagree about Rauch’s claim that Obama had little foreign policy experience or interest. After all, Obama spent several impressionable, youthful years in the Indonesia and as a young man hitch hiked his way from Indonesia to Pakistan.

In some ways, those experiences, living amongst and traveling with native residents, gave him more foreign policy experience than all those sitting in comfortable academic offices or discussing foreign affairs with high level diplomats. Moreover, Obama’s first Senate foreign policy mentor was the Senate dean of foreign policy, Senator Dick Lugar. Lugar said Obama peppered him with questions on their trips overseas and that Obama worked closely with him on the Soviet Arms Treaty. In fact, contrary to Rauch, Obama ran for the presidency on foreign policy. It wasn’t until the financial system crashed in 2008 that his primary focus had to change to domestic economic policy.

I Agree On This: End of War

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Iraq War soliders in battle I graduated from high school in 1964, just as the Vietnam War took off. Most of my young male classmates were drafted into that war that hawks in both parties said was absolutely necessary to prevent Communism from spreading throughout South-east Asia. Known as the Domino Theory, it was widely believed that if Vietnam fell to Communism so would go all other So. East Asian nations, then eventually So. and Central America and eventually Africa.

So great was the fear of Communism in So. East Asia, that Eisenhower’s Administration came to believe that if Communism was not stopped at the borders of the USSR, China, and No. Korea, it immediately would spread to engulf the entire So. East Asia region including India and possibly Japan. However, conspiracy theorists such as those who created and joined the John Birch Society believed Eisenhower was too soft on Communism. They accused him of being a co-conspirator or “fellow traveler” or soft on communism because he refused to declare war again so soon after the end of WWII.

One of the greatest believers in the domino theory was Henry Cabot Lodge, a Republican who served as an adviser to Eisenhower and later to JFK on So. East Asia. Lodge came from a long-standing, prominent and highly politically influential New England family. His knowledge and standing on So. East Asia gave him a well respected gravitas. So, when he declared that Communism must be stopped or the entire So. East Asia region would fall to Communism, presidents and Congress listened.

The end result of the fear that all of So. East Asia would fall to the Communists was the Vietnam War. Nixon was elected on a platform of ending the war. As my own husband said when he returned from Vietnam, “we’re fighting a war to preserve the French rubber plantations.”

So much had the tide of war turned within the nation that during the 1968 election season, Nixon based his platform on ending the war. Overwhelming numbers of students and Vietnam vets turned out to cast their votes for Nixon, causing him to win the election. But Nixon was no appeaser. Instead of ending the war, his first term in office saw him expand the war into Laos and Cambodia. Loud protests erupted all across the nation…but it wasn’t until the sons of Congress members began being drafted that Congress turned from pro-war to pro-peace. It seems it was okay to send the sons of other people’s families to war but when their own sons became cannon fodder, sensibilities changed. Finally, Nixon realized that the only way to win a second term was to bring the war to a close.

But there were still a significant number of hawks within the Democratic Party who believed that the US had not only failed to win the war but had lost it. For them, nothing less than the complete annihilation of Communism was sufficient; they would gladly have used “the bomb” on North Vietnam rather have the US somehow seen as having lost that war. Those hawks joined the Republican party to later become known as neo-conservatives.

The neo-cons we know today, by and large, have never served a day in the armed forces but are willing to send the children of others to fight and die. They see enemies around every bend. They thoroughly believe that the US must have the greatest military force on earth because the destiny of the US is to be the greatest super-power, if not the greatest empire, on the face of the earth.

Even though GW Bush’s foreign policy gave the lie to the neo-cons ideology, they still hold considerable sway in Congress, in the media, and, most importantly, within the Republican Party. Respected conservative publications such as Buckley’s National Review are now completely controlled by neo-cons as is the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). And, of course, the John Birch Society is no better, believing the supposed evils of communism – and its evil companion socialism – are just around every policy corner.

As a result, we have the Patriot Act and its equally odious new companion, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), adopted by the Senate in a count of 98 to 1 – more than enough votes to override a veto by President Obama.

As a centrist-left leaning voter, I do not believe in the constant, always needing a enemy, and ready to Even the dead ask, Let there be peace...declare war stance our nation has taken since Reagan’s Administration. I do not believe the US should be the world’s police force or build an American Empire or deplete our nation’s blood and treasure to fight wars that fail to serve our national interests. I believe that our nation would be much better served, just as the overwhelming number of our young GIs who have served in the war zones believe, by rebuilding and renewing our own nation and using diplomacy, rather than war, to negotiate our national and international interests.

Written by Valerie Curl

January 16, 2012 at 9:18 AM

Out of the mouth of babes….

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In 1992, 12-year old Severn Cullis-Suzuki spoke before the United Nation’s Earth Summit. Her words are still powerful today.

Eighteen years have passed since Severn pleaded with world leaders, and so little has changed.

Why?

Afganistan: another view by Afganis

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Codepink traveled to Afanganistan to speak to the people.

Is the solution more troops as the military and Republicans want or is it more civilian help as the Afgans want?

Written by Valerie Curl

October 10, 2009 at 8:53 PM

I couldn’t pass this up: Iranian elections and freedom

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Roxana Saberi, the Iranian-American journalist tried and convicted of spying in Iran this year, wrote an article for the Washington Post today on the nation’s election.

“Roxana, when you go back to America,” my cellmate entreated me last month, “please tell others that our country is not only about the nuclear issue. It is also about people like us.”

My cellmate was one of the many “prisoners of conscience” I left behind when I was released from Tehran’s Evin Prison on May 11. Many were women, student and labor activists, researchers, and academics who have been detained solely because they peacefully pursued freedom of expression, freedom of association or religious beliefs. Several of them face vague charges such as “acting against national security,” like I did.

Tehran has legitimate security concerns. But hard-liners often exaggerate and exploit “soft threats” to tighten their grip on society and to silence critics. This “security-oriented” view has become especially prevalent under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

His victory in 2005 empowered hard-liners who reversed many political and cultural openings made under his predecessor, Mohammad Khatami. The past four years have brought tighter restrictions on books, film and the press; stricter monitoring of the Islamic dress code; and mounting risks of ethnic, political and social activism. Meanwhile, hard-liners have often ignored laws or interpreted them in ways to restrict basic freedoms while monopolizing power.

During this crackdown, dual nationals and Iranians with links to foreigners have been particularly targeted. In 2007, Iranian American scholars Kian Tajbakhsh and Haleh Esfandiari were accused of acting against national security. The next year, Esha Momeni, a graduate student from California, was arrested. She has been released on bail but is still prohibited from leaving Iran.

Saberi goes on to write:

It is not uncommon for “prisoners of conscience” to be detained without due process. Some are freed on exorbitant bail. As in my case, many have limited or no access to attorneys of their choice and cannot study the “evidence” against them. When hearings occur, they usually take place behind closed doors. On top of severe psychological and mental pressures, some are physically tortured, and a few have died in custody.

Iran’s people and civil society have paid the price of this “security approach.” This use of force has failed to address the root causes of social, economic and political issues while individual freedoms and human rights are being violated. Many Iranians have become suspicious of authority and, often, of one another.

Maybe it is this example – and fear – of loss of freedom that we here in the U.S. must understand. If we allow fear to overwhelm our thinking to the point of giving up our Constitutional rights, will some in our own government behave as the security forces in Iran, all in the name of “security approach.”

Saberi ends her article with this:

Tehran’s ties with Washington will also influence the future. Under the Bush administration, the State Department set up a “Democracy Fund” that many Iranian authorities claimed was a “regime change” policy. Silva Harotonian, the Alaei brothers and many other activists are victims of this reaction.

The Obama administration has been wise to avoid talk of regime change as it makes cautious efforts to improve relations. If these ties significantly improve, Iran’s hard-liners will lose their main pretext for their tight grip on power and society. If they want to continue their clampdown, they will have to find another excuse for their unjust treatment of Iranians like those I left behind in Evin Prison.

Freedom, as Iran exemplifies, is something so elusive that even one’s own government can take it away in the name of security, especially when combined with a good dose of fear.

Heaven willing, those days are over in the U.S.

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