Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Foreign business as usual good enough?

These days it seems all to easy to think of foreign relations as strictly a matter of security, but as someone who grew up outside of the US I know first hand that there is a lot more involved with this issue than just the military. It ranges from small issues like the way American Tourists act when in another country all the way up to the issue of pre-emptive war.

There are many issues facing the US within the realm of foreign relations. The increasing tensions over illegal immigration, the seemingly uneasy nature of our country's friendship with Russia, the new world standing of China, and the upheaval in the Middle East and Africa, all of which make me believe that foreign relations is and will be the most important role of the American President for the foreseeable future. With that said, this post will focus on the Middle East.

According to the 2007 World Development Report (produced by The World Bank) there are about 100 million people in the Middle East/North Africa under 24. Additionally, this means that there are well over 100 million people in the Middle East/North Africa that are under the age of 35 (including those under 24).

I lived in and visited the Middle East for many years and I know that they do not all hate us. In fact many of the people there like America very much even if they disagree with some of our actions. The Middle East, as in any area/culture, has people on the far right, the far left, and a whole lot more that fall somewhere in between. It appears to me that over the next 10 to 20 years we have a remarkable opportunity to win over the hearts and minds of those within this age group. If we were to start now, we could change the tide of popular opinion about our country, and in turn improve our population's opinion about them.

Are we sure that we want a President that is hawkish about the war in Iraq, or one that has a desire to pre-emptively begin wars with other Arab countries? Are we sure that business as usual is the correct way to approach the current situations there? I think these are serious matters to think about. I know that I personally would like a different approach. I lived in the Middle East after our bombing of Libya and as a result had to live with the ramifications of our country's actions. I also spent time there during the (first) Persian Gulf War, and saw how the population interacted with our military and vice versa. With this in mind, I can not in good conscience support a business as usual policy.

Clearly, terrorism is something to be condemned, as it is a truly barbaric and futile attempt to affect policy, but at the same time starting wars is just as ineffective. If we truly want to have a strong working relationship with the region of the world that supplies a vast majority of the world's oil, then maybe, just maybe, treating them with respect and asking the same in return is not such a bad idea. I am sure that we all have heard of the phrase "You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar." and whether we want to admit it or not, these are sovereign countries. It seems to me that wanting to occupy foreign countries and being over-eager to kill mass numbers of their populations is a lot more like vinegar than honey.

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