SOCIAL VOX

My thoughts on the world around me

American Progress or American Dilemma?

The theme of the day (I commented on this subject, to a certain degree, in “The Washington Post’s Ann Telnaes’ Cartoon“) appears to be that the United States, at least with respect to its interaction with foreign governments, has a tendency to impose its value system.

In Fareed Zakaria’s most recent article, he notes some of the late Samuel P. Huntington’s most important work: “the most important political distinction among countries concerns not their form of government but their degree of government.” Of Huntington’s findings, Zakaria goes on to say that “American-style progress – more political participation or faster economic growth – actually created more problems than it solved.”

From Vietnam to Afghanistan, from Iraq to Pakistan, the United States’ foreign policy has been fatally flawed. The self-proclaimed notion that the United States is a liberator, and that it is in every country’s best interest to follow its Protestant Work Ethic, is not only a fallacy, but the very reason why its foreign policy has failed to adapt over the past 50 years.

We are a secular, capitalist society. Such principles work for us. That does not mean, though, that those same ideals would function under varying political landscapes, religious beliefs, and socioeconomic structures. As Zakaria states, Huntington, on tours to Vietnam in 1967 and 1968, observed that the Vietnamese people felt “secure within effective communities structured around religious or ethnic ties.” The United States viewed such sources of authority as “backward,” and took a different route. We now know how well the military campaign in Vietnam turned out.

In two months, it will be the 7th anniversary of the United States’ invasion of Iraq. After nearly seven long years, where do we stand? The number of recent fatalities due to suicide or car bombings are mind-numbing. Al-Qaeda and the Taliban grow stronger in the areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan. But fret not, Americans. Our soldiers, who are already on their fourth or fifth tour of duty, will likely be re-deployed to Afghanistan.

Are these examples of American progress or an American dilemma? Samuel P. Huntington warned us of these flaws decades ago. Empires throughout history have fallen because of such short sightedness.

Only time will tell what the United States’ legacy will be.

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January 5, 2009 - Posted by | Economics, Foreign Policy, Politics, Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Professor Huntington is not alone showing the failure of the US’ short-term foreign policy approach toward anything that represents a challenge to its interest, without contemplating long-standing consequences. In a provocative book, Chalmers Johnson ‘lays a vivid detail the dangers faced by the overextended empire, which insists on projecting its military power to every corner of the earth and using American capital and markets to force global economic integration on its own terms’ –from the cover of “Blowback”. From Okinawa, to the early support of Saddam Hussein, the author reveals the ways in which the US policies are planting the seeds of future disasters –idem. Very timely comments by Mr. Zakaria, and a generous recount of Professor Huntington’s contributions.

    For more on Fareed Zakaria see http://www.cnn.com/CNN/Programs/fareed.zakaria.gps/

    Comment by GR | January 5, 2009 | Reply


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