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Tuesday, April 15, 2003

How Moral Is Our Foreign Policy?-I'm going to give Wood's Connexions piece from last week another once over, getting past the historical nit-picking and look at the overall message of Wood's piece. I'll break up my reply into two parts, addressing the first part on the morality of foreign policy first, then following up with a look at the post-war prospects in Iraq this evening. Wood questions whether we have the moral high ground. This come accross as being pessimistic about the morals of Anglo-American foreign policy. I've stated in the past that where we have intervened in the last decade has largely been to the benefit of the citizens of the country in question. That gives those actions some moral stature, even if less-than-altruistic reasons were used to make the decision to intervene. One of the things I was reflecting on this morning as I gave Wood's premise a second look is that the errors we make in the modern era are of omission rather than comission; it's what we don't do that is more damning than what we do. We'll tend to interevene if there are bad guys who threaten our economic or geopolitical interests. We don't intervene when there are bad guys who don't threaten our interests (Zimbabwe, Congo, Liberia/Ivory Coast, Burma) and we definately don't intervene when the bad guys aid our long-term interest (the Saudis, Singapore, some of the 'stans). Where US foreign policy is hypocritical is intervening where there are strategic interests and ignoring ones that have merely humanitarian interests. However, I don't think that makes are actions in Iraq immoral. It makes inaction in places like Liberia and Zimbabwe immoral, but it doesn't make action in Iraq immoral. There are good humanitarian reasons to go into Iraq, but there needed to be stragegic reasons to do so for a critical mass of American public opinion to be behind such an action. A purely humanitarian invasion would be a very hard sell and would require a massive loss of life if we didn't go to justify to the US public. Most voters are selfish and don't see an American GI's life being equal to that of a person in Country X; there has to be a high return-risk ratio before they'll accept such an invasion. We did the right thing for less-than-humanitarian reasons, but it was the right thing nonetheless. What we have to look to in the future, if we are to have a godly foreign policy is the ability to speak truth to power even if it means losing out of some money. We might have to go into some dyfunctional countries where there isn't a strategic reason. We might have confront countries that can hit us in the pocketbook for standing up for moral values and human rights. Being human, it's hard for any country to be perfectly altruistic, laying their lives out for mankind without expecting any return for their efforts. However, we're moving into an altruistic foreign policy. The good thing is that most of that altruism is also good for us, for establishing freedom around the world will be good for us in the long term as well.

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