Monitoring American foreign affairs, not just for the diplomats

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Dr. Ivory Phillips

When Donald Trump was president, we often didn’t know what he was initiating abroad. When we did know it was generally scary because we were afraid that he was costing us allies and/or allowing us to drift into or be led into another war. When Barack Obama was president, we were more at ease, but often did not know what he was up to either. As a matter of fact, from the earliest days of the country’s existence, American presidents have generally acted as if foreign affairs were only the purview of the presidents and the diplomats that he appointed. There is even an old saying that criticism of a president’s foreign affairs should stop at the water’s edge.

This is hog-wash. The American citizens should be informed enough to say “stop” or “go” when it comes to actions of its government abroad. After all, it is the American people who end up paying in lives and money every time actions are taken, especially military actions. Beyond that, the people bear a moral responsibility for actions taken against people in other countries in their name.

These thoughts should arise when one hears of things such as: (1) Haitian officials having requested military assistance in the wake of the assassination of President Jovenel Moise, (2) The potential of Afghanistan being over-run by the Taliban military forces within weeks, resulting in the death and loss of human rights for many Afghans, and (3) the Israeli government continuing to involve itself in Palestinians being trampled upon and killed over land and the abuse of their basic human rights. These are three examples of foreign affairs matters that demand our attention.

We realize that the statements above may not reflect the complete situations and that not all which we hear is always accurate. The point, however, is that as citizens in a democracy, we should be in a position to learn what is and is not accurate. We should be in a position to demand and actually get the American government to conduct itself on such issues as we the people think is in the total best interest of this country. We should be informed enough to issue statements based upon the principles of human rights, first and foremost, rather than upon economic and political interests expressed by the wealthy-class. Whenever possible, American foreign action should not only reflect the highest standards of human rights, but also be carried out under the banner and principles of the United Nations.

We realize that, for many, this is too much like “pie in the sky” or a fantasy world. Nevertheless, our reach should always exceed our grasp. Furthermore, it is simply the right way to operate. With that said, here are several situations to consider in order to further pursue the imperative of this article.

HAITI. Reading and listening to Black media experts, one gets a different perspective on why Moise was assassinated and how matters should be handled going forward. It’s important to understand the history of the relationship between Haiti and the Western powers, going back to the days of the slave rebellion that took place creating Haiti in the 1790s. How must that be factored into the current state of affairs? What can and needs to be done to right those past wrongs? In the meantime, what steps can be taken to enable America and the other powers of the world to hear and adhere to the pleas and authentic needs of the masses of the Haitian people? It is time for actions that support human rights and human development rather than the continued oppression and exploitation of the working-class people by Haitian leaders and foreign imperialists.

AFGHANISTAN. As in more than a few cases in the past, America went into a country supposedly to address an attack on its territory but proceeded to try and undertake regime change and to manipulate the economy there. In the process, it utilized local people, causing them to be seen as traitors by many local leaders. That further divided the country while they were occupied, and it leaves the perceived traitors vulnerable after they are gone. In such a matter, more concern for the wishes of the American people as well as more thought about long-term impacts and exit strategies should have been calculated on the front-end. At this point, what is America’s obligation toward the “traitors” that were created? What role is America obligated to play with regards to the human rights of the oppressed Afghans who remain in the country?

ISRAEL. The Israeli/Palestinian conflict stretches back to the decision of the Allied powers to create the state of Israel in 1948. Given the fact that that bell cannot be un-rung, what can America, through the United Nations, do to create a just solution for the Israeli people and the Palestinian people? Not much has been done apart from America’s unwavering support regarding Israel’s right to exist. What do the principles of human rights dictate? Meanwhile, the American people are almost never given the straight on what the situation is long-term nor presently in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.

OTHER COUNTRIES. We would be naïve to think that these are the only areas that deserve our attention. They just happen to be on the front burner at this time. There are others brewing around the world in Eastern Africa, Russia, China, Korea, and elsewhere. Many of the conditions were created at least in part by the United States and require its help in the areas of human rights and human development.

The American government needs to be pressured to do more to share the information about these conditions. Mainstream media outlets must be called upon to be more aggressive and forthcoming with what it knows and can find out. Minority and alternative media outlets and personnel must be enabled and encouraged to undertake a larger role and to provide the needed, different perspectives.

The historical and economic underpinnings of these foreign problems must never be overlooked or underestimated. Slavery, mercantilism, imperialism, colonialism, global capitalism, and others played their roles in the oppression and exploitation of the masses of working-class people. They help us to connect the dots and reveal the underlying threads of these various foreign problems. We must continue to look for and find them, not leaving it up to officials and their wealthy donors to drive foreign affairs behind the façade of the diplomats.

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Monitoring American foreign affairs, not just for the diplomats

By Dr. Ivory Phillips
July 21, 2021