Question of the Day: Are US interests always consistent with world peace?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Today’s award of the Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama raises the question of whether or not what’s in our best interest is also, invariably, in the interest of world peace?

First things first. We need a definition before this article begins to sound like the answer to a question at some beauty pageant. Mine is a very narrow concept. By “world peace” I’m referring to the balance among nations and/or ethnic or cultural interests that minimizes the use or material threat of military action to accomplish their objectives. We can all agree to disagree and keep talking – as long as no one gets hurt or dies in the meantime. And yes, I can be breathtakingly simpleminded sometimes, but I’m not writing a book here.

Are there circumstances when President Obama will take, or not take action to protect US citizens and interests, here and abroad, because those actions will be detrimental to world peace? It’s not a ridiculous question. Far from it.

We and some other Western countries have a problem with terrorism on the basis of which we have justified military action in Iraq, and now in Afghanistan. Those actions have, arguably, stimulated reactions by the terrorists, of course, but also on the part of other countries which sympathize with their beliefs, if not with their methods, with ramifications that extend beyond the original disagreement between “them” and us.

Have our actions in the Middle East had a calming effect or have they heightened international tensions in the region and elsewhere? What are we going to do if Pakistan, a nuclear arms power, doesn’t cooperate to the extent that we think is necessary to deny our enemies safe harbor and other support they are now receiving in that country? Under what circumstances will we – President Obama – tolerate what we perceive to be misbehavior by any sovereign nation, weak or powerful, in support of movements which threaten the United States? How far are we willing to go, on our own, to prevent Iran from developing and disseminating nuclear weapons given the implications for regional and world peace of a US-lead preemptive attack?

Don’t misunderstand my point. Without question, I’m certain the President takes into account the international ramifications of any military initiative he considers. But is it, his decision process that is, about “world peace,” or is really a matter of going as far as we can, of doing as much as we can get away with, militarily speaking, to protect the United States?

The former, global perspective is more civilized, broadly defined, and speaks to a loftier, more humane national character that puts the welfare of others at least on a par with that of our own people. The latter is all about selfishness and protecting our citizens and interests at the expense of others – others who may or may not be involved.

Nobel Prizes notwithstanding, the question is, which Presidential mindset do we want and have in The White House? In Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran, I think we’re about to find out.

-wf


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6 responses to “Question of the Day: Are US interests always consistent with world peace?

  1. You present invalid choices that show your own bias.

    It is not about selfishness; it’s about protecting our people. It’s not about seeing how far we can go; it’s about going however far we need to go.

    Our children or theirs? If it comes to choice, which do you say gets to live?

  2. If were just the two of us — the United States versus the terrorists — I’d agree, hands down.

    It was everyone else I was talking about. If, for example, we decide that Iran is about to give a nuclear weapon to an organization that intends to use it in the United States, do we really care if Israel or anyone else is opposed to, or may suffer the consequences of our leveling the place? Probably not.

    Suppose it’s Pakistan and not Iran, or some major power where these weapons are originating?

    Suppose its something less scary than a nuclear threat such as conventional weapons and financial support that we’re concerned about.

    Pretend for the moment that you’re President. Do you really just do whatever it takes to solve our problem, without regard to the consequences for anyone else? Aren’t you worried about solving a short-term problem by creating a more significant, long-term mess?

    -wf

  3. You’re presenting non-choices now. 😉

    If my people are in danger, what others think or feel is immaterial – unless angering or scaring them produces a greater risk to my people.

    On the other hand, you bring up a tangential but good point; the need to balance near-term needs vs. long-term needs.

    How far ahead I would look would depend upon the scope of the near-term threat and the relative power of the 3rd-parties who might be affected.

  4. My problem with your comments is that a big piece of my head agrees with them.

    This is an admittedly silly example, but if someone offered President You or Me the option of preventing a massive nuclear attack on the United States if I was willing to, I don’t know, destroy Holland, would I do it? Would I trade their 16 million people for who knows how many more of ours? It’s a stupid question, but it goes to the heart of my issue.

    The purely selfish response would be, “Damn straight! In a heartbeat. The American people elected me to…” You get the point.

    I just don’t think I’d make that deal. Nor would I attack Iran if I thought it would result in their attacking Israel. Sounds sappy, no doubt, but I don’t want to be the guy or the country that does whatever it takes regardless of who get hurt in the process, and only gets away with it because we’re so powerful that no one dare challenge the legitimacy of what we’ve done.

    Good news for both of us: It’s not up to me. The real money question, of course, is what the Nobel Prize winner in The White House has in mind.

    Thanks for your comments. Stop by again when you have time.

    -wf

    • It may be the difference in our upbringing.

      I’m a medically retired SpecOps – that’s what they call us now – sniper. I was trained to essentially do at a small or tactical scale what you’re finding problematical.

      I also come from a military family – 5 generations – who raised me to put our people’s wellbeing before my own sensibilities. Frankly, in defense of American civilians, I have NO limits to what I’d do.

  5. My background is different that yours alright, but then that’s what makes our favorite country so cool, isn’t it? Suffice it to say that we share a common commitment, and that the right thing to do on a Presidential level is probably somewhere between our points of view. And I’m okay with that.

    My concern is that our President is inexperienced, and may be applying principles of community relations to resolve problems in an international arena where the rules are very different, and the consequences of failure far more severe.

    -wf

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