As previously promised...
This crazy world, and how we should (and should not) respond to it
These probably won't be in any certain order, as I'm pulling 'em out as they come into focus. Long as the general point is made, I assume neither of us will care. Alright, starting off...
-Ever taken a look at how much we spend on foreign aid? One thing we do is provide intended humanitarian handouts that just end up absorbed by the kleptocracies in power in the receiving nations: quite a waste in itself. However, that's not the largest part of the problem -- that distinction goes to us providing military aid to countries that can defend themselves just fine and/or clearly would stab us in the back once they found an opening. A decent chunk of our tax dollars is going down a rathole, and we're risking the erosion of our sovereignty, all off of a dubious assumption that the US has some sort of moral responsibility to the rest of the world.
IMO, that assumption needs to be deaded, asap.
Now, realizing that the likelihood of simply shutting down the entire stream is zilch whether that occurs or not, I propose that the nature of the alliances responsible be changed. I recently described a potential plan on that front in more detail, that post is linked to here. At the least, such a change would get us in the direction of acting more explicitly for our defense, the rest is up to whoever is in charge in the long run.
-pre-emption....though we currently have a glaring example in progress of how it can be missapplied, I wouldn't give the concept a blanket dismissal. After all, it's comparable to the difference between calling the cops after a violent crime has been committed and stopping it yourself if you have the chance. Clearly what we need to do is shore up our intelligence so blunders like Iraq don't come about so easily in the future, that one is a no-brainer. Keep it, but make damn sure that the charge is accurate next time.
-speaking of Iraq, notice the reasoning for having gone in is retroactively being cast as a humanitarian mission? Refer to above: we don't have that responsibility. Not to Iraq, not to Liberia, not to Sudan, no one. Matter of fact, the only reason we even attempted some form of humanitarian gesture in Afghanistan after overthrowing the Taliban is because we've stumbled into it as "the modern thing to do": try to name as many times throughout history you can think of that an occupying force even remotely attempted to rebuild the nation whose government they obliterated -- and by rebuild, I don't count "colonize". In all seriousness, Iraq's future is out of our hands, and Afghanistan is pretty much stuck where it's at for a LONG time. That isn't a cop-out, simply the truth. If either one, or both, manages to embrace democracy & get on the process of fully closing the door on their chapter of hell they'd endured for so long that'll be something to cheer about, but I'm not holding my breath expecting perfection (unlike some people...). In the future, "nation building" should be frowned upon.
-This ^^^^ would be an example of why I disagree w/ the conclusion reached by hawks on the Right, particularly when libertarian-leaning people adopt the "neocon" stance: it reminds me waaaay too much of the same social engineering we reject at home, how is it somehow valid abroad? How can you possibly spread democracy through violence? And if it somehow were reasonable, who says we have the responsibility to do so? Unless we're seriously threatened in some form, the answer is "no". Besides, we need to get back to challenging the erosion of our civil liberties by our elected officials in the name of protecting us, if we don't do it no one will.
-As for pure isolation, it might've sounded nice pre-9/11, and some of the rhetoric behind it does still fit (it is true we're engaged in too much, and that to an extent we tend to create our next enemy), but going beyond closing military bases where we're clearly not wanted and not tossing away money subsidizing the defense of people that hate us or can afford their own defense, and getting into closing them ALL & playing like this is the 1800's by sticking the military on the borders awaiting a traditional invasion is head-in-the-sand conduct. In a world where you can potentially murder a ton of people without ever invading yourself, it's silly to think that kind of strategy is going to stop anybody. I don't want us to just go tearing around as if we're the policeman of the world either, but I also don't want the blood of the next slaughter of innocents at home to be dripping from libertarian hands due to an unfortunate case of idealist naivete.
-Proliferation of WMDs...Here I've got somewhat of a bind:
On the one hand, the idea that some nations are too incompetant to be armed in this manner comes out as a global parallel to "gun control", and lends itself to hypocracy on all sides -- "I'll disarm if they do first" an' the like. Can't help but question it at least rhetorically.
On the other hand, if the formulation that nation-states are rational actors turns out to collapse, then we're all doomed if everyone is "strapped". Related to this, things like the Non-Nuclear Proliferation Treaty being enforced somewhat, though in a sideways method due to conflicting national self-interests, is politically unavoidable at the moment, so one could say it might as well be gone along with for now just in case. Although, I would stress that the issue not be the weapons themselves, but the likelihood of irresponsible behavior w/ them: within the current global climate, w/ the possibility of terrorist groups obtaining this type of technology, it's clear something needs to be done against that, though at the same time we should make clear that this is the problem and not self-defense. Consider it this way: if there wasn't reason to believe that Libya, for example, could've slipped one of these weapons to a terrorist group and been complicit in the deaths of potentially hundreds or even thousands of innocent people, would anyone have cared whether they decided to stop pursuing them or not (well, other than idealists pining for some mythical alternate world where no one has nukes and everybody is nice to each other I mean)? To put it simply, show the world that you will not get aggressive (on your own or by terrorist proxy) with anyone who doesn't plan on violating you and the world should leave you alone; act otherwise, and you've just revoked any arguement you had.
-from that, there's North Korea, now nuclear-armed. This one would be an example of why the Nation-as-rational-actor theory isn't airtight -- just what are we achieving talking to this nutjob Kim? We should've dumped or got off the pot long ago, and we don't have a responsibility to defend South Korea from anything. Any engagement should be due to them having the range to land a missile here (there've been reports of missile tests damn near reaching Alaska, we should be a LOT more concerned about this than is being presently expressed) & the chance they're willing to pass it along to other parties. Kim's blackmail attempt for a handout should not be accepted, as that's how we got into this mess in the first place, and personally (IF it were feasible: we do NOT want to do this if the response would be "fire") I wouldn't be above simply destroying their nuclear facilities and calling it a day. Of course, that's -- again -- assuming that he's not crazy enough to launch one and ensure his entire country is wiped out in retaliation. If their neighbors can convince them otherwise then that's fine, but the threat level here is ridiculous, that can't be stressed enough.
-a few random bits...
****Our involvement in the Israel/Palestinians conflict needs to stop. The situation isn't going to improve anytime soon, and we don't have a responsibility to either party. Israel can defend themselves just fine: in fact, they've been taking up measures that clearly go overboard, which we conveniently ignore due to our alliance. Could you imagine the outrage if tactics like collective punishment for internal terrorist attacks in the form of strikes against entire neighborhoods, firing rockets at a single car in heavy traffic, or bulldozing homes on suspicion were used here? It'd make the Patriot Act look like bubble gum. Also there's the awkwardness of aligning with a nation based first & foremost on placing one religious & ethnic group above any other, an arcane practice that belongs in history's trash can. An official "jewish state", like a "muslim state" or "christian state", defeats the legitimate purpose of having a state at all. As for the Palestinians, they hate us anyway, why are we giving them aid money?
****the campaign talk, Kerry's "alienating allies" charge vs Bush's current muddling through: neither please.
First of all, the idea that we could've possibly gotten Germany & France to join in on Iraq is utter nonsense, they could've cared less whether the weapons were there or not. Reports are coming out showing they, and many others, had a financial interest in keeping Saddam in power, it simply was not in their national interest to go along with it. Besides, why should other countries have a veto over our national security decisions?
True, in retrospect it wasn't in our interest either -- personally I think the outrage was reversed, it should've been the UN screaming for regime change and the US yawning it off -- but portraying oneself as some kind of nobler person when your conduct is no different than anyone else's in its self-interest is an insult. They should've just admitted it, came out saying "what's in it for us?". At least it'd be honest.
Then there's Bush, who's taken to some contradictions of his own. I recall awhile back him making a statement saying that we should eschew the "he's a bastard, but he's OUR bastard" strategy of siding with dictators we took up during the Cold War. Hmm, doesn't this disqualify Uzbekistan, for example? I guess as "no nation building" goes, so does "no helping dictators"... Likewise, we need to embrace honesty as well, and decide exactly what it is we're doing here. If it is determined, beyond any reasonable alternative, that dealing with these unsavory types is necessary to our defense, then we must openly admit that and stop shooting from both sides of our mouth. Vice versa, if we're so pro-democracy & pro-human-rights then we should walk the walk and put our meat behind it. The Bush administration wants to have it both ways -- no dice.
****Is there any reason for us to stay in the UN? I can't think of one...
If I find I've got more to say later I'll add on. For now, that's the gist of it.