Today, far too many of the politicians in U.S. government are afraid of the concept of morality. Here, both the politically correct and fundamentalists have so connected the term with fundamentalist Christianity, that it rarely gets discussed as a relevant element in any government policy. Morality is not inherently confined to Christianity nor to any sectarian ideology. It broadly addresses the realm of actions in accordance with a set of values. That said, does our government have a set of values that puts us at odds with tyrants? If such a governmental value system actually existed and it compelled us to intervene in countries “where tyrants persecute citizens,” then we would be compelled to take action in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Nicaragua, Cuba, North Korea, China, and most of the countries in the Middle East, including those that are U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.
The main problem, then, is that our government has no value system on which to base the concept of morality. We have regularly supported dictators and authoritarian rulers for decades, and we continue to do so. At the same time, we have been less supportive of more democratic governments. A good example is the disparity regarding our relationships with Pakistan and India. Since the time of Nixon, the U.S. government has given far more support to dictators in the former while being lukewarm to democratically elected rulers of the latter. India is the largest democracy in the world, but for decades we have not been very open to it as a nation. Our government seems to function from short term gains, narrow interests, and fear more than anything else.
What we really need, then, is a consistent political value system that does not turn a blind eye to corruption and tyranny and does not support them simply because they benefit us. That does not mean we need to be the moral police of the world. Before we could ever even think about that, we would need to get our own moral house in order. We need to stop being afraid of values simply because they are also promoted by various religions. Many of our laws are based on religious values, and while some are not so good and should be changed, many are valid and serve us well. Ideally, we need to come together as a society and both adopt and promote through our actions a reasonable value system that rewards goodness, decency, truth, non-violence, hard work, etc. We also need to stop determining someone’s or something’s worth based on political party, gender, ethnic, or religious affiliation.
Once we begin to make some serious steps as a nation to live by and promote a common set of values, only then can we begin to enact a foreign policy that has anything termed “moral” as a part of it. We do not have to nor should we all think alike, believe alike, or act alike, but we have to find commonality of purpose amidst all our differences. Looking at how the people of Japan have responded to the disaster that has recently struck them should teach us a great deal. There have been no riots, no looting, no chaos. Why? It is because the people have a strong sense of shared values and commonality. That IS what makes a country strong, and it is why Japan will survive.
Although our government is strong militarily, there is no commonality of purpose with our politicians, and that makes us very weak. Our political parties cannot see anything positive in the thoughts and actions of others. For Republicans, Bush was great, Obama is weak. For Democrats, Bush was evil, Obama is a God-send. As long as we have a government run with such partisan narrow thinking, we can never develop any consistency with respect to a morality or a foreign policy. Again, we need to get our own collective house in order before we start enforcing militarily our hollow sense of values on anyone else.
Although I do not hold out a lot of hope that such a government will occur anytime soon here, I do have a few suggestions as to what a foreign policy should be. Ideally, it should be one that: 1) clarifies what kinds of governments we are willing to support, 2) does blindly not side with dictators, even if they support our activities in their respective regions of the world, 3) is not based on the partisan interests of our politicians, 4) defines a reasoned system and method for applying economic and possibly military pressure on governments that persecute their citizens, and 5) is grounded in a sense of ethics that places human rights as one of the major criteria in the creation of such a policy. The concept of “do no harm” should be paramount, and it should guide us.
Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela all sought to bring a sense of morality into the realm of politics, and they all promoted the concepts of truth and non-violence for this purpose. We could learn a great deal from each of them. In the process, we could work on finding a collective moral sense to guide our lives and policies in dealing with other countries, but more importantly, in dealing with each other.
Ramdas Lamb | Mar 28, 2011 1:29 PM