Vail Valley Voices: What U.S. must do now
Vail, CO, Colorado
After World War II, the United States changed the way it negotiates with the international community of nations.
The goodwill America earned during the war enabled our presidents to influence many nations throughout the world to do “the right things.” The right things included giving citizens the right to vote, eliminating human rights violations, discouraging imperialism and aggressive actions against neighbors and so on.
Of course, U.S. “diplomacy” was often accompanied by foreign aid to make it easier for others to accept our recommendations.
About the time of the Vietnam War, our global status started to decrease notably. For several years, the United States was an aggressor in Southeast Asia in a war that everybody objected to by the time it ended.
From the start, many nations encouraged Presidents Johnson and Nixon to end the carnage, but to no avail. When it was over, America was defeated (let’s be honest about it), lost 58,000 soldiers and purportedly killed millions of Vietnamese.
America was no longer invincible, so even small nations shunned our leadership. The most compelling example was the oil embargo of the 1970s, during which a group of lesser-developed oil-producing nations led by kings, emirs and sheiks brought America to its knees. I still remember waiting in line for hours to buy gasoline.
Many more nations have since followed suit defying America’s will. Scores of Islamic countries no longer respect the United States, encouraged by a growing radical group of clerics.
African nations feel neglected as their people starve and die from AIDS, while Americans gorge themselves in fancy restaurants and spend millions on luxury items such as large houses and gas-guzzling cars.
Mexico has lost respect for the United States because of our attitude toward illegal immigration, an issue that could become even more explosive in the years to come.
The French and Germans, mortal enemies during World War II, have worked together to foil efforts by the United States to lead the United Nations against global terrorism and nuclear proliferation.
The Russians and Chinese are hesitant to support America as it attempts to thwart nuclear weapons development by Iran and North Korea, countries that are adjacent to them. Who should be more concerned about the intentions of these nations than the Russians and the Chinese? In spite of growing peril, roadblocks are constructed against the United States at every turn.
The Iraq War and the economic crisis are the frosting on the cake. Both have only served to create more animosity directed at the United States and its policies.
What can America do now to improve its status? Is Barack Obama making the correct decisions and saying the right things to his counterparts around the world?
Many of us are beginning to have serious reservations about Obama’s leadership.
Unfortunately, walking the walk and throwing cash at problems are not the answers. Rather, America’s leaders must set a good example. In this regard, I want to briefly discuss four major items:
1. The United States should never move unilaterally against a rogue nation unless there is a serious national security threat at hand. The first Iraq War was a success because George H.W. Bush assembled a real global coalition, as compared to the second Iraq War in which we proceeded alone for all intents and purposes.
The lesson to be learned is that until Iran and North Korea are on the verge of developing a nuclear weapon, the United States should refrain from military action and work with the international community to end the threat diplomatically and by applying economic sanctions. If this is not successful, the whole world must then work together.
2. The United States must do a better job domestically. Many countries believe some of our policies violate the human and/or civil rights of others. I offer Gitmo, our disgraceful prison system, our controversial immigration system and current race relations as examples of areas that need a lot more attention from our leaders.
3. Americans must stop being so arrogant. Perhaps democracy is not the ideal system of government for all countries in the world. If not, why do we try to foist it upon everyone?
Why would our president visit China and immediately criticize it for human rights violations, and then ask China for help with North Korea and global warming?
I’m not saying America should turn its head away from injustice, but are we the police department for the whole world?
Moreover,I think maybe our leaders need to reconsider their negotiating strategies. You can’t ask for help on one hand and simultaneously slam the same person with the other hand.
4. If our national security were at risk, we should be ready to use force. Using Iran as an example, if in fact diplomacy doesn’t discourage the Iranians from developing a nuclear weapon, we must be ready to intervene with force. The reason for this is simple. If Iran uses or even threatens to use a nuclear weapon against Israel, Israel will retaliate in kind.
This scenario would be a national security issue for the United States on the grandest scale.
The swashbuckling cowboy image (used by a former president) is not effective. Our supreme leader must present America as a kinder and gentler country, which is ready, willing and able to obliterate any other country that threatens our national security.
This is a difficult balancing act, but that’s why we pay Obama big money, let him ride around in his own private plane and live in a fancy White House in Washington.
Sal Bommarito is a New Yorker who has skied Vail for 20 years. A former investment banker, he recently published four novels.
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