US Foreign Relations Face A Looming Danger
By Tefera Dinberu
May 1, 2017

Millions of US citizens and all peace-loving people around the world are concerned more than ever before about the deterioration of peace in the World. It is believed that the USA has a pivotal leading role in shaping policies of the UN to the effect the UN can persuade member countries to follow democratic laws, democratic governance and make policy reforms to respect human rights that include women’s rights, faith rights, equality of citizens and minorities without which the base of peace cannot exist.

What a president decides using one’s executive power can affect irredeemable consequences.  American relations especially with undemocratic regimes of the third world countries, that do not serve their peoples genuinely, are susceptible to such decisions. These mistakes erode the trust of the people that are dominated by their dictators. Statesmen serving in the executive branch of the government while concentrating on political issues often ignore the objective realities and fail to forecast consequences that affect the foreign policy of the nation. For example, the war in Vietnam: First of all if the US administration was able to support Ho Chi Minh in his call for decolonization of Vietnam from French occupation, his party would not have asked the same support from the USSR to eventually accept communism. Then in the fully fledged war, the leadership could not also see that both the Vietnamese warring factions in the 1960's and 1970's were more attuned to Vietnamese nationalism than Americans thought until this was revealed at the end of the war in 1975 and after the ideological wall that divided the West and the East broke down in 1990.  That mistake cost the nation 13 years of war that caused so much casualties and at least a trillion USD material loss.

The 1950-1953 Korean War might be defined as a war that curbed/ blocked/ expansion of communism; however, after the Communist system that was spearheaded by the USSR ended in fiasco from its own implosion, consequences of  the Korean war that divided the peninsula into North and South are still carrying on undesired  repercussions.

The same type of mistakes took place else-where in the world until 50 years later. Just to cite some: the genocide that took place in Burundi, the civil war in Somalia, the Congo, Uganda, Rwanda, Tajikistan, East Timor, Cambodia, and Yugoslavia. The US administration led by President Richard Nixon could retain Ethiopian state government under Emperor Haile-Selassie that was more in tune to the West before it was overthrown by the communist-roader Derg regime that sought support from communist countries. It was much easier to make Ethiopia more democratic than to correct effects of communism in that country that still dominates the people. But America made another mistake in 1991 by failing to transfer power to a democratically elected body of state when a delegation led by Herman J. Cohen, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, allowed the unpopular but armed Weyane insurgency led by Dictator Meles Zenawi to take power without any contest. Therefore, US statesmen seem to be either ignorant of the fact that the incumbent Weyane regime is more dictatorial and totalitarian than the derg regime, or knowingly undermine the severity of its tyrannical character. The Soviet influence over this country for 17 years was not corrected; but ironically the US administration is still helping the Weyane clique regardless of its continued repressive scheme that made the whole Ethiopian nation an ethnically segregated prison camp where forced eviction, poverty, starvation, and disease are rampant.

The response to the call from Iraqis due to the fatalities caused by the role of chemical Ali in Iraq came too late and with unplanned strategy and unforeseen consequences. Consequence of US action during president George W. Bush II that was conducted in the guise of destruction of weapons of mass destruction kept on breeding more and more terrorists or more and more enemies of America and religious wars that had not been seen since the 16th century. 

The war on terror lacks tactics and strategies as the US policy seems to have concentrated on fighting this war through battles on the ground with modern weapons. However, even going back to the time of Aristotle, it is remembered that this ancient philosopher advised Alexander the Great, who was the greatest conqueror at that time that winning the hearts of the people was much more important than winning battles on the ground. The war against terrorism is a war against spiritual beliefs; this is also much more different than the war against communist beliefs; because the latter is closely attached to material interests of a group of people in which it was possible to support classes of people who were opposed to the communist ideology and were also so devout to fight for their class interests. However, the war against spiritual faith alienates such militants from material interests and motivates them to fight up to death. However much the latest technology is applied, weapons of war could not be comparable to spiritual force; this has been proven through the long years of war in Afghanistan for example. Although the US was able to get support from the government of Pakistan, the support could not become reliable since the majority of the Muslim society in that part of the World preferred to support Islamic figures like the Taliban by considering the US involvement there as a foreign intervention and even as "infidel". The comparison is not apples with apples. It would be more appropriate to refute a set of beliefs with more advanced or acceptable set of beliefs. Showing manifestations of democracy that is supported by a large group of people to deter a set of inhuman practices is rather more useful than waging battles manipulated by dictators where people are forced to fight and the masses become victims any way. The application of the wrong tactics ironically played an important pretext to unify different people who were even opposed to one another under their common faith for Jihad not only against the US aggression but also against Western democratic ideals. Many wars that sparked or intensified due to wrong policy issues have been direct and indirect causes of massacres and other forms of deaths of millions of people, for escalation of hostilities among neighboring social groups, and for the ever rising number of refugees in the world.

As one of the arch founders of the United Nations Organization and its role as a leading nation in the world, the USA was expected to be proponent of democracy and human rights. However, this trust has been eroded in recent decades due to its wrong foreign policy; while it could enforce the World Organization to implement its democratic ideals, the US administration has rather contributed to powerlessness of the UN that made this world organization a symbolical body.

The preamble of the charter of the UN states:-

  • To save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and
  • To reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and
  • To establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
  • To promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.

However, since the US could not primarily use the UN charter to enforce human rights and democratic values through diplomatic and other peaceful means, it rather used its veto power to counter its historical contenders -- specially the Soviet Union and Red China.; its conventional war against Islamic extremists has intensified terrorism. Hence, its diplomatic image has deteriorated from time to time. Now the US is observed as a hegemonic nation that creates different pretexts to aggressively meet its national interests. It has lost its credibility and integrity among African, Asian and Latin American intellectuals and the middle and below middle class of developed countries. While it has the power and means of enforcing human rights especially through the United Nations, on the contrary, it had been supporting tyrants like Augusto Pinochet of Chile, Pol Pot of Cambodia, the Shah of Iran, Mobutu Se Se Seiko of Congo, Meles Zenawi and the Weyane/EPRDF ruling aristocracy in Ethiopia, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Pervez Mushararraf of Pakistan, etc. Business relations with these countries and over all benefits in terms of national interest are not significant compared to the diplomatic losses.

The stark US interference in the political affairs of these countries was to prevent the influence and expansion of communism. However, expansion of communism could not be halted as expected since the ideology attracted economically deprived people all over the world; because, there was no basic solution to the ever increasing difference between the poor and the rich in the world. Socialist revolutions would have continued if the system did not implode from within the leading communist country -- former Soviet Union that resulted in the disintegration of the latter and independence of 15 former republics. On the other side, the US support to undemocratic or tyrannical regimes could not clean hands of this nation as it remained in the support of the dictators that practiced rules of repression on their peoples through corruption. So, since the resultant effect has spoiled the image of the nation in the eyes of the large masses of peoples in such countries, the future foreign relations has lost its basis.

The failures in Iraq, and Afghanistan have emboldened newer terrorists like Al Shahab, Boko Haram, and ISIS that are disturbing the life of the people in violation of basic human rights in Africa, and the Middle East especially in Iraq and Syria.

The civilized Western World led by the USA could not solve the root cause of the problem – the issue of Palestine and its consequence that emboldened religious radicals to form Islamic fanaticism. As long as this issue is not resolved, Muslim radicals have a reason to radicalize young people who would be ready to die for what they are radicalized. We know that they are brainwashed; however, circumstances that this great nation could not control keep on motivating the extremists to radicalize newer militants and that is why terrorism is spreading in different forms. Extremists used Islam as a shield to get support of masses of believers. Hence, these countries eventually formed Islamic states that infringed the rights of non-Islamic believers and caused forced emigration and even persecution of many Christian communities that used to live in Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, and Egypt for example. This negative influence was intensified to  Africa especially to Nigeria, Mali, and Somalia. When the first terrorism was observed in the Middle East in the 1960’s and 1970’s, the whole world knew that the cause was much related to issue of Palestine. And if the conflict between Palestine and Israel had been resolved  according the UN resolution # 242 of November 1967, terrorism could have been nipped in the bud since there could have been no reason to motivate Islamic religious militants to make war a means of achieving freedom. The US war on Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya has exacerbated the situations; because, Islamic radicals can easily convince local people that any US led war in the Arab world is a foreign aggression and a war against their faith. So, the US administration should have rather taken the leading role to resolve one of the root problems – the Israeli-Palestine issue once and for all so that radicals will not have any reason to recruit naïve young people to die and spoil peace in the World.  That could have developed the US credibility in the eyes of the Islamic world.  Hence, US intervention in other countries needs to be diverted to helping formation of stable governments through bench mark constitutional rights of the people and mandatory practice of basic human rights and mandatory democratic election of leaderships and the right of the people to call back corrupt leaders.  We do not want this great nation to keep watching its bad image developing in the eyes of people of the world.

Due to the wrong foreign policy, the nation has not only lost its image in the world; it has been forced to face different war fronts that sprouted from the wrong policy especially against terrorism; these have also negatively impacted the economic advantage of the nation. The balance of deficit is a reflection of the accumulated effect of the wrong foreign policy. The long term national interest of the nation is being more unreliable and deem.

The US had and gruesome history of promoting its national interests through corrupt regimes. Although corrupt leaders seem be powerful to meet some interests of the USA, they cannot be reliable since their popularity does not last long. Since corrupt leaders do not have popular basis and are shaky due to civil unrests, the US administration has spent billions of tax payers' dollars to protect such leaders from falling. This stance has brought about no significant advantages but time and again exposed the USA and isolated it from the bulk of the people of many countries that had the lust for democracy and justice. It ignored gross violation of human rights of the people that are under oppressive dictators like in Ethiopia in which the US considers them “friendly”, and existence of absolute tyranny conducted by a handful of these tyrants camouflaged by their pretentious “anti-terrorism role”. The US administration supported such dictators financially and diplomatically while the regimes blatantly violated peoples’ democratic and human rights. The US administration has ignored repeated genocide conducted by the ruling EPRDF/Weyane regime in Ethiopia. It has been funding this regime that brutally murders political opponents, jails journalists and runs a state of corruption. In Ethiopia, sham and farce elections have turned Weyane into a dynasty that ruled racial apartheid system for a quarter of a century so far with no guaranteed system and commitment to share power with other political opponents in the future too.

The USA could support democratic factions which could be backed by the masses of peoples. The formation of democratic state leadership could have a better basis to last long and hence could have advanced the image of this nation instead of its support to dictators that do not have a basis to survive internal strife and different crisis that is rampant especially in underdeveloped countries since economic problems keep on being the main cause of turmoil among the people. The US foreign relation with corrupt leaderships cannot be reliable. The USA could have a reliable long lasting foreign relation with many African, Asian, Latin American and other countries around the World if it consistently supports democratic elements to build stable governments based on the will of the people. And since such support is justifiable by the bulk of the great masses of the people, its relation with such countries can transition from one regime to the next one smoothly and stay decently for a long time.

Fighting back the belief through ideology could have helped promote democracy in the Arab World. However, since such an endeavor has been almost none-existent, uncontrolled civil unrests in underdeveloped countries have often empowered newer dictators that established ironically corrupt regimes under the cover of communism or socialism that empowered a few groups over hapless peoples. The best recent example is the Arab Spring that resulted in empowering Islamic extremists and overthrowing secular governments. Since assistance to rebel groups did not have any control as to where they are heading, these countries eventually inclined to forming Islamic states that infringed the rights of non-Islamic believers and even caused forced emigration of many Christian communities that used to live in Iraq, Pakistan , Syria , and Egypt for example. This negative influence has intensified to North Africa and recently to West Africa as has been observed in Nigeria and Mali. So, assistance to such insurgents without a condition that guarantees a secular state formation is tantamount to assisting a burgeoning violation of human rights.

While assistance needs to be in a proper condition that does not constrain or hinder promotion of democracy, on the other hand, in order to promote or protect US national interests, using dictatorial regimes that rule their people under tyranny has put this great nation at the edge of the world and lose its credibility in the eyes of the huge people of many developing nations and the administration needs to concentrate on rebuilding the nation’s lost image rather than on campaign politics. USA can take advantage of the United Nations Organization and its agencies to legally promote democratic values in many countries of the World. This includes promoting the UN role from remaining a simple condemner to a body that can enforce human rights. The following are some of the important focal points for implementation of human rights:

  • Democratic election of state and government leaders to serve a limited term with a limited maximum length of time
  • Implementation of universal suffrage
  • The right of all citizens including minorities to be represented in a state through elected representatives
  • Exercise of the rule of law and independence of the judicial body from the executive part of the state.
  • Basic human rights to freedom of press and expression of conscience, the right to express oneself through speech, any form of literature, or the use of art without discrimination,
  • The right to organize in professional, labor association, or any peaceful social or political organization.
  • The right and equal opportunity to use the internet, news, email and other world web communication media.
  • Individual Religious freedom in contrast to discrimination by anybody including the majority on citizens or communities and minority nationalities or refugees. 
  • Formation of secular states – alienation of state from any religious affairs.
  • Freedom of women in all forms from marriage including the right to bear a child, work, and equality with men in all spheres of social life.
  • Freedom of education, the right to basic education for all citizens and indiscriminate opportunity to all citizens, gender, age, race or minority status.
  • The right to healthy environment and fair endeavor of any state to keep the safety of its citizens.
  • Equal opportunity and fair use of natural resources of a nation by its citizens.
  • The right of a child to have a guardian until the age of 18.

Among the above, one of the determinant issues is the formation of secularism. Stipulation of the state to favor only a certain religion, say Islam in certain Arab countries, legally violates individual faith followers or atheists. While the right to faith is an individual affair, state controlled religious faith violates the UN Charter of human right to individual faith and conscience;  It restricts mobility of people making an individual subservient of a state, and suppresses minority rights by forcing people to be dominated by religion of the state where worshipers of other faith could be maltreated, as happened to Ethiopian Christians who were beaten and tortured for singing Christian songs and making a religious gathering in Saudi Arabia in 2015. Therefore advocates of democratic and human rights are expected to persuade the UN to implement secular state constitutions so that states would not promulgate laws that impede human rights.

So to sterilize basic terrorist threats, I think that the UN should work out a means that can obligate member countries to revise their laws related to secularism and basic human rights that includes the right to personal faith in accordance to the charters of the UN and implement them. The UN could pass strict guidelines so that member countries respect democracy. Once it creates suitable conditions for democracy to reign in member countries, it can reach out billions of genuine democratic and justice loving peoples throughout the World through democratically elected leaderships. Then the UN does not have to intervene in local conflicts by sending troops; but needs to keep on re-enforcing the legislative and judiciary branches of states that make the executive branches subservient to the two in an atmosphere where rule of law replaces tyranny and dictatorship. This is very possible since no states formed on the will of the people want to accept any type of ideology that is formally opposed to democratic values. However, it needs the will and dedication of policy makers and statesmen to genuinely stand for true human rights and democracy.

 

Current developments indicate that President Trump's administration is going to fall into the same wrong pit as it is beating a drum of war on North Korea. North Korean missile tests and nuclear power enrichment that was going on since 1980's  has been observed as a threat to the US interests and its allies, especially South Korea. However, beating a drum of war might make the N Korean regime even more frantic and aggressive. If the USA attacks North Korea, Russia and its allies will not be indifferent. So, that means America can slip into another great war front while it did not finish the war against terrorism. Instead of maintaining Russia as an ally against terrorism, a war against North Korea can persuade Russia to revise its alignment. And adding more enemies to this nation can worsen the bad situation. War does not only end up in human casualties and material loss. It can kill the nation's reputations and long term strategies. So, the Trump administration should learn from history and try to carefully choose its direction.   

Managing Burning Issues of Foreign Relations.

Part of the World is on fire; and the smoke is polluting us. Human rights are being violated flagrantly. People are being openly and blatantly killed en masse in the eyes of the World due to their personal beliefs to meet interests of different types of dictators. Dictators in many parts of the world have denied peoples democracy and justice for wrongly being branded as allies that meet national interests of the USA. On the other hand, the leading Western Nation is branded as an enemy of Islam the consequences of which made Christians to be targeted. And the biggest problem is that America is reacting by trying to extinguish blazing fires here and there by using weapons in conventional methods instead of eliminating the root cause of the fires and rather creating uncontrollable situations.

The US Administration should have learnt much after Afghanistan and Iraq wars and developments following that. When terrorism was at a very low breeding level in the Middle East, the USA took some corrective actions – it curbed production of weapons of mass destruction in Sudan decades ago; it had taught the Libyan leadership under Muammar Gadhafi from overacting against Western values and interests manifested by the downing of the Pan-Am Lockerbie Aircraft killing 270 people on board in 1988. The step that the US took on Iraq’s attempt to annex Kuwait in 1990 was commendable. However, besides the burgeoning terrorist activities in the world, the US embassy bombing that took place in Kenya in 1998, suicide attack against the United States Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG-67) on 12 October 2000, the Sept. 11, 2001 attack by al-Qaeda on the US soil, the Sept.12,  2012 Islamic militants attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, and so many terrorist activities took place in America and elsewhere in the world. And  the US is still trying to control it with direct wars while newer radicals of terrorism are breeding with newer tactics spontaneously and gradually taking similar patterns against Western values, human rights and even against human progress.

It seems that the US policy framers think that terrorists will be defeated by fighting them with modern weapons. Sending combat forces to a foreign country has put the USA in the spotlight where Islamic radicals took advantage of that to rally their supporters. This did not help the nation win the war on terrorism. However, amenable and prudent foreign policy could save billions of dollars of unnecessary military expense every year. Instead of fighting in stark battles on the ground, giving support to parties that detest terrorism for example and promoting an ideology that is opposed to war oriented religious beliefs could prevent the creation (germination) of terrorist militants from such "enshrined" belief.  The war against terrorism is a war against spiritual beliefs that alienates such militants from material interests and motivating them to fight up to death and hence weapons of war could not be comparable to spiritual force. Fighting back the belief through ideology could have helped promote democracy in the Arab World. However, since such an endeavor has been almost none-existent, uncontrolled civil unrests in underdeveloped countries have often empowered newer dictators that kept on establishing newer corrupt regimes as stated above.

While the executive, legislative, and judiciary branches of government are well-balanced in the USA, presidents that use their executive power can make decisions that end up with multiple and rippling repercussions that the rest of the government branches find difficult to correct in many years.  Hence some presidents could not see the long-term effects of American relations especially with undemocratic regimes of many third world countries. These mistakes are eroding the trust of the overwhelming majority of people in these countries that are dominated by their own dictators. Such decisions apparently ignored and continue to ignore objective realities in such countries. The corrupt leaders do not have popular basis and are shaky due to civil unrest while the US administration has spent billions of tax payer’s dollars to protect such leaders from falling. For example, after Taliban dictators were eradicated in Afghanistan, the administration under President George W. Bush, could not protect the governments from being shaky and unable to rule; that situation in turn opened new visas to insurgencies that are mostly dominated by Islamic radicals, where all factions fought each other in the name of “Allah”. The endorsement of the Under Secretary of the State for Political Affairs, Windy R. Sherman's official statement that supported the 2015 sham election in Ethiopia where the state leadership advanced religious and ethnic divide-and-rule policy on the people, the reaction of the USA manifested negligence of the repression going on in that country. This stance has brought about no significant advantages but time and again exposed the USA and isolated it from the bulk of the people of many countries that are yearning for democracy and justice. Hence, the US foreign relation with corrupt leaderships could not be reliable. The peoples of these countries have lost faith not only on their leaders but on the Western countries that they expect to promote democracy and human rights. And since there is no basis for a stable government in such countries, as long as basic human problems are buried and remain dormant, there is always a possibility of civil strife that can explode any time and in unforeseeable situations. 

 

The USA is playing old games with physical weapons only to quell defiant or dissent forces like in terrorism while it could meet its mission through a more prudent and acceptable way – by supporting democratic organizations of the people of many countries of the world with less cost that can pay more in the long run.  Therefore, amenable and prudent foreign policy could save billions of dollars of unnecessary military expense every year. While assistance needs to be in a proper condition to promote democracy, on the other hand, in order to promote its national interests, the USA needs to build its lost image. It should divert its strategy from putting out fire here and there to eliminating the root of the problem – application of systematic means of controlling the fire from being created in the first place.

Everybody can see that there is a strong hand on the United Nations Organization if this world organization is given the opportunity to grow sharp teeth, especially on the idea of “Islamic State” which is a very dangerous scheme of creation of hegemony in the guise of religion. Leaving this issue as an internal issue of a country is blatant blunder that needs attention necessitating a turning point in the strategy of the World Body. The US can take advantage of the United Nations Organization and its agencies to legally promote democratic values in many countries of the World that includes promoting the UN role from remaining a simple condemner to a body that can enforce human rights. The UN does need to send troops to control the effectiveness of the rule of law. It should have more power to deny legitimacy of leaderships that violate its rules. Allowing dictators to violate human rights of their own people does not stop on the oppression of those peoples’ source of evil to the rest of the World. It has become a source of breeding brainwashed and blindfolded militants led by Islamic radicals that live on violation of human rights. Allowing formation of Islamic states will legitimize them to open more schools of radicalization that produce more younger brainwashed people to serve dictators by dying for mythical ends and destroying law and order, peace, and violating human rights.  It is high time that the World Body act to stop this trend. It has to nip it in the bud. We cannot wait until the whole World is going to be infested with this evil development.

The USA has all possible legal means to rally the democratic and legal world to legally stop the fertility of this threat of hegemony from its womb. That is by helping the UN to amend or improve its human rights articles. The UN charter itself should be updated in conformity with this new current tissue of terrorism, the biggest issue being the concept of “secular state”.  A separate article on secularism must be added on the charter of the UN. While the right to faith is an individual affair, state controlled religious faith violates the human right to individual faith. The UN can force all member nations to reform their constitutions to include secularism in their national laws. Making secularism a binding law will help curb internal religious conflicts and promote freedom of belief, freedom of conscience and democratic values, and hence stable governments. It is with stable governments that the US and other developed nations can create reliable foreign relations. So, a change in this can open a great way to peace and development.

The UN should also persuade member nations to give more authority to the people in enforcing freedom of conscience, freedom of the press so that all men of all walks of life can enjoy inalienable rights to express their ideas freely, the right to organize in professional, labor association, or any peaceful social or political organization, the right and equal opportunity to use the internet, news, email and other world web communication, religious freedom including foreign communities and minority nationalities, freedom of women in all forms from marriage to the right to bear a child, the right of a child to have a guardian until the age of 18, the right of women to work with equal opportunity with men, and equality in all spheres of their social life, freedom of education, the right to basic education for all citizens and indiscriminate opportunity to all citizens, gender, age, race or minorities, the right to healthy environment and fair endeavor to keep the safety of its citizens, equal opportunity and fair use of  natural resources of a nation by its citizens.

The third important issue is  to persuade all member nations to make a binding law of legislative, judiciary, and executive branches of government and mandatory and periodic elections of state leaders to take place where UN representatives observe and authenticate the legality of procedures and their proper implementations.

If the UN succeeds in making this reform, it will make Islamic states illegitimate. After making them illegitimate, actions against them would be legitimate and this can encourage its own people to reject formation of Islamic states. It follows that legal protection of the people by the UN will encourage friendly relationship of peoples with each other without religious, racial and other discrimination. When people see these values being exercised around their neighbors that is how America can become the champion of human rights, democracy, and justice. That is what saves the image of this great nation. This genuine way to prosperity blesses the USA.

So, the US administration is supposed to thoroughly see into it if national interests of the nation can be fulfilled while human rights, democracy, justice, and peace are not truthfully implemented in the world, especially in developing countries that directly or indirectly fall under the Western influence.

The writer can be reached at ethiopiakiberi@gmail.com


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