Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Good Stuff Is Always in Small Print

I was going to write a nice lengthy post about the role of the citizen (neatly summarized in Starship Troopers as "someone who makes the safety of the nation his personal responsibility") but I got into this long debate-ish thing on American foreign policy. You can read the whole thing here, but I've instead put the best bits below:

From the IUSB Vision, a campus publication where I am Graphics Editor

Bret Matrix wrote, in opposition to a Democratically-supportive Ryan Hill:

Democrats, on a daily basis, attack our troops at Gitmo for “torturing” detainees. They fight every attempt to interrogate terrorists and have freely given them rights that U.S. citizens have.
How often did they scream bloody murder about the Abu Grahib prison situation.

And I commented,

First of all, they aren’t terrorists unless you prove it first via a legal process that determines innocence or guilt. Secondly, well, it’s torture. Three issues come to mind at this point -

1. The concept of innocent until proven guilty
2. The idea that ‘all men are created equal’
3. The issue of ‘cruel and unsual treatment’

The second arguably covers the rest - to be blunt, are all men (and women!) created equal… or only American citizens?
How the United States - both from its government as well as from individual citizens such as Bret - deal with these topics, is in very real terms the foreign policy that will meet the rest of the world.

Rachel Custer replied to my comment, saying,

Some very good points from a fresh perspective. I do have something I wonder about though. While I do understand your point about the possible hypocrisy of “all men are created equal” when discussing torture, it is difficult for me to understand how some countries in other parts of the world can despise America so much for these tactics (which I fully understand) and yet not seem to be very upset by the tactics practiced by other foreign powers who are much more brutal than the U.S., such as North Korea or Iran (which I don’t understand). Is it only because we are the most powerful nation in the world that we receive so much scrutiny?

And I replied,

It’s not just that the United States is the most powerful nation in the world - though that is part of it, since that makes nations like Iran seem like abullied underdog rather than a fundamentalist, extremist nation.

Two real issues are evident to me: first, most of the Americans people in developing nations know are millionaire CEOs; foreigners who come to our country and become our bosses. Perceptions - and expectations - are built on our personal encounters. When you compare Iran to CIA secret prisons, it’s like the stock market - you can do badly even though your revenues are up, but if it’s still below market expectations. There is also the concept of economic colonization (not my terminology) that local culture and businesses are taken away by giants like MacDonald’s.

Second, is that, frankly, with the singling out of Islamic nations, instead of necessarily terrorist nations (read: foreign policy of Afghanistan and Iraq versus North Korea), we feel that we might be next - not from confirmation but from association. So the logical thing to do is to support the other underdogs while they’re still there rather than risk being the only underdog left.

And there is of course the religious aspect - with the pull of Islamic fundamentalism stronger with more coal into the fire, making life difficult for religious moderates. In the end, the moderates have to show that they are religious too, and speaking out for Iran - whether right or wrong - is actually a better option than letting our democratic nations become Islamic states with syariah and hudud laws.

It’s a strange thing - that one would support Iran to better oppose domestic Islamic extremism. The scene is chaotic, the contributing elements various, and one where perception plays a very big role over the reality of situations.

In no way should we condone torture anywhere, but it would help if US foreign policy allowed a person like me to go back home and critize someone, saying “Hey, you know in Iran, they…” without the immediate comeback, “Yeah, well - Abu Ghraib”.

A situation I’ve been in, more than once.

1 comment:

stev said...

interesting flow of words and thoughts there
(thats a veryyy long reply tho)

torture. patriot act. sometimes the choice of words play too much of an influence rather than actual substance?