Monday, March 25, 2013

I Got My Freedom, Bugger Off!

We claim to believe in ideals that transcend nations.  Freedom, equality, liberty, kindness, and cleanliness are values we hold dear. 

There are many details that divide us.  The proper role of government, the degree to which freedom should be allowed, and the amount of kindness our relationships require are all values up for debate.

The core values remain.  We speak of them with pride.  We claim to be willing to defend them with our actions and even our lives.

Ideals Un-extended

Yet, we exclude those who are not in our nation states from these very values.  We do not act as if we believe that all humans, in all places deserve these ideals. 

Where are our values here?
When a crazed shooter kills our children in a school we react with shock and horror.  When our drones kill as many children in a foreign land we look the other way.

We hold elections and expect them to be fair and open.  When those in other lands elections are corrupted and the will of the people there subverted we look the other way.

Before the United States was attacked at Pearl Harbor, millions died around the world in a struggle against tyranny.  Most of us thought we should not get involved in their conflict and passed Neutrality Acts believing that isolationism was good for us.  Largely Republican, conservatives claimed we should take care of our own and let the others die or live of their own doing.  As late as March of 1941, we made illegal the selling of arms to the British.

What obligation do we have here?
Over a billion human beings live in poverty and destitution around the world.  Lacking food, water, sanitation, clothing, shelter and education, they have no chance at obtaining the freedoms we find so precious.  The modern industrial democracies do little to aid them unless ‘national interests’ are threatened.

The evidence is clear, we at best pay lip-service for extending our ideals beyond our own national borders. Not just the United States, but virtually all modern nation states.  The world of the haves looks away from the have-nots.  

That others do not have freedom, equality, liberty, kindness and cleanliness is not our problem. Our deeds tell the world "I got my freedom. Bugger off."

Spare No Cost

In our ‘War on Terror’ we have invaded other countries, sent out assassination squads, tortured human beings and engaged in other inhumane acts in order to defend our freedoms.  As George W. Bush said in his 2002 State of the Union address, “We are a country awakened to danger and called to defend freedom.” He continued “They hate our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.

We have succeeded in defeating al Qaeda.  No repeat attacks have occurred on our soil.  The mafia like organization that attacked us essentially exists no more.  

Our tactics and methods have taken over 10 years and cost over a $1,400,000,000,000 ($1.4 trillion) dollars to achieve this end.  We have spared no cost in finding and stopping the people who brutally killed a few thousand citizens.

Of course we should have found and brought those who did such heinous acts to justice.  That is clearly a necessary course of action.  

Safety and justice require we find and hold accountable those who commit acts of great evil.  Often evil acts are required in order to overcome other, greater evils.

In the same time frame, we have spent less than $150,000,000,000 ($150 billion) on all our foreign aid, military and economic, to all other needs in the world.  If you subtract the economic aid to Afghanistan and Iraq where the damage of war and nation building are occurring based on our War on Terror, only $112,000,000,000 ($112 billion) was spent.


Suggesting that we only invest in our own security flies in the face of our stated ideals.  We become more secure as other nations prosper.  Spreading our ideals is the best defense against aggression. 

Seeking what we have
If Latin America had more freedom, less corruption, more liberty, and the other things we cherish, we would not have an immigration problem.  Only because there is such a huge imbalance in the values we hold so precious is the United States worth moving to illegally. 

The United States is not the only country that has an immigration problem.  Europe and other developed nations also experience this migration rush from lands where freedoms are not allowed to lands where they are precious.

Many are advocating that we cannot afford to help others now.  Claiming we are borrowing on our future, they wish to cut what little aid we do provide.  This is a short sighted view of our own best interest. 

By not engaging in spreading our values to the world we risk our future more.  The consequences of not making investments that spread our values are dire.  Without our assistance less free cultures will allow things we do not want to thrive and grow.  Hate, lack of opportunity, dependence, and restrictions flourish in places where we do not engage.

Afghanistan is an example where lack of engagement led to disaster. After the Soviet Union withdrew, the land spiraled into lawlessness.  The freedoms we love disappeared.  A drug trade prospered.  Warlords and corrupt men ruled the land.  Our lack of involvement led to calamitous results for the United States.  Had we kept trying to spread our values in a peaceful manner we may have avoided all the evils that came about.  
The cost of doing nothing is always higher than the cost of spreading our values.

Putting our Money Where Our Mouth Is

If we truly believe in our freedoms and ideals, we should be helping the rest of humanity to achieve them.

There are many non-violent means of spreading our values.  Teaching people to read, job skills, and hygiene seem great places to start.  Helping to build infrastructure like roads, wells, and power stations seems positive also.

As we debate where to cut spending in this time of economic contraction, spreading our values is one place we cannot cut.

The developed nations of the planet have a moral obligation to do more.  It is not sufficient to think we are safe because we have these values.

To turn away is hypocritical.  To suggest that only the wealthy deserve freedom, equality, liberty, kindness, and cleanliness is to live a lie.  

It is in our own best interest to help lift all humans into those things we claim to hold dear.

Note: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights might be a good place to start.  It was adopted by the United Nations in 1948 as a result of the world's experiences from the Second World War.  

1 comment:

  1. Maybe we could do less instead of more;
    More often than not the dismal conditions that exist elsewhere in the world are a direct result of exploitation, interference, or foreign policy failures, (including the 'tyrannies' of the 1930's)
    Well meant attempts to impose our values on other people just exchange one set of problems for another.