Posted tagged ‘mexico city policy’

Repositioning American Foreign Policy

January 24, 2017

President Trump’s inaugural address has been characterized as “dark” and “unprecedented”. Thankfully it was short and certainly was devoid of much flowery language. One might think Trump’s purpose was not to build inclusiveness, in fact.

Could his purpose have been to simply stir the pot, put everyone on notice, and see who flinches?

Let’s begin with the State and Defense Departments. The following words taken from the inaugural text captures his intent to “reposition” American foreign policy.

We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world — but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.

We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow.

Most recent Administrations have explicitly advocated America’s role in championing  “the spread of American-style democracy” including emphasis on human rights, calling out nations whom our State Department dubs as bad actors. Sanctions, isolation, and even military intervention have followed. Remember nation building in Afghanistan and regime change, followed by nation building in Iraq? One could justly claim these initiatives were intended to advance democracy and improve human rights.  After these costly ventures, our eyes find a huge waste of money as well as a dismal failure versus our stated objective.

Putting the scarcity of success aside, each of these previous Administrations has also failed to hold a mirror up and examine just what type of democracy and human rights examples the US projected. For example, the US incarcerates more of its citizens than any other modern country. The US’ use of capital punishment places the country in the company of third world countries. Don’t overlook the convenient use of torture in the aftermath of 9/11. And, healthcare outcomes for African Americans and poor citizens are sharply inferior to whites and wealthy Americans.

So repositioning US foreign policy is not a meritless proposal. The US is not a flawless model and our track record of intervention is abysmal.

Repositioning will not be a walk in the park. The world without some form of American leadership could by default nominate other far less worthy nations into leadership. While wars seem to be part of the human condition, it has been almost 75 years since world wars have been the foreign policy choice of relationship. Repositioning may be akin to putting a stick down once someone has stuck the stick into a bees nest.  Dramatic repositioning may  be very difficult.

The Trump Administration might also recognize the irony that on Friday, President Trump gave his inaugeral speech and on Monday, as one of his first official acts, the President signed an executive order that reimposes a ban on the use of US funds in any country where the funding might be used to inform those countries’ residents about abortions.

Where did “We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone” suddenly go?

Mexico City Policy

January 24, 2009

When Jimmy Carter ran around the world crying out about “human rights” and that the subject country was something akin to being a “sinner” if it did not meet Carter’s standard, I scratched my head and wondered what he thought gave him this right to criticize others, and why he did not think that American foreign policy would flounder.  The question is not whether his observations were correct, it was more what do you do about them.

Carter soon developed a reputation, while noble on one hand, he was viewed more like a naive figure.  In short order he was marginalized (Iran hostage crisis sure helped).  Then came Ronald Reagan and the Mexico City Policy.  A more misplaced policy is hard to imagine.

The Reagan Administration decreed that US foreign aid would be premised upon a country not supporting abortion of any kind.  In cities like Mexico City where the population was exploding without the means to support, this policy was hugely anti-productive.  Never the less, that became the law (policy) of land and America’s hypocrisy  flourished.  

Family planning has been demonstrated countless times as the key element in lifting a people from the jaws of poverty.  There are many ways that family planning can be accomplished and abortion is one technique that is often necessary in emergencies.  Abortion is not a primary tool in population control.  It is, however, a critical alternative in reducing human suffering, and is a component of any comprehensive family planning program. 

The Reaganites introduced the Mexico City Policy to the cheers of right wing, evangelicals and fundamentalists (including conservative Catholics).  They knew this was “God’s will”.  It is simply so surprising that their God preferred poverty (and countless deaths due to hunger and violence) to a very small number of abortions.

Yesterday, President Obama withdrew the Mexico City Policy and like President Clinton, put America back on a sensible course.  If one can not see that the greatest problem in the world is the great divide between the rich and the very poor, one must not be looking.  There is no credible way for America to enter any dialog about eliminating poverty or advocating for sounder and fairer governments while simultaneously holding aloft the Mexico City Policy.  Again, President Obama has seen what is right from what does not work.