Stand Up Straight-49-50

Stand Up Straight                                Robert Creamer         Dec 2009
          Pretitle:  Listen to your Mother      Subtitle:  How Progressives Can Win

C. 49 The Challenges We Face: Acts by Hostile Note Neighbors -- The Impact of Inter-Group Violence and Breakdown of Security  Hostile acts by neighbors can lead to catastrophic collapse. History abounds with examples -- often compounded by other factors. Two commonly used examples while the collapse of the Roman empire and collapses of many Native American societies. Our traditional views of conflict between nations and international violence of all types are being qualitatively changed by two of the factors we've already discussed: The Explosion of Military Technology  Technology builds upon itself -- it is an autocatalytic process, and it does not expand gradually but exponentially. The major threats of today are nuclear weapons and weapon eyes biological agents. Of the two, the one that is the most scary at present is bioengineering and the new science of synthetic biology.

Increases in World Population and Per Capita Impact on Natural Resources -- Scarcity and Conflict
 The exponential increase in total human impact on the world's natural resources could greatly increase competition for scarce resources. Some examples are:
Rose-Colored Glasses   Fundamentalist conservatives, including groups called the neocons, believe that human beings are innately bad, but that the use of punishment and force as methods of social control can protect us from our own inherent evil. Progressives believe that human beings are fundamentally good, but can perpetrate unspeakable terror -- especially if those actions are sanctioned by peer approval. In the book, Cobra II, Michael R. Gordon and General Bernard E. Trainer offer this ugly comment from a senior officer in Baghdad, "The only thing the sand niggers understand is force. And I'm about to introduce them to it." Neocons often accuse the Progressives as wearing "rose-colored glasses" because we don't want to begin negotiations with force.

The Failure of Neoconservative Foreign and Military Policy  Far from making either the United States or the world safer, neocon foreign and military policies positively endanger our security and that of future generations. The "strict father" fundamentalist conservative values upon which they are based simply don't work to produce the advertised goal of safety and security. He reviews the ideas of George Lakoff to demonstrate how this foreign policy comes directly from the "strict father" metaphor. The underlying facts are that positive reinforcement shapes behavior in the direction intended, where negative reinforcement, "punishment", tends to suppress a particular behavior but this results in some other behavior that one has no idea what it may be.

The Iraqi Civil War
  The main lesson learned by the groups in Iraq was that war and violence changes things. Many different groups decided that they would change things using the same techniques. This is typically the case in country after country.

Lessons We Learned from Neocon Rule 
  1. War is not just another "tool" of foreign policy. War can spiral out of control. Avoiding war must be one of the key goals of American foreign policy in the 21st century.
  2. If you have them by the "balls," their hearts and minds do not necessarily follow.
  3. Neocon policy jeopardizes the fundamental interests of the United States.
The Bush foreign policy could have been scripted by Osama bin Laden>

The Next Potential Neocon Disaster -- Iran  In the spring of 2006, the author joined his wife and a number of other Democratic members of Congress for dinner with a group of Iran policy scholars and former CIA officials. They believe that the neocons were planning a military attack on Iran and urged members of Congress to consider two key points: The Problem of Proliferating WMD The spread of all forms of weapons of mass destruction -- especially new nuclear weapon technology -- is a massive problem.  A status quo where some states have nuclear weapons and others do not is unsustainable and unstable over the long run.  The neocons have no inkling that this might be true.  How can the US demand nuclear abstention by other nations while it is planning another nuclear orgy of its own?

Jihadism And American Foreign Policy  Writing in The New Yorker, George Packer says:

Jihadism poses two very different threats to the United States: the danger of catastrophic attack inside the country by a handful of dedicated individuals, and a much broader power to catalyze ideological extremism among vast numbers of people. The Bush administration has waged the war by playing on the fear of the first at home, while failing to address the second abroad, and thereby intensifying it. In the near future, radical Islamism is a greater threat to Moslems and other citizens of foreign countries than to Americans.

The challenge of Jihadism must be approached in three ways:
  1. A rigorous defense against terrorist attack -- including beefed up port security and security for chemical plants and other vulnerable commercial institutions.
  2. We must offer a compelling progressive vision of the world that can compete with fundamentalist fanaticism.
  3. We must create trade and investment and aid policies that truly foster economic growth in the developing world.
Failure to Address the Security Crisis Caused by Third World Poverty  Neocons have failed not only because of what they have done, but also because of what they have failed to do: long-term investment in the development of impoverished Third World societies. Worldwide communications delivers daily images of first world lifestyles to viewers and listeners in slums and villages in every corner of the planet. The gulf that lies between their aspirations and the reality of their daily lives is our most dangerous security risk. He chooses Haiti for his examples because of personal connections and because Haiti is the poorest country in our hemisphere.

Haiti  A brief political history of Haiti.  Haiti was founded 200 years ago as a result of a slave rebellion against French colonial rule.  The US has traditionally backed the small elite that has dominated the island's economy and policies.  In 1990, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a progressive priest and hero to the country's poor, was elected president by 70% of the vote.  Since then the Neocons have been busy attacking him, with some success

Leave Now or Die The author's wife, Jan (a congresswoman from Illinois), became good friends with Aristide and especially his wife, Mildred.  One evening as Jan was talking to Mildred on the telephone, the author saw a news report on television that Aristide was planning to leave the country and go into exile and that the US was "facilitating" the transition.  He walked into the kitchen, told his wife and found that Mildred had no idea of any problem.  Later on that evening the Aristide's were wakened by US troops and told that there was an aircraft awaiting which would transport them out of the country if they left immediately.  Presumably a group of soldiers were attacking the palace and were planning on killing them.

Structural Violence  Structural Violence is the two bit word that describes the relationship between power and social conditions which determine which the people will survive and prosper and those who will suffer abuse and poverty.

Acephie's Story Forced into prostitution, she contacts AIDS and it dies of it after transmitting it to her young daughter.  

The Effects of Structured Violence  .

AIDS, malaria, diarrhea, tuberculosis are all treatable. Many are preventable. Fundamentalist conservatives reallocate resources that could treat these diseases to the very rich. The author discusses articles 25 and 27 of the Universe Declaration of Human Rights of the UN.  Briefly these say that everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family and to the right to share in scientific advancement and and its benefits. These statements are the reflection of the community commitment to progressive values by the world community.  They are the antithesis of fundamentalist conservative Republican values.

Progressive Values and Security  The Bush years provided a stark demonstration that the "tough" macho bluster of fundamentalist conservative values does not provide us with more security, it provides us with less.
  1. Neoconservative conservative policy ignores the core progressive value of empathy. This represents a moral failure. But it also prevents neoconservative policymakers from correctly predicting the consequences of their own actions.
  2. The fundamentalist conservative failure to acknowledge that complex causation has moral consequences makes it impossible to address the problems of the modern world.
  3. The failure of fundamentalist conservative values to take a long-term view is heavily related to to its rejection of moral importance of complex causation.  Their values result in action intended to "win the battle," but end up losing the war. It obliterates our moral authority to stand for human rights everywhere else in the world.
  4. The "Exceptionalism" that flows from fundamentalist conservative "moral law" values is dysfunctional in the modern integrated world.  Politically, this fundamentalist conservative mix of exceptionalism increasingly leads to failure:
  5. Fundamentalist conservative values place a priority on unrestrained pursuit of individual self interest. When that is combined with the conservative exceptionalism, it plays out in unilateral action that is dangerous to peace in the modern world. In the case of Iraq, the unilateralist approach went to the extent of "preemptive war." It turned out, of course, the "weapons of mass destruction" which the war was intended to "preempt" did not exist.
Dangerous Values  Fundamentalist Conservative values are not tough, realistic approaches to a dangerous world.  They themselves are a danger to peace and security.  In many respects, they represent the antithesis of the priorities need to prevent our burgeoning technology and exploding population and growing interdependence from combining to form an explosive brew that endangers our survival.

C. 50 The Challenges We Face: Interruption of Interdependent Relationships -- Especially the Collapse of Trade Relations  

Pitcairn and Henderson Between the years 1000 and 1450, the three islands of Pitcairn, Henderson, and Mangareva maintained a thriving trading community. However around 1450 the trade stopped. The reason seems to be a disastrous environmental change in Mangareva and to a lesser extent Pitcairn. The problem was that Mangareva was susceptible to deforestation, which led to the same problem of Easter Island. With no trees, they could not build big canoes and therefore fishing yields decreased. This was a disaster for Mangareva but it was fatal for Henderson and Pitcairn. They could not survive on their own without the trade from Mangareva and humans became extinct on both islands. This serious of a problem has not hit the western world, however there are least four major aspects of the worldwide increase in economic interdependence that will provide major challenges of the future:

1) Dependence of Developed Economies on Others for Critical Resources That May Become Exhausted At the current pace of use, oil resources will become exhausted during the first half of the 21st century. Serious programs for efficient oil use could extend our supplies, but oil is in the end, a nonrenewable resource. One of our most critical challenges is to maintain oil for as long as possible and create new sustainable resources to replace it. In the meantime, the more that control of energy resources is concentrated, the more vulnerable they are to disruption.

There are many nonrenewable resources for which countries depend upon each other. Fish stocks, forests, and wildlife which in general are managed poorly today.

2) Collapse of Financial Markets or Trading Systems. In the last 50 years, trading system and financial markets have truly globalized. However they are still subject to potential catastrophic disruptions. The two most recent are the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98 and the banking crisis of 2008-2009. It seems that the only thing we've learned is that bankers and stock traders can pay more for their preferred laws than other people.

The Trade Deficit and You  The US trade deficit seems to keep climbing year after year after year.

Lending in the Shadows  The fragility of financial systems is exacerbated by one other important factor. Many lenders are forsaking the transparent global financial markets for the shadows of private financial deals. These are known under a number of different names such as hedge funds,  index funds, and derivatives... These contributed greatly to the banking crisis of 2008-2009.

Political Interruption of Trading Relationships  We -- and other societies -- are also vulnerable to non-economic interruptions and trade relationships that can endanger our economies. An attack by the US on Iran could, for instance, substantially increase our oil prices. Economic sanctions played a major role in forcing an end to apartheid in South Africa by threatening its economic elite.

Cuba  Sometimes these political interruptions are entirely irrational and serve only the interests of a small group at the expense of the entire society, the Cuban trade embargo and travel ban is the best example of this. This trade ban is supported almost exclusively by small number of conservative expatriate Cubans who wish to regain their economic interest in Cuba. The only reason that this ban continues is that some people believe that this group holds enough political power to control elections in Florida. This is costing both the United States and Cuba billions of dollars in trade and investments and our original anti-Castro policy helped precipitate the Cuban missile crisis that almost resulted in a nuclear war in the 1960s.

The Effects of Globalization on the Distribution of Economic Resources  There is no reason why trade agreements that set international standards for investors, capital ownership, and intellectual property, should not also set international standards for labor rights, working conditions, and environmental impact. This is a must if we are to avoid being forced by competitive pressure to lower our standards to the lowest common denominator. The Europeans did it to integrate much of Europe's economy. We can use the same approach worldwide.

Ciudad Juárez -- the Invisible Hand Is a Fist  Ciudad Juárez is a city of 1.3 million directly across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas. On the US side of the river, a worker can make $10-$15 per hour doing the same job, for the same company, that will pay the same worker on the other side of the river one dollar per hour. Is it any wonder why these workers join the ranks of undocumented immigrants seeking work in the United States?

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