Archive for the 'World Politics/Foreign Policy' Category

The Moralist’s Catch-22

OK, let’s make a couple of assumptions right off the bat for the purpose of this exercise.

  1. You want to help others.
  2. You’d like not to compromise your own values in doing so.

Simple enough. Now, what do you do when compromising your own values is the best way to help people?

This is the moralist’s dilemma, and every now and then it becomes a focal point of policy. Do we employ torture in the hope that it saves innocents, or do we shun the practice, deciding that the moral implications outweigh the potential good?

What’s interesting politically about such dilemmas is that they are a poor litmus test. For instance, someone on the right might say yes to torture but no to sex-ed that isn’t abstinence-based. Sex education, as with torture in the abstract, compromises their values. But in this scenario, our hypothetical right-wing friend doesn’t think the benefits of lower rates of teen pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease are worth the moral grey of handing out condoms.

I don’t mean to pick on anyone; the point is you can’t simply say conservatives make moral compromises, liberals don’t, or vice versa. In fact, it would be far more accurate to say that, when dealing with the morally grey, liberals and conservatives alike will only “go there” when the cause matches their ideological bent. Adding to the deficit is OK when it’s to cut taxes, but not when it’s to increase spending. And on, and on.

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Ron Artest on Foreign Policy

Someday, I’d like to go visit all those countries that (the U.S.) really doesn’t have great relationships with. Because I think the people are more important than politics. Go to Afghanistan, even North Korea. Just to say “hi” to the people.

It’s a short life, and you don’t want to spend it hating on somebody.

— Ron Artest, via L.A.’s Daily News

I mean, sure, I guess.

I gotta say, though, I would’ve pegged Ron-Ron as ascribing to the preemptive self-defense school of thought.

Ron Paul on Iran

Agree with his politics or not, you have to admire Ron Paul.

From the transcript of a speech he gave on the House floor, debating the recent resolution to offer support for Iranian protesters:

While I never condone violence, much less the violence that governments are only too willing to mete out to their own citizens, I am always very cautious about “condemning” the actions of governments overseas. As an elected member of the United States House of Representatives, I have always questioned our constitutional authority to sit in judgment of the actions of foreign governments of which we are not representatives.

The reality is, the isolationist Constitution to which Rep. Paul adheres just isn’t practical in the present age. Still, you have to respect the guy for sticking to his principles when the politically and, well, morally convenient thing to do would be to go along with the resolution.

Greenland, The Country?

They sure have the resources for it.

The American Response to Iran

Ten days have passed since the Iranian election. And still, many persist in perpetuating the notion that — somehow — America has something to do with it. Part of this is a product of the nature of our media; the need to localize stories, even foreign ones, has framed much of the Iran happenings in terms of their relationship to America. But I suspect it stems more from American importance as the de facto hegemon in global politics. (Notice I didn’t say self-perceived importance; I do think America’s influence is both real and powerful in the global scheme. In a lot of ways, most everything does come back to the U.S. I’m just not sure if the stirrings of revolution in Iran do to the extent many think.)

The usually impeccable Economist even falls into the trap, asking foreign policy giant Joseph Nye in a recent Q&A, “It seems that Barack Obama has been somewhat successful in exporting hope and optimism to Iran. But if Mahmoud Ahmadinejad retains power, has Iran’s election shown up the limits of soft power?”

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A Thought

Can you imagine American reaction to the Iran goings on had it been a West-backed president who’d (allegedly) stolen votes? Like, say … former Pakistani President Musharraf? I don’t think we’d be framing the protests as inspirational expressions of democracy.

Just a thought.

Evidence of Iranian Vote Fraud?

It’s pretty hard to assess voter fraud from afar, especially given the reality that most Americans tend to presume the worst about regimes we don’t like. I’m not suggesting that foreign correspondents are making things up, but I will say that Ahmadenijad has already been found guilty in the court of American columnists.

But let’s run down what we do know.

The reason tampering is on everyone’s minds to begin with is, in the weeks leading up to the election, top Ahmadenijad challenger Mir-Hossein Mousavi was gaining ground, and even surpassing the incumbent president in some polls.

Here’s a run-down of some such polls, from FiveThirtyEight.com:

Now, as 538’s Renard Sexton cautions, these polls were conducted with somewhat dubious methodology, by American standards, and there may have been some push-polling going on. Nevertheless, as the numbers of undecided voters waned, support for Mousavi grew, which is not out of the ordinary for a surging challenger.

One thing you’ll notice immediately is that not a single poll has Ahmadenijad anywhere close to the 62 percent share he earned on election day. In fact he only reached the 50 percent plateau needed to avoid a run-off in one.

So this is the initial basis for skepticism. Again, doesn’t prove a thing, but it should certainly raise eyebrows.

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About the Author

Brian Eason is a University of Missouri graduate with bachelor degrees in Journalism and Political Science. He has covered Congressional elections and local government for the Columbia Missourian and worked as a general assignment reporter for the State Journal-Register in Springfield, IL. Brian has also had articles published in Roll Call.