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West's Confusing Foreign Policy Contradictions

Psaki Ukraine

I'm confused. Jen Psaki, US State Department spokesperson, says that the Ukrainian government has "every right" to use air strikes against its opponents in Ukraine on the grounds that it "is defending the country."

Yet in 2011, alleged air strikes by Libyan government forces against its opponents were used as a reason for the imposition of a “no-fly zone” which was followed by a NATO-led military intervention against Libya. We were told that the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was “killing his own people” and had to be stopped. The deaths of over 200 people in Libya was, according to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, “unacceptable.” But the Ukrainian government is killing its own people today, and despite more than 200 people being killed (as of 10th July the number of civilian deaths was 478, including seven children), western leaders do not say that the Ukrainian leader, Petro Poroshenko, has to be stopped, or that the bloodshed is “unacceptable”  nor are there any calls for a “no-fly zone” to be imposed. Why is it acceptable for the Ukrainian government to launch a military offensive, including air strikes against its own people, but unacceptable for the Libyan government in 2011 to do likewise? I'm confused. Can anyone help me?
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Critiquing America’s Brain-Dead Foreign Policy 'Debate'

Stephen Walt

Yesterday, Harvard’s Steve Walt posted an amusingly sharp piece on what’s wrong with America’s so-called foreign policy “debate.”  Steve’s piece, titled “Take 2 Ambien and Call Me When It’s Over:  I’d Rather Spoon My Own Eye Out Than Sit Through This Year’s Think-Tank-a-Palooza,” see here, appears on his blog at Foreign Policy; we also highlight key excerpts below. 

The piece includes a nice reference to us; more importantly, it aptly encapsulates the brain-dead quality of most mainstream discussion in the United States about America’s role in and engagement with the wider world and dares to suggest what a more serious discussion would look like.

Steve opens by noting the widespread and mounting dissatisfaction with U.S. foreign policy:
“Nobody seems to be happy with U.S. foreign policy these days.  It’s not hard to see why.  Relations with Russia are frosty and could get worse.  China is throwing sharp elbows and looking for opportunities to shift the status quo in Asia.  The NSA is out of control.  Afghanistan and Iraq were failures.  Libya is a mess, Syria is worse, and Secretary of State John Kerry’s quixotic effort at Middle East peacemaking was a farce.  Al Qaeda keeps spreading and morphing no matter how many leaders our drones and Special Forces kill.  With criticism mounting, U.S. President Barack Obama defended his basic approach at West Point and hardly anyone came away feeling any better.  And now we are having a pointless squabble over repatriated POW Bowe Bergdahl.

With nearly everyone—from Afghanistan War veterans to former envoy Lakhdar Brahimi to former Ambassador Robert Ford to—upset about how things are going, it’s time for our premier foreign-policy institutions to step up with some outside-the-box thinking on how the United States could do better.  Surely well-informed experts can offer fresh thinking on how the United States can deal with a world that seems to spin more out of control each month.”

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Washington's Only Standards Are Double Standards


Sometimes in dealing with the U.S. government and its compliant mainstream media, I’m left with the feeling that if it weren’t for double standards, there would be no standards at all. From President Barack Obama to the editors at the Washington Post and the New York Times, it’s obvious that what’s good for the goose is not good for the gander.

An election in an embattled country is valid and even inspiring if it turns out the way Official Washington wants, as in Ukraine last month; otherwise it’s a sham and illegitimate, as in Syria this month.

Similarly, people have an inalienable right of self-determination if it’s Kosovo or South Sudan, but not if it’s Crimea or the Donbass region of Ukraine. Those referenda for separation from Ukraine must have been “rigged” though there is no evidence they were. Everything is seen through the eye of the beholder and the beholders in Official Washington are deeply biased.

When it comes to military interventions, U.S. officials such as Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power assert a “responsibility to protect” transcending national sovereignty if civilians are threatened in Libya or in Syria, but not when the civilians are being slaughtered in Gaza, Odessa, Mariupol or Donetsk. When those killings are being done by U.S. allies, the allies are praised for their “restraint.”

The hypocrisy extends to the application of international law. If some leaders in Africa engage in actions that cause civilian deaths, they must be indicted by the International Criminal Court and dragged before The Hague for prosecution by jurists representing an outraged world.
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The Disaster That is US Foreign Policy

US Soldier Afghanistan

We live in angry times. For evidence, turn on any news program. An awful lot of people, led by right-wing politicians and radio and TV entertainers, are angry at Barack Obama for trading five Taliban officials, who have been held for years without charge in the Guantánamo prison, for an American soldier, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who apparently walked away from his outpost after having a change of heart about the Afghan war. The Right is apoplectic.

To make matters worse for the right wing, Obama had the nerve to embrace — on the grounds of the White House no less — the soldier’s parents, who themselves are under suspicion by the Right. Bergdahl’s father, after all, wears an ominously bushy beard (is the Calvinist really a Muslim?) and spoke to his son in Pashto, the language of the son’s captors. Worse yet, he was so desperate to rescue his son that he tweeted to a Taliban spokesman, “I am still working to free all Guantánamo prisoners. God will repay for the death of every Afghan child, ameen.” (The tweet was later deleted.)

Before his disappearance, then-PFC Bergdahl emailed disparaging remarks about the U.S. military and America itself after he saw a U.S. military truck run over an Afghan child.

These people need help, yet what they get is the most conceited country in the world telling them that they are nothing and that they are stupid, that they have no idea how to live.… We don’t even care when we hear each other talk about running their children down in the dirt streets with our armored trucks.… We make fun of them in front of their faces, and laugh at them for not understanding we are insulting them.… I am sorry for everything. The horror that is america [sic] is disgusting.

In response to this email, his father wrote, “In matters of life and death, and especially at war, it is never safe to ignore ones’ [sic] conscience. Ethics demands obedience to our conscience. It is best to also have a systematic oral defense of what our conscience demands. Stand with like minded men when possible.”

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