The California National Guard has drawn the ire of the American public for a massive effort to reclaim reenlistment bonuses handed out a decade ago at the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. On the one hand, military spending and political interference in reform efforts epitomizes the lack of accountability in government. On the other hand, the targeting of troops, who happened to have benefited from the misappropriation of funds by superiors seeking to maintain a professional fighting force under the stress of two causality-intense wars, and the crushing burden of tens of thousands of dollars imposed by the government on them represents everything people fear and resent about government.
In the wake of the 2008-2009 Great Recession, Americans were outraged to learn Wall Street executives, whose firms received billions in taxpayer dollars, continued to “earn” multi-million dollar performance bonuses due to contractual obligations. Where bankers made fortunes from the government and enjoyed impunity from legal repercussions, US troops agreed to continue to risk their lives and well-being over the period of years for a few thousand dollars in bonuses. Not only do these National Guard claw backs stink of economic and social injustice, the crushing burden being forced onto thousands of US troops demonstrates how frightening the ill-will of government can be.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is a strongman who likes to dispense with civility, defy policy norms, and act on impulse. He has infamously likened himself to Adolf Hitler, waged a drug war, which has claimed the lives of nearly 4,000 civilians in months, and publically called US President Barack Obama “a son of a bitch.” He has also threatened to cut ties with long-time ally the United States in favor of closer military, economic, and diplomatic ties with China. It appears his goal is to use the rivalry between China and the US to strengthen his regional influence and derive greater benefits from the two world powers for the Philippines.
Although the US and China are at odds with each other over multiple issues, US posturing against China is done in defense of countries like the Philippines. Clearly, Duterte’s anti-American sentiments undermine US influence against China and in Asia, but weakened US support does a great deal more to undermine the position of the Philippines against China. Duterte’s self-sabotaging approach to foreign policy does, however, emphasize a widespread issue that the United States faces. US power is seen as a threat, which raises the important question: how can the world hold the Superpower and other world powers accountable.
Russian support of the Assad regime in the Syrian Civil War and the Ukraine Crisis are driving the US, Europe, and the Middle East to treat Russia as an enemy, which is evaluating the risk of a nuclear world war. From the Russian perspective, however, the Ukraine Crisis and Western criticism of Russian intervention in Syria fits nicely into the Cold War narrative of US provocation. The Putin government frames both situations as necessary responses to NATO expansion, Western interference in the domestic affairs of other nations, and US efforts to overthrow unfavorable governments.
The West sees the Ukraine Crisis as a confrontation made necessary by dominance while Russian support of the Assad regime is seen as a destructive move to support a regime that provoked a civil war for the sake of maintaining power. Although the Putin governments claims all its policies were made necessary due to Western meddling, the West believes Russia planned these events long before Western reactions to developing situations justified current Russian policies. Both sides will say they are confronting the other for provocations, yet neither will confront the underlying grievances that drive the antagonist relations between the West and Russia.
Saudi-led airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen and the Syrian Civil War showcase the impotency of the International Community as a quorum of international governance and the United States as a superpower trying to prevent the spread of anarchy. Where the Syrian Civil War demonstrates the inability of the US and the rest of International Community to curtail the destructive defiance of world power Russia, or even that of the Assad regime for that matter, Saudi Arabia’s violent response to the Iranian-supported Houthi rebellion, including potential human rights violations, also leave the US with few options.
In Yemen, the US must either spurn its ally, thereby imperiling Saudi help in stabilizing the region and dealing with Islamic State, or risk aiding Saudi human rights violations in an attempt to limit civilian causalities with greater precision. Regrettably, neither option fulfills the broader interests of the US or the International Community; therefore, another way forward must be found. Because Yemen borders Saudi Arabia and Al Qaeda has long used the country as a safe haven, efforts by Houthi rebels to seize control of Yemen affect the national security of Saudi Arabia and the region. Changes in the Yemeni government would not, however, necessarily be a problem for the Saudis as long as an Iran-free Yemen maintains some degree of stability.
Donald Trump has proven to be such a polarizing, belligerent, and, quite frankly, offensive candidate that his constant stream of new controversies has managed to outshine Hillary Clinton’s most troubling scandals. Where the Hillary Clinton Wikileaks Revelations, which paint a picture of a political insider catering to Wall Street special interests, should have blunted the chances of the Democratic nominee, the focus of the 2016 US Presidential Election was immediately pulled to Trump’s apparent history of sexual misconduct. What is most unfortunate about the scandals surrounding both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is that the American People did not learn of them until it was too late to make a difference in the election.
Transparency, and ultimately accountability, is essential for proper governance, but selective transparency is a means to manipulate public perception and undermine democracy. The Wikileaks data dump on Hillary Clinton is not problematic, because it exposes upsetting and seemingly hypocritical statements by Clinton. That is a beneficial aspect of the revelations. The document release is problematic, because the one-sided disclosures by Wikileaks are distorting public perception against Hillary Clinton and, in a broader context over time, the United States. Although revelations about Donald Trump help “balance” the effect on public perception in one sense, the strategic timing of the release weeks before the November election distorts public perception.
Read old posts