The United States government under Republican leadership is seeking to pass health insurance reform, which will impact one-sixth of the US economy, dismantle government through crippling budgetary cuts, slash taxes for wealthy special interests, and expand American military intervention in the Middle East, along with a whole host of other partisan policy changes. There is nothing inherently improper about the Republican agenda as long as it is enacted with the input and majority consensus of the American People. The problem is that Republicans are not embracing transparency, they are not allowing for robust public debate, and they are not trying to address the concerns and interests of all Americans.
The role of modern government is to properly address and balance the interests of all the People(s) of a nation. This requires the People have effective representation of their views and interests in government. It also requires a culture of transparency where public officials understand even the deepest of government secrets will eventually be revealed to the public. When temporary obscurity is needed, good faith efforts, which actually reflect national interests, are essential to prove the trustworthiness of public officials. Government needs the People to trust government and the People need to be able to trust government.
The Afghanistan War started in 2001 under the George W. Bush Administration in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The campaign was then quickly neglected in favor of the invasion, war, and reconstruction effort in Iraq. President Barack Obama campaigned on a promise to end both the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War then escalated the Afghanistan War to perpetuate a “responsible draw down” of both wars. The rise of the Islamic State and resurgence of the Taliban have, once again, threaten the security and stability of both nations. While the Pentagon now has the authority to set troops levels in both conflicts, the Afghanistan and Iraq policies of the Trump Administration are unclear.
Critics have chastised the Trump Administration for a lack of strategy in Afghanistan. A strategy cannot be developed until the mission objective is clearly defined. In both Afghanistan and Iraq, the George W. Bush Administration had a broadly defined objective in both countries, yet failed to develop and implement a realistic strategy. Under the Obama Administration, the objective of both missions was to stabilize the security of both nations before a gradual withdrawal of US troops began. Today, the Pentagon is tasked with bolstering the security forces of both Afghanistan and Iraq, which entails a seemingly permanent training mission, yet the President’s decision to delegate the authority to set war policy invites mission creep.
America’s democratic legacy has allowed civil and political engagement to culture generations of Americans to respond to high-stakes issues, which have the potential to cause far-reaching damage, e.g. healthcare reform, environmental regulation, war policy, etc, with civil discourse and debate. Political figures have, however, steadily turned away from civil engagement in favor of provocative propaganda that manipulates the emotions of people to impose their political and policy agendas. By short-circuiting the debate process with emotions to push agendas, i.e. make government unresponsive, politicians risk provoking violent crimes of passion.
The targeting of the Republican Congressional Baseball Team by a gunman who shot Republican Majority Whip Steve Scalise and three others is a consequence of frustration and lost civility. Violence is a natural impulse to real and perceived threats. As most children age and develop, they are “socialized” by parents and all others around them to react to situations in violent and nonviolent ways. For families and communities that forsake violence and actively promote civility, the violence option is less likely to be the response to any given situation. When civility is forsaken by community leaders, violence is more and more likely from more and more people in more and more situations.
Revolutions occur when a critical mass of a population can no longer tolerate the rule of their government. For democracies, the periodic changing of leadership helps suppress revolutionary tendencies. For non-democracies, however, irreconcilable issues with government can only be addressed by the ouster of the government or the suppression of dissenters. In many respects, revolution is the most extreme form of democratic action, but revolution often means simply transitioning from one authoritarian government to another, which plants the seeds for future revolutions and does nothing to resolve the issues that feed civil discontent. It can also mean perpetual civil war, e.g. Syria. Another way is possible.
Since the 2011 Arab Spring Revolutions began, the authoritarian governments of the Middle East have correctly grown fearful of revolutions that will end their rule. Saudi Arabia, for example, has embraced a domineering foreign policy, which includes airstrikes in Yemen and Syria as well as the Qatar Blockade. In trying to crush dissent, however, governments of the region will generate resentment and foster revolutionary movements. For those governments that have survived democratic reforms or successfully suppressed dissent, it is easy to conclude that the only means of survival is the suppression of democratic forces, yet it is the willingness to embrace the will of their Peoples that is needed.
The Saudi-led blockade of Qatar by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt, which started over a longstanding dispute allegedly revolving around the state-sponsorship of terrorism, can be interpreted two ways. One, it shows Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt are finally serious about addressing state-sponsored terrorism. Two, it shows Saudi Arabia’s willingness to abuse any influence and power it enjoys to assert its interests across the region. In the West, the former resonates better than the latter. Elsewhere, particularly in the Middle East, the latter resonates far better than the former.
The biggest issue less powerful nations have with the US is America’s willingness to exert its military muscle and economic influence to coerce others into catering to US interests. It is the same issue that resulted in backlash against Russia over the Ukraine Crisis and China in the face of the South China Sea Crisis. When more powerful nations opt for military or economic coercion over diplomatic means, there is always some level of resentment-fueled backlash. In exercising power, leadership becomes a target for criticism and opposition. Given the Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen and Syria, the Qatar blockage fits into an emerging anti-Saudi narrative.
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