Government needs the People to trust government and the People need to be able to trust government. Unfortunately, the need to trust government is too often misaligned with the reality that government cannot be trusted. Governments are big machines with numerous parts, so no one can expect all public officials to be trustworthy. The most pressing issue is, however, a culture that rationalizes dishonesty and misdoings in the pursuit alleged vital “national interests.” Terms, such as “national interests,” are used by public officials to rationalize whatever policy fits their political orientation and the special interests of that support their political aspirations.
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. While the role of dishonesty in domestic policies is obvious, the impact of dishonesty in foreign policy is just as problematic.
Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump has questioned the very purpose for NATO by placing conditions on the defense of NATO allies. Although his stance violates the founding principle behind NATO, the practice would shield the US from the increasingly irradiate, self-perverting polices of NATO political leaders like Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan should they provoke wars with their own revivals. It would also help coerce other NATO allies into spending more on defense. With the Cold War long over, Trump’s willing to break with the assumption that NATO will always be there reflects growing public perceptions that governing bodies like NATO and the EU no longer serve their founding objectives.
In truth, fears of a NATO and European Union break are somewhat misguided. After all, NATO was founded to combat the long gone Soviet Union. The European Union was funded to promote migration and trade across Europe, but the now highly globalized nature of the International Community and economy has mitigated the need for such a special trade body. Of course, NATO and the European Union were also founded under the aspiration “to make the world safe for democracy.” The ideological crusade is proving to be a weak binding force without the clear and present danger of a common enemy.
The “America First” doctrine, the Brexit, and the Turkish illiberal, ill-democratic shift toward theocratic dictatorship represent realignments of national prioritizes with the ambitions of political factions and actual national interests, which have became necessary due to years of dishonest foreign policies. Although the founding interests in maintaining NATO and the European Union have faded, bodies likes these, global cooperation, and international governance are still needed.
After all, globalized threats from terrorist groups, such as the Islamic State, Boko Haram, and Al Qaeda, climate change, and diseases, such as Ebola and Zika, require global responses while Russia and China have reemerged as nationalistic global threats.
China’s unwillingness to recognize the legitimate grievances and territorial claims of other Asian states in the South China Sea is a threat to global peace and stability. It is an example of how powerful nations can use dishonesty to force their will onto other countries, yet try to reap the benefits of global cooperation and governance. China believes the US and its Asian allies will avoid war at all costs. Even if nations like Vietnam would forgo their interests and yield to Chinese pressure, the failure to pursue its territorial claims ensure a future conflict.
Russia’s unapologetic theft of Crimea, which sparked the Ukraine Crisis, represents both an ongoing threat and inconvenience. It would be easy to ignore Russia’s wrongdoing for the sake of avoiding lasting conflict, but that will simply create bigger problems late. Russian President Vladimir Putin believes it can even bomb US facilities in Syria to force cooperation , because the US will always prioritize peace and cooperation above all else.
Factions within Turkey’s political elites appear to believe the security and economic interests it shares with the US and the rest of Europe ensures Western cooperation, even as Erdogan dismantles democracy as part of a soon-to-be-bloody crackdown following the infamous coup attempt. In Truth, there are plenty within the US government who advocate for cooperation with Turkey without regard to its internal political struggles. These political insiders will avoid serious grievances in favor vestigial aspirations of world cooperation, peace, and stability.
There is, however, increasing pressure for a more honest pursuit of US domestic and foreign policy interests. Donald Trump’s rise as the Republican nominee is a testament to this trend. America’s European allies are starting to realize that they must do more to provide for their own security, if they expect the US to help defend them. It is a lesson lost on Turkey while China and Russia are miscalculating America’s need for peace, especially when Russia and China are making themselves bigger and bigger threats to US interests.
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