Probably the most important cost of using sanctions to punish countries for behavior the International Community deems unacceptable is that an isolated state can act with impunity given it has no interests in preserving international connections, yet it is one that is rarely discussed. With both the US and Europe ratcheting up economic sanctions on Russia for its ongoing involvement in the Ukrainian Crisis to the point the Russian economy will suffer from irreversible long-term damage within months, unless sanctions are lifted, Russian President Vladimir Putin is facing a clear choice. The United States is already presenting evidence of Russia arming pro-Russian separatists, as well as attacking Ukrainian forces from within Russia, while the conflict has already resulted in the deaths of foreign civilians with Malaysian Flight 17, thus Putin must eventually choose to capitulate on his attempts to subdue Ukraine or engage in outright war in an attempt to achieve his goals before attempting to make peace with the world.
Should Putin choose the latter, it would certainly mean sanctions would not disappear in a timely manner while pursuing such a course would likely instill a further distrust in Russia that would cost the Russian People a great number of future opportunities. Demonstrating an ongoing effort to deescalate and resolve the conflict, coupled with the decision to no longer support the separatists in any sort of way, the West would very quickly make a deal to lift economic sanctions with a process in place to verify Putin’s long-term sincerity. In turn, Russia and the rest of the world could then focus on reestablishing our partnerships with Russia. In addition, the International Community could also use such an opportunity to address our failure to treat Russia as a fully integrated member of the International Community, instead of a friendly Cold War enemy, which is partially driving this conflict.
That said, the truth is that the International Community largely lacks the ability to enforce its will. This is particularly self-evident when considering UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s desperate calls for Israel and Hamas to stop fighting, even though a large part of the reason the Israeli-Hamas conflict garners so much attention is that many feel the situation, unlike other crises in places like Syria and Iraq, could be immediately halted with the aid of diplomacy. When it comes down it, might does make right and the International Community lacks might, unless the US and/or enough allies choose to enforce international norms. It is, therefore, important to recognize the building of the International Community hinged on the West offering would-be member states benefits for signing on to their vision. In reality, social institutions like the UN, democracy, law, treaty law, capitalism, socialism, etc. are only embraced when those with power, whether that be armed individuals and/or a People en mass, accept arguments in favor of these ideas and that only happens when they see results in a timely manner.
A great deal of the time, the International Community does not serve the interests of most nations, but there are benefits for those costs. Because a modern society relies on a myriad of raw goods and products that no national economy can fully provide, the global economy represents one very big benefit for following the rules of the International Community. If Putin views this benefit to be far less attractive than what he thinks he will get from the domination of Ukraine, the Ukrainian People will soon see greater devastation. If Putin values Russian membership in the International Community, and/or the Russian People do, the Ukrainian Crisis should end within weeks to months.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei‘s call to all Muslims around the world to support Hamas in its fight against Israel could be the beginning of far greater troubles for the region. Because Khamenei is such a staunch supporter of Hamas, this announcement likely means his words will soon become deeds while any broad base support from other entities will only lead to more violence. This writer has long warned Hamas was setting a trap for Israel in order get the support it needs to destroy Israel. Although Israel has every right to defend itself against security threats and actual attacks, even as its Iron Dome missile defense system does a fanatic job of keeping the Israelis safe, the tendency of the Israeli government to engage Hamas in a heavy-handed, largely indiscriminate manner only destroys the lives of civilian Palestinians, which cannot be easily legitimized when the world is seeing the burnt, mutilated bodies of babies and children on a daily basis.
Instead of finding ways to engage Hamas in a long-term strategy that involves targeted strikes of confirmed Hamas targets, the Israeli government consistently tries to bomb its way to peace while striking targets with little regard to what, or who, gets in its way before rapidly accelerating its military operations in vein attempts to root out Hamas before the International Community convinces Hamas to agrees to a armistice. Given Israel’s stepped-up bombing campaign is creating a thorough humanity disaster by targeting critical infrastructure, such as the only power plant in the Gaza Strip, and killing scores of Palestinian, despite Israel’s halfhearted attempts to warn Palestinians moments before attacks, Khamenei’s call may well resonant thorough a globalizing Middle East trying to revolt against the status quo. Although this will help Hamas survive and pursue its pointless long-term goal of destroying Israel, the violence from the support of Iran and Jihadist terrorists is sure to devastate both the Palestinian and Israeli Peoples, especially since Iron Dome cannot protect against suicide bombers.
That said, it is important to remember the West and Iran, under the leadership of moderate Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, are trying to normalize relations, starting with negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program. Not only will the Israeli-Hamas conflict now likely derail this effort and further efforts, the loss of the diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear program means Israel will see an enhanced threat in a potential Iranian nuclear weapon, thus Israeli leadership will start feeling the pressure to strike Iranian targets. Meanwhile, Iran’s intervention in Iraq’s struggles with the ISIS militant group creates even greater issues for the US as America attempts to assist Iraq in taking control of the situation. This likely means the US will have to abandon Iran-dependent Iraq very soon while it also further limits America’s options when it comes to engaging these conflict zones. More importantly, we are likely watching the merging of several national conflicts turn into a regional conflict that is far more likely to spread and destabilize the Middle East.
With the world’s largest outbreak of Ebola taking place in West Africa amid rising violence throughout the region and neighboring regions, the struggle to contain the horrific disease has much in common with the failure to contain the violence afflicting so many in Africa and the Middle East. The connection is most obvious in a country like Libya where a self-serving, oppressive dictator squandered decades of a nation’s vast oil wealth on his own whims and intentionally starved the rest of the nation of basic civil, as well as social, infrastructure in order to suppress rebellion. Both the Ebola outbreak and rising violence in Libya are driven by a lack of proper social institutions within these nations capable of addressing the general welfare of those living in these territories, which is especially true when it comes to crises.
Although the idea that the world should concern itself with the welfare and socioeconomic standing of those living in the Third World is relatively new with the rise of the International Community model over the past hundred years, the Ebola outbreaks demonstrates a very tangible reason why this idea has merits. Globalization means the world is becoming ever more interconnected and that means something happening in one remote part of the world can affect people living in another remote part of the world. In regards to Ebola, the rapid and broad propagation of such a lethal disease obliviously results from our global transportation. Unfortunately, our global economic interdependency and online social world have helped propagate violence from one community to the next.
A largely peaceful transition of power is a means for a People to free themselves of a broadly unwanted government, so the ideas spread by the Arab Spring revolutions are a benefit of globalization. What went wrong for the Arab Spring revolution was the unwilling of embattled leaders to give up power before violence became the norm, the willingness of others to use violence to fill power vacuums, and the inability of social leaders to offer capable transitional governments that adequately balanced the interests of their Peoples. A large part of the reason the US and other Western democracies supported dictators in the Middle East and Africa for decades was a long held fear that any power vacuums left by the ouster of such regimes would lead to failed states like Somalia. Ironically, the oil revenue being paid to militias in order to fill in the gaps for a lack of police and army presence, coupled with the lack of national social institutions, may well make Libya most likely to become the next Somalia.
Unlike in Egypt, Libya lacks a powerful military capable of taking control of its civil unrest in the wake of failed leadership while it certainly will not see an outside benefactor willing to nation build as in the case with Iraq and Afghanistan. Had the International Community had some foresight when it came to recognizing the potential for armed conflict, efforts to funnel oil dollars into the hands of Libyans by lifting sanctions imposed on former President Muammar Gaddafi could have been curtailed with provisions that limited how oil revenue could be spent, i.e. those in control of the Nation’s finances would not be allowed to fund groups and individuals that present a security risk. In other words, the International Community should have forced Libya to build a real military and real police forces instead of a patchwork of militias. With Libya starting to ask for help from International Community to address issues like its oil depot fire, there might an opportunity for Libya and the International Community to make arrangements for an outside manager to help Libya do a better job of nation building, at least a means of better paying for nation building. Doing so, could be quite effective given the lack of an effective, stable Libyan government and the unwillingness of the International Community to do more.
From El Salvador to Guatemala to Honduras, the issue of poverty seems to go from bad to worse. Even when these countries see economic turnarounds, too few of the benefits go to the majority of citizens. Things these Central American have in common is a lack of economic development, political corruption, ineffective governance, extreme economic disparity, improper regulation/labor standards, and a lack of policing that has left these nations riddled with violence. Meeting with the Presidents of these three countries over the US Border Crisis, President Obama surely touched on these topics. While El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras may be compelled to step in to protect their citizens from traffickers and other hazards of illegal immigration, addressing the rising number of individuals violating US law to enter the United States will involve more than just relying on these leaders to do “the right thing,” as President Obama would put it.
Because these countries are ruled by self-interested elites, there needs to be a clear incentive for them to serve the needs of those forced to flee their homelands. Quite frankly, affluent members of these societies likely see the mass migration of poor people as a net benefit to their societies. Given that the United States is the number one trade partner of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, President Obama has a great deal of leverage to ensure illegal immigration remains an important issue, especially if the wealth of the affluent is put at risk for failing to do so. That said, pressure from Mexico and its efforts to control its borders is also a necessary part of the equation, which means the US can help alleviate its immigration issues by assisting the Mexican government as it attempts to close its southern border.
That said, efforts to prevent illegal immigration do not address the issues that continue to drive the mass exodus from Central America. The affluent of Central American countries need to do more to address extreme economic disparity, destitution, drugs, and crime. As it is, the wealthy of many Central American countries simply barricade themselves in their lavish homes and hire private security to protect their selves from the desperate and opportunistic. Clearly, there is an issue with essential civil services, such as the police, when those who can afford it hire their own private police force instead of paying higher taxes and improving public policies to guarantee public security and safety. This type of self-imposed isolation by the wealthy only further divides the haves and have-nots, which, in turn, drives the failure of the power elites to properly address national interests over personal interests.
Consequently, there needs to be an effort to create forums where the elites of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras are encouraged to take an interest in their countries broader interests, i.e. come up with solutions for “the common good.” There also needs to be a push from outsiders to show the affluent that they have “skin in the game” when it comes to developing economies and civil societies that also serve the interests of the poor. This an area where outside business interests with leverage need to recognize the failures of these three nations is a threat to their interests, which means they need to give the affluent of these nations reasons to work for the common good. In fact, the Obama Administration, as well as nongovernmental entities, need to take a carrot-and-stick approach that incentivizes the powerful to address the interests of the poor.
One common issue facing El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras is the fact that these countries import more than what they export. This means these economies are being built on goods that cannot be locally produced while they are not producing enough to be able to afford what they are importing. Because they cannot afford or produce the items that their economies are dependent upon, they are unstable. This lack of production, in turn, means the benefits of any economic growth are not going, and will not go, to the Peoples of these countries, i.e. the driving force behind their extreme economic disparity. The economies of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras cannot be built on cheap labor, untenably low taxes, and loose regulation. Although social programs, subsidizes, and higher taxes are temporary, unsustainable solutions that might come into reality given enough pressure, they truly need regulatory, tax, and trade policies that better reflect the needs of these populations.
National economies must be built on industries that serve the local needs of a people with locally plentiful resources that are as local as possible with excess production being used to participate in the global economy. Reexamining provisions of CAFTA is, therefore, part of the solution. Another part is an effort to build industries that can serve the needs of these countries. Just as in the US, medicine is a very profitable field that can be developed to create lucrative jobs, necessary civil infrastructure, and an education system driven by practical, job-oriented skills. Just as roads and police need the support of governments, and nongovernmental organizations, medical care would be a worthwhile investment that needs funded. At the same time, there needs to be more assets directed toward dealing with crime in Central America, which is something that would also be a good investment for the US and its national security interests.
The US Border Crisis has been decades in the making, but it is the immediate welfare of tens of thousands of children being addressed by competing legislative efforts. Unfortunately, neither approach actually attempts to address the causes of the crisis. In other words, all attempts by Democrats and Republicans involve spending various amounts of taxpayer dollars to simply keep deporting desperate people back to communities in crisis.
In many respects, the brutal criminal violence throughout the hemisphere over the past few years has gone under addressed by the American People, even though its nature and scope make it just as serious as globalized terrorism. Although there was no event equivalent event to the September 11th terrorist attacks or the mortgage meltdown, the threat of criminal syndicates in the Americas requires the same magnitude of response as globalized terrorism and the Great Recession. Even today, there is no “9/11 Commission” or massive effort to coordinate and scale up efforts to combat criminal violence in the Americas.
At the same time, it is important to recognize the G7 countries meet, at least, once a year with great fanfare in order to discuss the health of the global economy. There is no equivalent for the regional economy of the Americas. This is despite the fact that this hemisphere is home to global economic powers the United States, Canada, and Brazil. Recognizing European global economic powers have the EU, the Americas have nothing of such significance. Consequently, the US needs to take the lead in addressing the driving forces behind illegal immigration, which means leading our hemisphere by bringing all nations of the Americas together to deal with those issues in a big way.
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