Although Afghanistan has once again emerged in the spotlight due to the brutal beating death of a woman named Farkhunda, this victim of a broken culture plagued by injustice and abuse of the weak has become a call to action for Afghan women. Not only has Afghan President Ashraf Ghani taken up the cause of Farkhunda by appointing an 11-member commission to investigate her murder, he has signaled he is a President who wants Afghans to confront and solve Afghanistan’s problems.
Where many like to blame the US for Afghanistan’s current problems due to the botched US-lead War on Terrorism, President Ghani used his first official visit to the United States as Afghanistan’s leader to thank Americans for their support and sacrifice. While the US actually has few strategic interests in Afghanistan and the 2002 invasion was more or less a reaction to the September 11th terrorist attacks, the US stayed engaged in Afghanistan for the altruistic purpose of helping the Afghan People.
Turning to the Ukraine Crisis, the Putin government has long been stirring anti-American and anti-European sentiments in order to justify his reckless, destructive policies toward Ukraine. Not only has pro-Putin propaganda made arguments that Russia’s Ukraine policy is justified as a means of balancing US influence, it has also tried to frame leaders like Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, and Slobodan Milošević as heroic victims of US lies and conspiracies who were just trying to fight US oppression.
Miloshevich, Saddam, and Kaddafi were just sick, sick people who happened to force their way into power and used that power to abuse, rape, torture, and murder weaker people for their own benefit and agendas. Anything the US has done wrong is nothing compared to what these monsters have done to their own People. In fact, the American power elites who have abused US power often justify their decisions to do so by proclaiming the need to balance the influence of enemies. Quite frankly, critics want to stop the US from doing wrong, not replace it with something worse. What the world needs is a better America, not a domineering Russia.
Certainly, the United States made critical mistakes in both Afghanistan and Iraq as well as in our overall Middle Eastern policies. There are also things the US government and individual Americans have done wrong while there are almost assuredly secret agendas involved when it comes events like the Ukraine Crisis. Good citizenship requires criticizing democratic government when it does wrong and those who do wrong in the name of the United States, yet this writer, as an American, cannot tolerate his country being thoroughly vilified as though it is the cause of all the problems in the world.
Critics of the Obama Administration have argued the Ukraine Crisis and increased Russian aggression is the result of the Obama Administration’s weak foreign policy. An alternative view to this perspective and the Putin conspiracy propaganda is that populations oppressed by governments and the failings of the global economy felt both sufficiently pressured and supported to demand their governments respond to their needs. In other words, the Ukrainian People felt they had enough support from the International Community to stand up to the increasingly domineering Russian government without violent reprisal.
Where the US was expected by the Putin government to leave Russia free reign over countries in its own sphere of influence, the democratization and globalization of the world put Russian behavior in the spotlight. Trained more and more to think like free Americans, an increasingly connected world is learning through example to see the wrongs of oppression. Because the actions of the Russian government, as well as all governments, is increasingly transparent thanks to information technology, the Ukrainian People were increasingly aware of Russian influence on their government and the harm it was doing to them.
Political pressure in the Middle East, for example, had been building for years thanks to unresponsive and oppressive governance. When the Arab Spring Revolutions erupted in 2011, it was not because the US sought the ouster of its long-time allies or because the Obama Administration was weak. It was because the Peoples of the Middle East were so neglected and angry that they decided to defend themselves. The only role in this explosion of democratic outcry that the US played was in supporting peaceful protesters, which make it “safer” for People to demand their own needs be met.
In a similar light, the Ukrainian People were at the same point when they pushed back against undue Russian influence. Certainly, the West likely did support those fighting against Russian influence as doing so is in line with Western values and interests, yet it was not a plot to harm Ukraine or Russia. After all, a Westernized Ukraine can live in peace beside Russia, which has long been Westernizing in a modern world defined by global economic, not armed conflict. At the very least, this is how the West views Ukraine and Russia, not as enemies.
While the United States, along with all governments, engages in wrongs to exert influence over other countries, America also seeks to defend the Peoples of the world by establishing international norms for the behavior of governments. For too long, the US has too often failed live up to its own expectations in order to preserve alliances that were made out of necessity and convenience. It is, however, trying to rectify some of those wrongs as it faces a world filled with an increasing number of crises and national security threats with little support and few options.
Moving back to Slobodan Milošević, the United States had few strategic interests in Yugoslavia and the genocide of non-Serbs. The United States did not lead Western intervention, because the US was conspiring against a socialist leader; it was done to help People who were being murdered, tortured, and raped. It was done to protect the world from the rise of another Adolf Hitler. As the US fought a war against Christian Bosnians to protect Serb Bosnian Muslims, efforts to vilify Western intervention in Bosnian War are done to discredit one of America’s most altruistic efforts to protect human life, yet it is the most telling example of America’s true objectives when it intervenes abroad, i.e. a better world for all.
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