By Brett Daniel Shehadey
Special Contributor for In Homeland Security
Why we fight is everything; and so is who we support in the process.
In the modern world, a government is a generator and filter of ideologies and principles that either empowers its own existence or that of its people. Thus, strengthening that government in question economically and militarily is a matter of hurting or harming its people directly.
The American military-to-military partnerships overseas represent the forefront of strengthening this idea generators of nations and or their peoples. At times, this is the best of options and at other times it is the gravest mistake; especially when old allies go from the hero to the villain.
America’s renewed challenge, then, is this: support another old friend that has become your ideological adversary to save your interests in the short-term or abandon an old ally who has lost its way or failed to follow in your footsteps.
Whenever America claims to stand for liberal principles and yet supports those who do not, it loses the credibility, legitimacy and the power to reach new and better allies. By not accepting the reality of the day and listening to old lobbies and outdated promises of tiered or failed democratic development, America harms itself, its future and that of the region it is trying to protect.
Egypt, Israel and now Thailand all represent stages of nations as good examples of the above. It is not the US has abandoned them but that they have in fact and in practice abandoned those American hopes for pro-liberal democracy. They are also examples of US economic and or security investments that backfired but the US stayed in partnership with them longer than they should have; or indirectly trained and funded anti-American activities that followed, even against foreign policy objectives.
In Egypt, the recent national elections were the result of several years of protest. The first coup was followed by national elections orchestrated by the military which were followed by the present retaliation process between the nationalist military leadership and Islamist political leader factions—the outcomes went against the expressed US and international will and tolerance for abuses.
In Israel, there is the lingering issue of non-universal democratic rights and colonial settlements and the refusal to accept the two-state solution which is a part of the official US foreign policy for Israel and Palestine. On the other end there is rampant terrorism. No one is permitted to use any negative language that might defame Israel or the Jewish people. The same can be said for the Palestinians and Muslims for their actions, who themselves have a growing lobby in the UN, the US and around the world. Honest debate is often curtailed through high controversy and the choosing of ethnicity and religion over the choosing of what is right and just and also American.
Israel is directing an extensive espionage campaign against the US. Still the US continues to support Israel with billions of dollars of economic and military aid despite grave disobedience and a divergence of interests. Slowly waking up to the reality of the real relationship and how unnecessary or advantageous it is for the US makes all the more sense only when there is cost control or money at stake and now the Israelis are not even afraid to steal defense industry secrets and technology like the Chinese.
In Thailand, their military has detained the democratically elected Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra this month in a coup for control of government. The US is a strong partner with Thailand on regional security matters which seem to be deeply void of larger political implications from such partnerships like the players above and can be argued to cause more problems than they solve. While, the US is considering halting arms to Thailand as well as halting military exercises (e.g. CARAT as of today). Again, when the US is too slow at ditching allies that betray its values for regional influence, something worse often happens sooner or later.
“While we have enjoyed a long and productive military-to-military relationship with Thailand, our own democratic principles and U.S. law require us to reconsider U.S. military assistance and engagements,” said Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby.
Regrettably, the US regional alliance in the Pacific was tainted from the start by a lack of honorable players so the US partnered with criminal and corrupt governments in order to “contain” an expanding and aggressive China. A weak position of virtue may quickly, however, become the weakest position of all; especially in the face of an adversary that has no qualms about of hypocrisy but can and will continue to exploit ours on the world stage.
So the US often becomes two separate schizophrenic political identities that it projects globally: the benign statesman or the instigator. Not that one should abandon an ally, but if the ally has already abandoned the US (its political values and promise ) it is foolish to sponsor such a state. In the most extreme cases, such sponsorship should might be covertly done.
Keeping a region stable for economic intercourse is a necessary ideal for a state based on global commerce but only when possible and practical. Keeping in mind that some territories and possibly regions will be lost over time and new ones should be gained, this philosophy can still work and may not seem acceptable now, but loss and gain are temporary where one has a home-base and where strategic fallback can be a source of great strength. The key is not to retreat but to reshuffle in a manner that is based on deeply rooted and shared values with ones allies. If allies do not share a common core of political values, the allegiance harms both parties or the most foolish of the two.
Stability becomes a nasty word however any given President defines it to mean. Our ways and values must be worth fighting for and exporting abroad. Propping up dictatorships and authoritarian regimes is foolish, expensive and contrary to the nature of America’s foreign mission. This was a lesson that should have been learned but unfortunately has not. Unstable elements are sometimes best stabilizers but actually make for the poorest of partners as they are not aligned political with the US but only temporarily and with common objective(s).
Lastly, America can build up generations of hatred or generations of followers in states or entire regions where its support does not match its true character and political nature. While the US does not empower authoritarian or nonresponsive governments for its interest with that intent to do harm others, it often can unfortunately do so in practice. Such actions additionally seem to have grave karmic ripple effects which Americans will face later.