As the eyes of the world focus on the recent uprising in Egypt, the government of the United States is faced with a foreign policy conundrum. Foreign policy consists of self-interest strategies by the government to safeguard national interests. As it stands, the U.S. must try to abandon Egyptian President Mubarak — an important U.S. strategic ally of 30 years in the region — to support a pro-democracy movement by the Egyptian people. However, the Egyptian people, who are likely to topple the Mubarak autocratic regime, are extremely aware that President Mubarak’s reign was supported by the American government. In fact, Mubarak’s government received military aid of $1.5 billion annually from the United States.
Whether or not the U.S. is truly or even remotely to blame for the ills felt by the Egyptian people by the Mubarak government is completely irrelevant. What is relevant is whether the people who eventually depose Mubarak blame the U.S. and consequently form a post-Mubarak government that is inherently anti-American. We have seen this before when the Iranian people rose up and deposed the American backed Shah and established a heavily anti-American Islamist state. We see it now in Pakistan after the Pakistani people removed American backed Pervez Musharraf.
Instability in the Middle East can increase oil prices, destabilize the world economy, expand the threat of Iranian-style Islamist regimes, and perpetuate the War on Terrorism. Supporting repressive regimes sympathetic to the above American foreign policy interests will help the U.S. in the short term but undoubtedly hurt the U.S. in the long term. Alternatively, supporting democratic movements, while noble, may help the U.S. in the long term but undoubtedly hurt the U.S. in the short term. Should the United States formulate a foreign policy that is exclusively supportive of truly democratic governments and pro-democracy movements?
The right to peaceably assemble is one of the most important freedoms enjoyed in a democratic society. During times of trouble, the freedom of assembly is usually one of the first rights to be abridged—sometimes violently—instantly turning citizens into criminals by virtue of their actions. In our own history, the Constitutional right to assemble (joined by its close relatives the freedoms of speech and the press) has provided some of the most enduring images of civil disobedience in the last 100 years. Civil disobedience refers to the public violation of the law for the expressed purpose of advancing some higher law or good.
2011 is already providing us with tragic reminders that our ability to leave the relative safety of our homes for the purpose of meeting with our neighbors to plan the future happiness of our children is fraught with dangers. Thus, we must teach about the freedom to express ourselves, and the right to meet with others to share our ideas, and the ability of a free press to cover such revolutionary actions. We must have a collective memory of enduring images; women marching for the right to vote; men and women on strike along the coal rich mountains of Appalachia; men and women marching in Alabama for civil rights. Tehran. Tucson. Cairo. Civic virtues in any society must be some reflection of our capacity to interpret individual notions of good, of right, as pieces of a greater common good that may only be an ideal or dream, but one worth sharing and advancing in the light of day–even when madness lets loose the dogs of war; even when fear says “No!”; even when insanity says . . . nothing.
Non-violent civil disobedience can work in even the most conflict-ravaged places. In his blog, The Lede, “Palestinians Sentenced for Civil Disobedience,” Robert Mackey (The New York Times, January 26, 2011) describes the amazing long-term operation opposing the construction of security barriers that would divide Palestinians from their very livelihoods. The article chronicles the history of the protests and the recent prison sentences meted-out to Palestinian protesters by the Israeli government; yet another reminder that exercising freedoms often comes at great costs to those who dare.
Federal judges are appointed for life, unless they are impeached of treason, bribery, high crimes or misdemeanors, and then convicted. What does a federal judge have to do to get kicked out of office by Congress? Professor Gaffaney explains.
China’s rapid economic growth and growing military strength is quickly becoming a national security concern for the United States. China, a country with the largest standing army, second largest defense budget, and poised to be the world’s next super power, has recently unveiled its J-20 stealth fighter jet to an astonished world. Additionally, China’s new DF-21D high-hypersonic anti-ship ballistic missile, dubbed “carrier killers” by the U.S. Defense Department because it has the capability to destroy a moving U.S. aircraft career at a distance of 2000 miles, has gone into mass production. Has the United States unknowingly entered a cold war arms race with China?
An arms race with China would be extremely problematic for the United States considering China’s colossal manufacturing base along with its rapid economic and technological growth. Moreover, unlike the original cold war between the Soviet Union and the United States, the United States is heavily indebted to China. In fact, if China wanted to harm the United States they could do so without resorting to the use of military power. Theoretically, China could simply dump the $900 billion U.S. Treasury bonds they currently hold at a loss triggering a panic to sell mentality among the other countries that also hold U.S. Treasury bonds, in turn causing substantial depreciation of the American dollar and economy. An arms race seems pretty irrelevant in such a scenario and reveals the superiority of economic power over military strength in the 21st century.
For all intensive purposes, China and the United States are economic allies. So the question remains, is the Peoples Republic of China a national security threat to be neutralized by the United States or simply America’s “frenemy,” an economic partner who is simultaneously a competitor? In either case, how should the United States handle China?
Look beyond today’s headlines with our analysis of American politics! This blog is a feature of Pearson’s MyPoliSciLab, the most popular online learning solution for American government courses. To learn more about MyPoliSciLab, visit www.mypoliscilab.com.