Editorial: Our Foreign and Military Policy

A review chided Golden Handcuffs, this guileless collection of experimental writings, for being too "political"-- a charge that might baffle our contributors, but which has got our editorial wheels turning, if not spinning.

    We cannot imagine arts ignorant of social realities, whether or not they treat of them. And since we have such a fine shot at destroying the planet, while conventional journalism entertains us with issues removed from the realities of overpopulation, epidemics, starvation, nuclear proliferation, and you-name-the-crisis, we  know we can't do any worse than the guys in charge. So:

    In this issue we shall outline the Golden Handcuffs foreign and military policy, and in the next, our economic policy. And we dedicate these proposals to Tom Kean, who was our history teacher, and kept his sense of humor doing it, but should have lost his good cheer on the 9/11 Commission.

    We do not propose to withdraw from Iraq: we do propose that our troops, diplomats and operatives withdraw from the palaces of Iraq. We believe that Iraq should become the model for a new American diplomatic and military modus operandi:

    --All personnel should live in conditions similar to those of natives. Our troops, diplomats and operatives in Iraq will demonstrate in the world's most-visible troubled spot that American has a real mission: we shall share our resources with all peoples that need them, starting with the people we've most recently abused. From their tents and huts and ruins American personnel will dispense locally-acceptable food, water sterilization devices, medicine, and so on up the technology chain.

    --The purpose of our presence in Iraq will henceforth forswear direct connection to our ideology and economic interests; our mission will be to provide the assistance for which we receive direct requests, and the kinds of assistance that organizations accustomed to operating as friends not colonialists (e.g. Oxfam, Doctors without Borders, CARE) suggest.

    --It is a premise of Golden Handcuffs foreign and military policy that dispensing food, medicine, and basic technology is cheaper than expending armaments, and that food, medicine and basic technology are more agreeable instruments of diplomacy and relationship-building than cluster-bombs.

    We propose to moderate the image of Americans abroad from hideous to ugly to human and finally to benign.

    Because it is cheaper to be generous and diplomatic than barbarically aggressive, we can extend our new diplomatic efforts around the globe, rather than concentrating them in the latest hot spot, to the neglect of hotter spots less palatable to Fox News like North Korea. We could return to Afghanistan, rather than abandoning it to the opium-trading, woman-oppressing warlords who formed our "coalition" there.

    We write "barbaric" deliberately: the Bush cabal has succeeded in combining imperialism with barbarism, and it is on the feckless watch of these Christians ignorant of the Bible that treasures of Mesopotamian civilization have been looted and lost.

    Golden Handcuffs is well aware that terrorist groups and corrupt dictators send bombs and bombers to disrupt attempts at peace and progress. We are aware, in addition, that most Arab dictatorships (both "friend" and "foe") survive because they terrorize their populations and because they have a cooperative Israel as a bogeyman with which to distract their citizens from their incompetence and corruption. But our present policy in Iraq causes a systematically violent resistance, while a humanitarian policy would occasion manageable random crimes, and our present policy has no chance of creating anything but enemies throughout the Muslim and the "third" worlds.

    Our military is already stretched thin. It cannot afford to practice nation-building of the Bush variety in more than one country. Peacekeeping and humanitarian deployments are, again, cheaper. Their practitioners are more likely than occupiers behind turrets to ferret out plots against us and our allies.

    --It is a further premise of Golden Handcuffs foreign and military policy that the personnel implementing it must be motivated properly. All connections between diplomacy and global commerce should be severed: diplomats cannot be permitted to employment by "private sector" institutions with interests in their "theatres" of service for at least 5 years before and after their service. Diplomats and foreign-service personnel should attempt proficiency in the languages of countries in which they serve, and should demonstrate knowledge of those countries' histories and customs. Ignorance and insensitivity should no longer be the hallmarks of American personnel overseas.

    --The military and the diplomatic corps should keep American and global corporations at arms length, and contracts for all significant services overseas should be bid out to local (not global or front) companies first, and all appropriate work to local individuals, not contract importees. In addition to creating goodwill and economic benefits, this policy will remove the isolation and ignorance our personnel, forcing them to acquaint themselves with local issues as seen by natives. We need to remove our hideously-ignorant propensity to speak for and decide for the foreigners we invade and manipulate and exploit.

    --The pay of the lower ranks in the military and in the foreign services should be raised, and their benefits should be the same as those of congressmen and senators.

    --It is another premise of this policy that our presence overseas does not imply that we are better than other cultures: we're just luckier, having inherited the largest economy. There is no connection between GNP and culture or morality. It is not therefore our purpose to tell other, often-older cultures how to worship, how or whether to form families, how to govern themselves, or how to gain access to our perhaps-dubious products. The foreign service is indeed a service, whose objects are peace and the eradication of starvation, disease, poverty.

    We feel that recruiting for such a military and such a foreign service could be truthful, not sleazy and deceptive. We are certain that a soldier defending food-aid distributors from pilfering or theft by thugs and dictators will love that work more than bombing neighborhoods or breaking down the doors of civilians.

    Would we be safe if the next administration adopted our program of generosity? Well, the strongest economy always has the most military might. The problem is the stupidity and wastefulness of our present "course of empire," whose neglect of diplomacy and whose ignorance of local political consequences risks motivating generation after generation of resentment and violence against us and our allies, the deadly resentment that motivated the repeated attacks on New York.

    We are arguing for a reasoned, consistent, long-term foreign policy that will protect us, and, as our colleagues in the private sector would say, provide the additional dividend of saving the planet from decay or destruction. Indeed, such diplomacy might lend substance to the now-hollow notion that America is great.