Why So Many Concerned People Have Difficulty in Understanding the US Discourse on Foreign/Security Policy?


‘When I use a word’, Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful voice, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more or less.’

‘The question is’, said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things’. –Lewis Carroll

The USA is the most powerful country and so what US foreign and security policy makers say obviously gets the most attention worldwide compared to the policy makers of most other countries. US policy makers are generally educated in the most prestigious institutions. Hence it is expected that they will speak in a way that most people find very credible and convincing.

Unfortunately this is increasingly not the case and many people keen to understand them are at a loss to understand what exactly they mean. Peace, justice, democracy and humanitarian concerns are the words that come most easily and fluently to these policy makers but what they are actually doing appears most likely to have very different, often the opposite impacts, creating confusion among concerned people.

To give just one recent example, the USA appears to be giving rather limited amounts of humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza in recent times who face a catastrophic situation of mass hunger and displacement as well as fear of being killed or wounded in Israel attacks, but at the same time provides rather unlimited arms and ammunition to Israel. At almost around the same time, the USA strongly criticizes an Israeli army unit for human rights abuses and then pushes ahead proposals for providing billions of dollars for weapons to the Israeli army. The US policy makers are supposed to be officially committed to a two-state solution, but the USA and its close allies have not yet recognized Palestine even though 137 countries have done so.

These contradictions came to a head recently on April 18 at an important meeting of the 15 member UN Security Council, with five permanent members including the USA having veto power, when vote was taken on a resolution that asked the Council to recommend to the 193-member UN General Assembly that the State of Palestine be admitted to full membership of the UN. The vote was 12 in favor but the USA with its special power vetoed the resolution. Even Britain, which normally only asks ‘how high’ when the USA says ‘jump’, did not exercise its veto, choosing to abstain from voting. Hence it was only the USA vote or veto which denied full UN membership to Palestine at a time when this would have uplifted the morale of the Palestinian people facing very severe assaults in which thousands have been killed, at the same time placing some restraint on future aggression against them and contributing ultimately to a more justice-based resolution of the crisis.

The Palestinian envoy to the UN Riyad Mansour had rightly described the bid for full-member status as an effort “to take our rightful place among the community of nations.” He added, “Our right to self-determination is a natural right–a historical right—to live in our homeland Palestine as an independent state that is free and that is sovereign.”

What did the USA say to justify its veto? A spokesperson for the US State Department, Vedant Patel, was quoted by the New York Times as stating, “It remains the US view that the most expeditious path toward statehood for Palestinian people is through direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority with the support of the US and other partners.” Clearly, this view shows shocking and wilful ignorance of the very clear reality that Israel has been recently involved in ethnic cleansing efforts and is far, far away from any honest, sincere consideration of a two state solution or sovereign state for the Palestinians. Such a response again brings out the glaring hypocrisy of US policy. In fact the Palestinian Authority said it would “reconsider” its relationship with the United States after the US veto.

The Palestine situation in recent times is just one context of the US expressing its commitment to peace, justice and humanitarian concerns while actually moving in the opposite direction. US policy makers would do well to heed the advice of those 19 progressives who have stated in a recent statement on the new package for billions of dollars of aid for Israel, “If the Congress votes to continue to supply offensive military aid, we make ourselves complicit in the tragedy.” Instead, these leading political representatives advice, the United States needs to help Israel find a path to win the peace. More specifically, the progressives have asked for a ceasefire that also enables the release of hostages to be followed by large-scale humanitarian assistance for the people of Gaza to help them to rebuild their shattered lives.

Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, Protecting Earth for Children, A Day in 2071 and Man over Machine.      


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