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Foreign Affairs - a Closer Look at U.S. Policies and How They Affect the Developing World

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Foreign Affairs:

A Closer Look at U.S. Policies and How They Affect the Developing World

PSC- 410

Political Economy

November 15, 2001

With the beginning of a seemingly endless war on terrorism, and a shaky United States economy, now hardly seems the time to examine our general policy towards all other nations, and developing nations in particular. The wreckage of the World Trade Center is still smoldering, and our troops are marching on Kabul as I write. Nationalism is at a height only previously experienced during the World Wars. Every other car you see on the highway has "Old Glory" proudly flying in their window or on their antenna, some right next to their Rebel Flag. On the surface it appears the United States has pulled together for one more righteous cause, and evil, or those that oppose the US as they are commonly called, will surely fall. We won't stand for innocent attacks on civilians, and those damned Afghanis and Osama bin Laden had better hide. If you don't believe this, not only are you un-American, but you must be a damn terrorist yourself. Quietly, however, the argument is being made among scholars and free thinkers in the United States that perhaps we are not the innocent victims we portray ourselves to be in the September 11, 2001 destruction of the World Trade Center. Some forward thinking minds even predicted a tragedy somewhat like this, albeit not on such a large scale. Unenlightened people ask why something like this could or would occur. What would make such a poor and unstable country like Afghanistan decides to stand up to the almighty United States? The answer is not an easy one, and requires a large adjustment in what we expect in foreign relations, and how we see and treat the rest of the world as a whole. The United States is one of the last remaining super powers of the world, and we have the obligation to maintain and support good relations with the smaller and weaker nations throughout the world. We should take full advantage of this relationship in several different ways, all without exploiting the original peoples or our own power. First the U.S. must focus on investing and trading with those nations who have yet to become economic powers. Second, we must implement a consistent foreign policy towards the Middle Eastern nations, and all third world nations in general. Third, the United States needs to respect the attempts and results of the democratization and religious revivals in the Middle East and Latin America, while taking a passive role in letting the a Western type of democracy take its course. Fourth, the U.S. must ease and downplay its conflict with those civilizations that dislike the "Western people" and their way of life.

Obviously, foreign investment is necessary for the future of developing other nations as well as our own. There must be an emphasis on foreign investment and trade, otherwise the third world nations will continue to fall behind economically, technologically, and domestically, which could lead to an economic downfall for the U.S. as well. Rodger Doyle states it well, "But the huge trade deficit, at a record-breaking quarter of one-trillion dollars in 1999, poses the threat of a large and sudden devaluation of the US dollar if foreign investors become pessimistic about the American Economy." (Doyle) The question then arises as to what the United States must do in order to have large trade agreements with struggling and less developed countries. In order for the U.S. to play a more active role in the economic and political development of many of these developing nations, it must first accept a different philosophy than its current one. First, it is imperative for the United States to play a similar role in Latin America to the one Japan has played with many of the developing nations in East Asia. The U.S. neighbors Latin America, and if it wants to play the role of big brother, it must accept the responsibility. The U.S. must realize that the economies of Latin American Nations will play an important part in the future of our own economy, and that it must begin to lead, invest, and aid not just Mexico, but countries such as Peru, Argentina, Bolivia, and Columbia into the twenty first century. The mainstay in American foreign policy has always been to promote and instill democracy, and with it a liberal economy.

However, in order to do this in a foreign nation, the U.S. must be able to first establish a viable economic relationship and system within the desired nations. We should not expect or want a nation to switch from a total authoritarian government to a market economy; doing so would be a disaster. In deciding who do and do not trade with, the United States rests too much on its ideological beliefs, when there is no need to do so. Foreign countries seek our capital and trade routes, not our morals and culture. We, unfortunately, do not feel this is the case. The US has traditionally required all or nothing, in regards to demands on prospective trade partners, and political allies. The United States' stance towards Cuba is a notable example of this philosophy. Instead, the U.S. has to be willing to allow developing to nations invest in U.S. markets before we invest in theirs, regardless of ideology. In return, a viable export / import system will be established. But it is essential that the economy of the developing nation be monitored and run by its own government, and the United States should only be there for advising purposes.

When a reasonable system has finally been achieved, then a more American, laissez - faire type of economic network will be allowed to grow. If the greatest challenge the United States faces is implementing a foreign policy that is consistent throughout the Middle East, we've done nothing but shoot ourselves in the foot so far. Islamic nations aren't likely to be responsive to ideas such as human rights, and democracy. These nations will never be responsive to western ideas when the United States continues to levy sanctions against them. The U.S. is lucky that it has an ally in Saudi Arabia and Israel, allowing them to implement many of these foreign policy agendas against the other Middle Eastern countries, without having to face serious economic consequences in the oil and gas industry. Oddly enough though, Saudi Arabia is probably as much against western ideologies as any nation in the Middle East. Women do not have equal rights, torture is frequent, there is no separation between church and state, and Saudi Arabia is extremely far from developing any sort of democracy . Yet another testament to the moral incoherence and alliances

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