Monday, February 13, 2006

The More Things Change...

I feel like I become more confused about foreign policy with each passing day. As I matured and learned more about what happened in Rwanda, I wondered why didn’t act. I look at Darfur and ask why we aren’t acting now. Despite all of the logistical reasons often given, I am sure part of it boils down to the fact that Darfur and Rwanda are actually just a few of the many conflicts around the world. Those two get mentioned (barely) because they are / were genocide. But that shouldn’t necessarily make them more deserving of attention than civil wars and major humanitarian crises in Haiti, Zimbabwe, Congo, Eritrea, Sri Lanka, or anywhere else.

The truth is that there are so many problems it just gets overwhelming. I am beginning to look at the world around me and realize that since we have limited resources, we can only hope to deal with a few of these – or, more likely, none at all. We faced similar problems during the Cold War where we tried to achieve our ends in many different countries using minimal resources. We can look to Nicaragua, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, and Iraq to measure our successes. Rumsfeld’s latest visit to Algeria to discuss arms sales is reminiscent of these previous policies considering that country’s poor human rights record and still unstable nature since its civil war.

During President Bush’s State of the Union, he talked about decreasing our dependence on foreign oil (although without any real consumer sacrifices). This is a goal that people like Thomas Friedman have been advocating for longer than I can remember. But this will not necessarily change the world around us. In the short term, it will give us the freedom to ignore conflicts in the Middle East like we do in Africa. With the rest of the world bound to continue consuming oil at ever increasing levels, it is unlikely to change the nature of the governments there or anywhere else.

I realize this post has kind of wandered without really going anywhere. I think what I am trying to say though is that what we have tried didn't work. Turning our backs on conflicts isn't right (and energy independence will only grant us that much) and our big and small (Vietnam / 1980s Afghanistan) interventions did not work either. The bottom line is that we never really worked to seriously improve the situations in developing countries. Unless we get serious about that, things are not likely to change.