Over the past month we've observed people in countries throughout the North Africa and the Middle East rising up, primarily non-violently, to oppose entrenched, corrupt and autocratic regimes. They've gone into the streets to bring down governments that have, in many cases, imposed themselves undemocratically for decades. Most of these regimes have been armed and supported by the United States.
To the U.S., the critical lesson these new "people's power" revolts brings home is both the immorality, and, ultimately, the self-defeating nature of a foreign policy based upon maintaining undemocratic client states. American foreign policy for decades has had, at its foundation, the sponsorship of repressive regimes like Egypt's or Saudi Arabia's.
The geopolitical calculus is cynical and runs counter to our declared values. In exchange for profitable entry for U.S.-based transnational corporations, our government arms the clients, trains their security apparatus, provides diplomatic cover for them and more.
The U.S. rarely, if ever, seems to consider the needs or aspirations of the people of these nations. Rather, geopolitical and economic concerns are paramount. Ultimately, however, when the clients fall, we find that we have earned the enmity of the people of these nations for our role in their suffering. If you're looking for examples just think of how the Iranian people responded in 1979, when they finally overthrew the brutal Shah imposed by a U.S.-sponsored coup in 1953, and maintained in office with U.S. backing for 25 years.
Bringing it All Back Home
While the Tunisians, Egyptians and others reached the breaking point and have revolted, unfortunately, far too few Americans are insisting on needed change here in our nation. We certainly need a new foreign policy--one that's no longer based upon domination and militarism. We also need to democratize our economy and establish a much more participatory political culture.
Just how long will our fellow citizens accept an agenda that allows the rich to keep getting richer, without paying anywhere near their fair share? How long will we put up with cuts to everything but the military? When will we, as a society, press forward and insist on clean energy, safe food, health care for all, adequate investment in infrastructure and jobs for all who are able to work? These are all things we can readily afford, if we simply had our priorities straight.
The responsibility for moving this agenda forward is on us, people of conscience and concerned citizens. We are encouraged to see the resistance offered by unions and their allies in Wisconsin. A broader progressive groundswell is needed now, however, and we, here in Missouri, need to do our part.
There is a vicious cycle of disempowerment. When people believe their actions are unlikely to make a difference, most don't bother. And the actions of those who do act, by themselves, are not adequate to bring the desired changes. So, yet more people are left disappointed, disillusioned and withdrawn from activist participation.
What is needed is a virtuous cycle of empowerment. We must take action, achieve at least some positive results, and show others that our efforts do, indeed, make a difference. A participatory social order is essential if we are to create a future that really works. We, here at Peaceworks, invite you to join us in making such a future a reality.