Monday, 28 March 2011

How America Can Export Its Values

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America has a dismal track record in imposing its values upon the rest of the world — as demonstrated most recently during the massive eruptions in the Arab world. President Obama declared on March 3 of the Libyan dictator, “Let me be very unambiguous about this. Colonel Qaddafi needs to step down from power and leave.” Whatever moral persuasion the President assumed he had gained by genuflecting to Islam and the Muslim world, it was far too little to affect the aging dictator of the sparsely populated nation of Libya. Not only is Gadhafi not out of power, but he may succeed in the military re-conquest of the rebel parts of his land although the outcome will depend upon our decision to send military forces to oppose his old regime.

Obama urged the king of Bahrain not to crush the protesters in Pearl Square and to accommodate the demands of its Shiite majority. What happened? King Fahd of Saudia Arabia sent 2,000 soldiers to Bahrain to defeat opponents of the Bahraini monarchy. Barack Obama, as is increasingly obvious, is simply irrelevant to much of the world. Obama was surprised by the revolt in Tunisia against President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Vice President Biden stated that Hosni Mubarak was not a dictator; President Obama initially backed him up, then flip-flopped, declaring that Mubarak should leave office.

Governments such as that of Mubarak and Ben Ali were loyal to American foreign policy, but that policy itself — not just Obama — is the heart of the problem. America's efforts to either entice, entreat, or threaten other nations into forming good governments and pursuing proper aims is doomed to fail. The people of those nations must choose for themselves what system to adopt. The world is not like America. We have been the exception.

There have been numerous other nations that have adopted many of those characteristics that made America great — some in Europe even served as models for the Founders who crafted our own republic. Canada — which shares with the United States the longest undefended border in the world — possesses strong provincial powers, an historically limited government, and many Canadians of faith, all of which helped to make it a commendable nation historically — though now it is suffering from even worse socialistic influences than is America, not having the benefit of our incomparable Constitution, which guarantees to every state "a republican form of government." Switzerland fares better, with very strong cantonal (local) government, a limited federal government, and a strict neutrality backed up by a very serious National Guard. The Swiss have also been willing to defend their cultural heritage by confronting radical Islam and, for instance, banning minarets from their land. Australia, which for a long time granted coequal constitutional powers to the six state governments with the federal government, also embraced many of those principles of government which made America great, but, like Canada, lacks our ironclad Constitution. The United Provinces (the Netherlands) is another example of a polity which enjoyed limited government, an interest in strict neutrality and (an often overlooked factor) a highly decentralized government of seven stadts, of which “Holland” was simply the largest. However, it has suffered from rampant social liberalism, a negative influence sure to weaken any republic.

Although there is much to fault with the governments of Canada, Switzerland, Australia, and Holland, surely if the other countries of the world were more like those four nations, many problems they face would be much smaller. It is noteworthy that political decentralization — very strong states, provinces, or cantons — is at the heart of each of these governmental systems. It is also sadly true that the religious faith which was once very important in these four countries has moved sharply away from Christianity into secular humanism. 

There is no need to slavishly copy everything about America. After the wars of liberation in Latin America, nearly all the new governments copied the U.S. Constitution. So, the “United States” of Mexico and the “United States” of Brazil both have state-federal systems with a president who is both chief executive and chief of state. Latin America ought to be rich, peaceful and free. But  warfare, grandiose schemes of strongmen, practical abandonment of Catholicism (in too many places), and most of all the sin of coveting their “Yankee” neighbor, have held these nations down.

What should America do to help lift nations such as Libya and Syria out of the shadow of brutal tyranny and into the land of hope and liberty? The best program for our nation is to show the rest of the world how happy, free, peaceful, prosperous, and generous we can be. This means that the American President should do very little. Calvin Coolidge let America be America. The country lived in peace, enjoyed good relations with nearly all nations, experienced only a low level of political corruption, and ran a federal surplus with a small federal government. America “worked,” just as Jefferson and Washington intended it should.

Did America have a foreign policy? Oh, yes, but it was a foreign policy where the government concentrated on defense and diplomacy, and allowed private citizens to provide what is now termed "foreign aid." For instance, charities from this most charitable people in human history helped the Japanese recover from the an earthquake in 1923, which may have killed 150,000 people, and which utterly devastated the Japanese economy. Americans willingly gave aid, and this private outpouring of goodwill under Coolidge was the opportunity (wholly ignored by later political leaders, as the Second World War loomed) to create a long-term friendship with Japan. 

Missionaries in China built hospitals and schools, along with ministering to the souls of the Chinese, and this work had a profound effect upon that vast nation. Dr. Sun Yat-Sen and Chiang Kai-shek, the two great leaders of Republican China, were both Christians (as was Madame Chiang Kai-shek). Non-Americans also set an example of how people from Western Christian nations might positively serve the Third World. Mother Teresa entered poverty-stricken India with nothing and built up a compassionate charity which transformed many lives. Dr. David Livingston, all alone in the heart of Africa, brought the good news around which all good governments are formed. Dr. Albert Schweitzer, with his good works, also brought hope through selfless devotion supported only by private citizens who believed in him.

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