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Sunday, March 20, 2011

American Foreign Policy and Domestic Consequences (Birthright citizenship. remaking the Red Dawn remake and the mixed-up "Obama Doctrine")

Actually "American Foreign Policy and Domestic Consequences" would be a good title for an essay or a magazine article and my most fervent wish is that someone would pay me to research and write about it.

Really this is just a link dump to some posts on National Review Online's The Corner.



(1) Mark Krikorian is ostensibly an immigration expert and I would certainly defer to his judgment regarding basic definitions and outlined notions for various principles regarding the immigration concept and policy.  I simplify (perhaps overly so) when I say that "birthright citizenship" is the concise description of the Constitutional principle that people born in the United States of America under most circumstances are automatically Americans, complete with American citizenship.  Some political rightists consider the inclusion of this clause in our Highest Law to be a mistake; I am not one of those rightists.

The debate over birthright citizenship has focused on children born here to illegal aliens. Admittedly, this is a big deal, with more than 300,000 births a year to illegal-immigrants mothers, though I’m on record as skeptical that changing our citizenship rules should be a high-priority objective for immigration hawks.
But there’s a whole other part of the problem — children born here to legal, but temporary, visitors. Not green card holders, who as permanent residents are best seen as candidate-members of the American people and whose children should definitely be citizens at birth. The issue, rather, is about “non-immigrants,” foreigners here temporarily as tourists, students, workers, whatever. In this regard, the issue of birth tourism has gotten attention lately, as has the citizenship status of terrorists like Anwar al-Awlaki and Yaser Esam Hamdi, both born in the U.S. to visitors but raised entirely abroad, who’ve tried to use their nominal citizenship to protect themselves from justice.
But the number of such people never seemed likely to be that large, so what was the big deal? Well, a new CIS report by a pseudonymous government employee with extensive knowledge of such matters estimates that nearly 200,000 people are born each year in the United States to “non-immigrants” — i.e., foreigners here on some kind of temporary status. We have a piece upcoming on possible solutions, many of which wouldn’t require changing our interpretation of the Constitution, but the first decision policymakers face is whether they think it’s a good idea to give away United States citizenship promiscuously to any child born here to a Latvian tourist or Japanese student or a Mexican Border-Crossing Card holder, who then promptly leaves and raises the child in a foreign country.
Professor Krikorian focuses on foreigners with foreign values and extra-national intent that happen to have the asset of American citizenship.  I, on the other hand, see this sort of thing as an extension of the "anchor baby" phenomenon: a future retirement plan.  The legally visiting alien gives birth to his or her child in this country and then they move out.  As an adult of middle age the citizen moves to the United States and then because we commonly accommodate citizens' requests to bring non-citizen parents and grandparents over from other countries we suddenly have clever foreign people, legal aliens, becoming legal immigrants with wonderful retirement plans and brand spanking new Social Security checks from a system they did not pay into.  That beats a retirement in Latvia or Slovakia.  It is certainly better than how the Mexicans treat their infirm, intentions aside.  As I said though, I defer to Prof Krikorian's wisdom.


At some point we see a mix of what it means to be an American, as various citizens are raised with national identities totally alien to the American experience, and we have people born from other nations and raised in those cultures earnestly attempting to assimilate and live up to the American Way, even before they become citizens. Then there are the legal residents that desire to enjoy the benefits of life in our country yet have absolutely no interest in being Americans, let alone contributing to the greater good.

Mind you I am also reminded of the Tom Clancy novel Debt of Honor where the lead character proclaims what I infer the author takes as an axiom: that the United States is obligated to defend their citizens even abroad (which sounds more than reasonable to me) and that obligation in particular is the title drop.  Protecting American citizens is one of the major reasons to oppose new Japanese imperialism, not merely to retake American territory.  Certainly the American citizens whose claim is only by birth can legally if not morally (and the distinction is likely immaterial in a foreign policy sense) demand that his citizenship afford him (or her) some sort of accommodation, advocacy, and/or protection if it is suddenly warranted concerning possible events involving being accosted by foreign agencies.  This takes the debate of what makes an American far more involved than I would enjoy taking it, but there is something to the American Dream and the American Way far beyond simply belonging in some legalistic sense.


(2) The original Red Dawn was exactly what it was and I suspect a lot of people see it these days only as nostalgia or kitsch.  One could surmise that it was a product of its time given that the invaders of the United States were Soviets (along with Cubans and Nicaraguans) but the bigger indicator of it being a product of its time is that the United States and the Americans are unabashedly the protagonists in a non-ironic way against a national force, an enemy that exists in real life (that could conceivably attack us in such a manner).  Rambo III also involved Americans versus Soviets, but that was set in Afghanistan.  Independence Day presented the Americans as global saviors but the enemy were space aliens in 15-mile-wide flying saucers.

One important thing for Red Dawn, aside from American pride, is that the bad guys were bad guys that could do this and the filmmakers were not too proud to say that these Communists could be bad guys.  I admire the 'no fear' aspect in the filmmaking.
The original Red Dawn featured a number of awesome things: John Milius, Patrick Swayze, Harry Dean Stanton screaming “AVENGE ME!” to his sons through the chain-link fence of a Soviet work camp; and a certain tiger-blooded, Adonis-DNA’ed serial winner who was then at the height of his powers. It was an overwrought action flick/melodrama, to be sure, but it was also a cultural marker: the age of d├ętente was over, and the age of Reagan had arrived in full...
By contrast, the long-stalled remake has become a sick joke. To wit: MGM has taken the extraordinary step of digitally scrubbing the film of all references to Red China as the invading villains — substituting dialogue, removing images of Chinese flags and insignia etc. — because “potential distributors are nervous about becoming associated with the finished film, concerned that doing so would harm their ability to do business with the rising Asian superpower.” All without the PRC even uttering a single word of protest.
And who are the new invaders? North Korea. That’s right, the starving-to-death, massively brainwashed “Hermit Kingdom.” I imagine at this very moment, Hollywood script doctors are working on a revised first act in which Kim Jong Il decides it’s a good idea to let hundreds of thousands of his captive countrymen travel to America.

 The North Korean horde — lacking a blue-water navy and any airborne capacity to speak of — would then, I imagine, travel through Russia and cross the Bering Strait into Alaska, living off . . . er, the land or something . . . before eventually making its way to Michigan, where the film is set... Amazingly, this film has managed to become a sort of self-referential warning, a pop-cultural Liar’s Paradox. That is, the awfulness of the new Red Dawn is the strongest argument there is for why we need a new Red Dawn.
North Korea?  The remake of Red Dawn was shot largely in my own city of Grand Ledge approximately 12 miles from where I am typing this.

The thing is that while the Chinese may or may not be our enemies and they may be well described as a dictatorship the big difference between now and the original 1980s film is that the Soviets are not our trading partners and the Chinese very much are.  Still: anticipating the Chinese' negative reaction so far ahead of the Chinese having any reaction reeks of cowardice and this simply sacrifices the art for the money.

Besides, given that the remake has been finished and shelved for some time I see whatever is released as a remake of the remake.  Unfortunately we will likely not see the original remake.

It is true that this is not American foreign policy in the sense of government's orders but there is something intensely sad in our corporate culture has now bowed to the barest non-existent ghost of the possibility of international condemnation and possible commercial negativity abroad.  Perhaps the lack of commitment is reflected in, say, our President.


(3) Victor Davis Hanson is, among all pundits I know, the one best versed in terms of relating the concepts of culture, war, and government all to one another.  Essentially we all should know that American foreign policy is determined in some ways by a specific coherent philosophy of the Commander-in-Chief and that often that specific coherent philosophy can be carried on throughout successive Presidents.  Dr Hanson discusses the lack of a real Obama Doctrine.  The Cold War started because of and through the Truman Doctrine, which started out as opposition to Communist takeover in European countries,  
Behind it lay the Communist/Soviet takeover of many of the countries of eastern Europe by ‘salami tactics’ – which, Truman alleged, was in breach of Stalin’s promises at the Yalta Conference.       
Then, in February 1947, the British government – which had been helping the Greek government resist Communist rebels – announced that it could no longer afford to keep its soldiers there.   It seemed to Truman and his advisers that, of they did nothing, it was only a matter of time before the communists took over YET ANOTHER country...
Truman’s Speech was an event of immense importance in the Cold War, and it set out many of the principles by which the USA was to fight the Cold War for the next 30 years.
    
Up until Truman’s speech, the most powerful influence in American foreign policy had been the ‘Monroe Doctrine’ – a statement in 1823 by American President James Monroe that America ought to keep out of European affairs.   The Truman Doctrine overturned the Monroe Doctrine absolutely:
   
We must take immediate and resolute action.
I therefore ask the Congress to provide authority for assistance to Greece and Turkey in the amount of $400,000,000 for the period ending June 30, 1948. In requesting these funds, I have taken into consideration the maximum amount of relief assistance which would be furnished to Greece out of the $350,000,000 which I recently requested that the Congress authorize for the prevention of starvation and suffering in countries devastated by the war.
   
In this way, the Truman Doctrine led directly to the Marshall Plan – the plan to contain communism by helping the economies of Europe to get going again – which was ratified by Congress in 1948.
   
In his speech, also, to convince the Congress that it was essential to confront the Soviets, Truman introduced an idea which had been explained to him a fortnight earlier by Undersecretary Dean Acheson – that if America let one country fall to Communism, all the countries round about would follow like a line of dominoes.   This idea later became known as the ‘domino theory’, and it was later to inspire the American interventions in Korean and Vietnam:
   
It is necessary only to glance at a map to realize that the survival and integrity of the Greek nation are of grave importance in a much wider situation. If Greece should fall under the control of an armed minority, the effect upon its neighbor, Turkey, would be immediate and serious. Confusion and disorder might well spread throughout the entire Middle East.
Moreover, the disappearance of Greece as an independent state would have a profound effect upon those countries in Europe whose peoples are struggling against great difficulties to maintain their freedoms and their independence while they repair the damages of war.
It would be an unspeakable tragedy if these countries, which have struggled so long against overwhelming odds, should lose that victory for which they sacrificed so much. Collapse of free institutions and loss of independence would be disastrous not only for them but for the world. Discouragement and possibly failure would quickly be the lot of neighboring peoples striving to maintain their freedom and independence.
Should we fail to aid Greece and Turkey in this fateful hour, the effect will be far reaching to the West as well as to the East….
   
Another result of the Truman Doctrine was that (by sending military aid to ‘friendly’ nations) it set a precedent for the principle of ‘collective security’ – building up a network of allies and friendly states to which the US gave military aid free of charge (this became known as the Military Assistance Program).   Ultimately, it was to lead to NATO.
Essentially the Truman Doctrine is opposition to Communist growth, Domino effect, and Soviet takeover and in pursuing this crusade President Truman prosecuted the Koren War, President John F, Kennedy ordered the Bay of Pigs invasion, and President Lyndon Johnson sent troops into Vietnam.  President Reagan's contribution to the Truman Doctrine was to end the Cold War and with President Bush sitting in office for the unification of Germany.


The terribly named "War on Terror" is the result or follow-through of the so-called "Bush Doctrine", which has four different, successive meanings.  The last and thus the most applicative meaning was
the fourth and current definition of the Bush doctrine, the most sweeping formulation of Bush foreign policy and the one that most distinctively defines it: the idea that the fundamental mission of American foreign policy is to spread democracy throughout the world. It was most dramatically enunciated in Bush’s second inaugural address: “The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.”
This declaration of a sweeping, universal American freedom agenda was consciously meant to echo John Kennedy’s pledge that the United States “shall pay any price, bear any burden . . . to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” It draws also from the Truman doctrine of March 1947 and from Wilson’s 14 points.
Let us not pretend that the other three previous Bush Doctrines were really well liked by the Democrats.

That brings us to the point at hand, Victor Davis Hanson's point, that Barack Obama has no real foreign policy and his largest, most powerful initial approach was simply to announce and act as if George W. Bush's policies were done and not to be repeated.  This tone and verbal idea was proven to be a bag of lies through actions but politicians are never above hypocrisy.  Among sins are
reset diplomacy as not judging other regimes but human rights declared universal, no idea whether plebiscites without constitutional guarantees will bring governments worse than the pro-American autocracies that fall, and loud declarations of Bush’s policies as bad but also reset diplomacy’s quietly embracing most of them in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the not-to-be-named war on terror. All this is in line with simultaneously establishing withdrawal dates and surging into Afghanistan, virtually closing Guantanamo, and regretting Iraq while claiming it as a possible “greatest achievement.” All that can be said for it is that the chaos keeps our friends and enemies guessing — and that confused inaction is, I suppose, preferable to confused intervention.
Let's be honest: President Obama is continuing a large chunk of the good policies of President Bush, but like President Bush he is taking good policy ideas and executing them somewhat poorly. Although President Obama's policy is thus more incoherent for it.  I saw this coming.

I love I love Professor Hanson's set-up of the Obama administration's
Three flawed assumptions:
  1. Not being George Bush meant that we should keep mum about “democracy” and “human rights” and not judge the culturally constructed practices of ‘other’ indigenous governments. We saw that rhetoric early in 2009, and it was reified by our silence over the Iranian protests six months later. Oddly, we were to assume that a right-wing Bush had been too idealistic, and that a left-wing Obama was going to return to realpolitik dressed up in multicultural platitudes of non-intervention. The result is that we have become loud multicultural neocons who sermonize but are not taken too seriously;
  2.  We trumpeted multilateralism in the sense that we would follow the lead of the U.N. or the EU/NATO or the Arab League, all of whom are always waiting to follow America’s lead. Apparently, the administration believed that the usual serial criticism from these international bodies meant that they don’t like U.S. leadership. In fact, they both do like us to lead and even more do like to criticize us for leading — and find absolutely no contradiction in that at all. The result is that they are all unhappy that they finally got what they have always wanted and did not want.
  3.  As we saw in Obama’s first interview (with al Arabiya), his Cairo speech, and commentary from his advisers, the president as Barack Hussein Obama believed that his unique racial heritage, his non-traditional name, his father’s Muslim ancestry, and his left-of-center politics were all supposed to combine to reassure our former enemies and suspicious neutrals that we were now on the right side of progressive history-making — as if a democratic, capitalist, wealthy military superpower could at last be seen as quasi-revolutionary, and therefore they should both like us and desist from inappropriate behavior. It was almost the foreign-policy equivalent of a stuffy, big-city establishment organization cynically hiring a hip community-organizing liaison to go out into the neighborhood and convince suspicious locals that it was ‘really’ on their side — and it has worked about as well as these things usually do for all parties involved.
To an extent, I think of all this is brilliant.  The fact of the matter is that a President's deliberate message to foreigners is less important to those people than his actions except when it betrays a certain sort of hypocrisy.  In general Arabs and Persians and Muslims expect Westerners and their leaders to hold to a certain Christian or secular culture and acting like a politician, presenting a message that is somewhat contrary to that expected culture does that Western leader no favors. More importantly no nation cares about what sort of flavored sauce or tone a President provides when the actual effect of the policy is the meat.

Good policy has direction, something that can be anticipated in terms of law and execution, and is something that successive Presidents can hew to or aspire to in terms of continuity and effectiveness.  Honestly the 4th President will either have to start from scratch or hopefully will find a way to link back to some sort of Truman Doctrine or one of the Bush Doctrines.

Frankly if Islam was seen more as a sociopolitical ideology and less as a religion it would make determining foreign policy so much easier. We could treat it like a theocratic version of Communism and attempt to contain it.  Yet because people act as Muslims with invocations of deity we in the west treat the very existence of this religion as sacrosanct.  Ostensibly that might kill the West.  On the other hand the biggest strength of the imperialism Islamist movement is that it can hide behind the peace-loving Mohammedans' faith as a giant public relations and human shield.

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