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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Go to the People? Tom, are you kidding?

Breaking all the rules of international diplomacy may sometimes not be the best solution

I recently read an article by respected journalist and author Thomas L Friedman in which he advocates that the incoming Secretary of State break all the rules of diplomacy, leverage social networks and go direct to the people of foreign states, and have them agitate for change over the heads of their leaders. At first thought, this looked like a breakthrough idea; then I got nervous when I considered the consequences.

I have been a great fan of Mr. Friedman, reading most of his books and articles. I admire his travels through hostile regions of the world and his powers of observation. But our Tom tends to portray the world as flat, except in America. How much more of an incursion into the affairs of one’s neighbours would his proposed solution be? It conjures images of aircraft flying into foreign lands, dropping propaganda leaflets. Given the current open questions of whether drone attacks are acts of aggression on foreign soil, and whether waterboarding is torture, do we want to compound the situation by openly turning social media, which one could argue was invented in America, into a weapon of mass change in states that don’t share western ideology?

America took over a hundred years to go from the Wild West to a “civilized nation,” and one could argue that with its continuing need for “the right to bear arms” and the mass shootings that occur from time to time, whether it is still not out of its Wild West days. So why not give these other nations, many of whom have just emerged from their liberating “springs,” the time to find their way and evolve towards becoming “democratic” and “civilized,” and all the other labels we smugly plaster ourselves with? Providing free education to these nations on how democratic institutions work, explaining their pros and cons (for there are cons too, lest we forget), and then letting them decide, would be a better use of time and money than inciting the masses with the dropped leaflets strategy.

He goes on to propose how the Secretary could end nuclear proliferation, again using the sledgehammer approach, and I found that hypocritical. I was reminded of a club that says to new candidates, “You cannot enter our club, nor can you go out and form your own.” Why not disarm altogether, everyone, club members and non-members alike? And do it tomorrow. And let’s not forget who to-date has ever dropped a nuclear bomb(s) killing civilians; it reminds me of that truism that those who point a finger have four pointed back at them.

I don’t envy the new Secretary of State’s job. It’s a tough, demanding and often thankless job. But as America’s face abroad, the Secretary has the burden and the responsibility of being its ambassador of peace, the promoter of its values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It would indeed be demeaning of that office for the Secretary to be seen pursuing back-door end-runs on other heads of state, however flawed those heads may be. Perhaps it’s not this Secretary’s time to bring global peace, perhaps no one can, because humans, in America and abroad, are by nature aggressive, acquisitive and involved in the game of survival of the fittest, no matter how many trees we hug and how many hands we shake.

As for Tom, I will continue to read his articles for their out-of-the-box ideas, but I reserve the right to disagree with him when he proposes to walk us off the edge of his flattened world.



About the Writer

Shane Joseph is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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10 comments on Go to the People? Tom, are you kidding?

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By melanie jean juneau on February 20, 2013 at 12:52 am
great analogy to the Wild West mentality of Americans. We are generally more peaceful as a dirct result of OUR roots . The R.C.M.P. (Mounties) went ahead of the settlers and established law and order before colonization of the west- thank God
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By Shane Joseph on February 20, 2013 at 09:03 am

Melanie, Canada is no better these days with the inner-city shootings of 15 year-olds in the news. Arms do not advance the human condition. At best, they deter destructive behaviour (death deferred, I call it), for the most part they just kill and re-inforce the concept that "might is right". I am not sure why no one gets it! Or perhaps our leaders do, but do not have the hutzpah to do anything about it.

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By melanie jean juneau on February 20, 2013 at 09:44 am

You are right- no one has the hutzpah-great word

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By Uttam Gill on February 20, 2013 at 09:46 am

Shane, people like you are sane...you understand the scenario more humanly, when you say:

Arms do not advance the human condition. At best, they deter destructive behaviour (death deferred, I call it), for the most part they just kill and re-inforce the concept that "might is right"…

I am in total agreement what you shared your thoughts in this article…Keep It Up Shane

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By Shane Joseph on February 20, 2013 at 01:27 pm

thanks, uttam. glad to know that i still retain my sanity in this topsy turvy world.

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By Barbara MacDonald on February 20, 2013 at 01:46 pm

I think you nailed it with these words Shane

"I am not sure why no one gets it! Or perhaps our leaders do, but do not have the hutzpah to do anything about it."

I think we need a Gandhi to set us all free...

great ink...:-)

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By Shane Joseph on February 21, 2013 at 07:16 am

thanks, barabara. i'm not sure gandhi would be of much use today, or even jesus. we are quite numb to hunger strikers and miracle workers, they would be dismissed as quacks by an extreme games hungry audience. a seismic event of global proportions might get everyones attention. i once wrote a novel "after the flood" about just such a seismic event, but i too was dismissed, not enough catastrophe, i was told. ah, well...

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By Barbara MacDonald on February 21, 2013 at 08:58 am

Well I am a eternal optimist and will always try to make a difference. In my humble opinion, I think that people take that attitude and just give up or give in...complacency is not alright...This thinking needs to change. How will we ever make something better, if we are unwilling to even try?

Yes, I realize it is a huge task, but is it alright to ignore it just because it is this? I personally would not be okay with that thinking.

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By Shane Joseph on February 21, 2013 at 10:09 am

Oh, I haven't given up, Barbara. That's why I continue to use the pen, which is mightier than the sword (or the gun), to stimulate the conversation and the thinking. But it is an uphill battle. The good news is that the darker it gets, it creates the conditions and motives for revival. An example: the post war boom of the 50's after WWII. I am just not sure that yesterday's leaders can make the turnarounds happen. Even the Pope decided to retire. We need a messiah, a change agent, from within today's mess who the masses can identify with. I live in hope...

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By Barbara MacDonald on February 21, 2013 at 10:32 am

Very good Shane, I totally agree....and I too live in hope...ask and we shall receive? Maybe we need to ask more...of ourselves as well as others...Thank you for responding Shane. have a blessed day. :-)

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