U.S. Foreign Policy: This Is Us

Last weekend a pair of horrifying massacres in the U.S. cities of El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio sent shock waves through the country. The outrage was so powerful that even President Donald Trump had to overcome his own indifference to the act and say something that, from another source, might have sounded vaguely presidential. From him it only sounded insincere, especially since he could not even remember which Ohio city had just been so badly traumatized.

Among the punditry, Dr. Eddie Glaude, Jr., Professor of African-American Studies at Princeton, had perhaps the most insightful commentary. As Glaude completed his brief speech on MSNBC, he noted that when we see these horrific mass shootings, we ask, “Oh my God, is this who we are?”

Glaude answered his own question. “What we know is that this country has been playing politics for a long time on this hatred—we know this. So, it’s easy for us to place it all on Donald Trump’s shoulders. It’s easy to place Pittsburgh on his shoulders. It’s easy for me to place Charlottesville on his shoulders. It’s easy to place El Paso on his shoulders.” But then Glaude resoundingly proclaimed, “This is us! And if we’re gonna get past this we can’t blame it on [Trump]. He’s a manifestation of the ugliness that’s in us.”

Glaude is correct to point out that Trump is not inventing this, he is unleashing it, harvesting hate that has festered for decades, suppressed—but not defeated—by liberal ideals.

But as Americans so often do, we think of the Trump presidency in terms of ourselves, of what happens within our borders. For many of us, that doesn’t even extend to a place like Puerto Rico, which Trump was able to smugly neglect in a way he never would have dared to do to a mainland U.S. city. But what of our foreign policy under Trump and for years before him?

Events in Gaza, Iran, the United Kingdom, Congo, Kashmir, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, and other places do not exist in isolation from the United States. Sometimes by action, sometimes by inaction, the U.S. affects events all over the world. That’s hardly news. Most Americans know it. But too few of us take it seriously enough to let it influence our votes or political activity. Read more at LobeLog

Hugo Chavez: Demonized and Idolized

The death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has been greeted with the expected polarized commentary. Chavez was a man both vilified and idolized outside and, to some extent at least for a while, inside Venezuela. It’s worth taking a look at the man now.

Chavez was a populist, socialist leader who wasted little time alienating both the United States and the Venezuelan upper class after he took office. Chavez became a global

The Late Hugo Chavez

The Late Hugo Chavez

hero for the left, and with good reason. He didn’t just promise to help the poor, he took action. He spent Venezuela’s revenue on education and health care. He pulled the country away from US influence. On the local level, Chavez set up groups – the Bolivarian Circles and Communal Councils – that were decentralized community boards of sorts that had real influence on local issues, a hallmark of participatory democracy that is very significant and rarely seen. And through nationalization of oil, agriculture and other business, Chavez both alienated major investors and substantially grew Venezuela’s GDP, at least for a while.

But while Chavez stuck to his guns when international investment plummeted, he, like most leftist leaders before him, was unable to figure out a way to contend with this. The US isolated Venezuela in the wake of his program of nationalizing the oil and other major industries in the country, costing US investors a lot of money. And Chavez welcomed that isolation; it allowed him to lead the fight against US imperialism, and he surely reveled in the role. And, while Chavez has kept the economy steady in recent years, it has been a patchwork project.

In his later years, Chavez followed an all too familiar pattern, vesting more and more power in the executive. Of course, after the failed coup attempt in 2002, and the ongoing efforts to destabilize his regime, there were real reasons for this. That’s the Castro argument, and the effects were the same. Chavez became more repressive, even earning some opprobrium from the left a few years back after he imprisoned a judge because he issued a ruling Chavez (and many Venezuelans) disagreed with. Continue reading