Friday, July 1, 2016

Fear of Others – The 21st Century’s Foreign Policy Driver

Melting pot/lettuce bowl nations, react to “perceived differences” of those hammering on their doors for asylum based on three rather clear variables: numbers of wannabe immigrées, proximately to the source of mass migration (long-term prognosis) and economic confidence.
This easily explains Canada’s proud “open door” policy to those fleeing drought, economic desperation, genocide, religious persecution and war. Her economic policies – which press moderation/conservative stability versus over-leveraged and loosely-regulated cowboy financial games – have managed to weather every major recession, even the Great Depression, of the 20th and 21stcenturies. Rich in natural resources and harboring a sparse population, Canada seldom loses confidence in their long-term economic future. Income inequality is not a Canadian issue. There are no hordes Syrians or Iraqis… or even Mexicans… next door. With free universal healthcare and general access to solid schools, Canadians are pretty sure they’ll be safe and doing “okay” for the foreseeable future.
And most of all, there is no Canadian populist movement of under-educated, quivering fear that marks the negative reactions of white traditionalists in Western Europe and the United States. That one of the two presumptive U.S. presidential party candidates – representing the political party that currently controls the majority of state legislatures, governorships and, oh yes, Congress itself – is campaigning against Mexicans (including a platform to build a massive wall and deport over 11 million people), willing to ban Muslims (even tourists) and erect trade barriers and risk trade wars… is the clearest expression of white rural values populism, isolationist and anti-foreigner.
Income inequality? Blame foreigners. Rather than address the tiny body of mega-wealthy in this country (including Donald Trump himself) replacing workers with automation (that they conveniently own), lobbying tax rates and anti-regulatory schema that favor them, using their money to tilt the playing field even more in their favor… the Republican platform is rather harshly constructed on attacking and blaming foreigners and those foreign-born who wish to live here. Taking jobs? Seriously? What job have you lost to an undocumented Mexican? National security threats? Like we would stop focused terrorists with a ban on Muslims and hope that they do not use our anti-Muslim bent to recruit more radicals?
Unwilling to talk to all the animals, Trump has developed a push-me-pull-you approach to foreign policy. Threatening to bomb ISIS off the map – ignoring the millions of innocent casualties who would perish under this unworkable potential as well as the Islamic backlash that would make attacking the US anywhere priority one for a much large angry horde – Trump appears oblivious to the risks or consequences.
Even without Brexit, we are watching right wing backlash in Europe, particularly in Eastern Europe, against a clearly unmanageable flood of Syrian and Iraqi immigrants, many dying in the effort or trapped in horrific “temporary camps” awaiting policy shifts. And what too many Americans do not realize is that the Brexit vote seemed to have morphed, in substantial part, into a referendum on immigration and open borders. A slam to diversity and globalization.
It’s interesting to look back at the events that immediately preceded Brexit… and to drill down on which voters sealed the deal to pull out of the EU. Focus on England… since Scotland and Northern Ireland were deeply opposed to leaving the EU.
England? That polyglot nation where you probably can better Pakistani food than Pakistan? It was traditional England that killed the EU relationship. In a televised plea, P.M. David Cameron asked his people to stay the course and remain in the EU, he obviously struggled against the powerful anti-immigrant message of those who think it’s time to sever EU ties, even knowing that there would be serious economic disruption.
“David Cameron on Tuesday [June 7th] night made an impassioned plea for the country to stick with an organization that he acknowledged ‘can drive me mad.’
“Warts and all, Cameron argued in a nationally televised appearance, in which he was sharply questioned by voters, life in the E.U. is better than the alternative: a leap into the unknown with a British exit, known as Brexit.
“Cameron, who called the referendum despite his support for E.U. membership, said Britain should stay in the 28-member bloc and try to reform it from within rather than risk the economic shock that experts have warned would come with a departure… ‘Leaving is quitting,’ he said, ‘and I don’t think we’re quitters. I think we’re fighters.’
“But in his 30-minute appearance, Cameron was repeatedly pressed by voters on how he could stop the uncontrolled flow of immigrants from elsewhere in Europe, levels of which have surged over the past decade. A man who identified himself as a small-business owner said the prime minister had been ‘humiliated’ when he tried to negotiate restrictions on immigration with his fellow E.U. leaders this year.
“Cameron repeatedly tried to steer the conversation away from immigration and back to pounds and pence, citing the ‘extraordinary consensus’ of experts who say Brexit could send the country into an economic tailspin. Immigration ‘is a challenge,’ he said. ‘But it’s not a challenge we should meet by damaging our economy.’
The prime minister’s appearance came against a backdrop of tightening polls, which [showed] a dead heat ahead of the June 23 vote. As recently as two weeks [before the vote], they had measured a sizable advantage for the ‘remain’ side.
“But the pro-Brexit campaign’s unrelenting focus on immigration appears to be winning [an understatement, huh?] over voters who worry that the country cannot continue to accept mass arrivals from Eastern Europe under the E.U.’s free-movement laws.
“Cameron was pitted Tuesday [June 7th] night against [powerfully anti-immigrant] Nigel Farage, leader of the U.K. Independence Party, an anti-E.U. movement that was the third-highest vote-getter in last year’s national elections.” The Washington Post, June 7th. Post-Orlando, reflecting the immigration fears, the polls showed the “leave” vote surging past the “stay” vote by 7 percentage points. Well, we also know the results. Bye Bye Europe! Economic destabilization with a gloating English right wing.
The diehards who carried the “leave” vote to victory looked a lot like Donald Trump’s core constituency here: older (middle-aged and above), blue collar, less educated, more fearful about job displacement, anti-immigrant, incumbent whites (with long-standing local ancestry). Have we moved from being a tolerant and democratic society to an angry nation unable to understand, much less grapple with, the obvious changes in our world?
Maybe you get simple and internationally illegal solutions (per the UN Convention against Torture) like this Trump response, to Tuesday’s Istanbul airport terrorist attack, given at an Ohio rally: "What do you think about waterboarding? [The crowd cheered as he gave his answer] I like it a lot. I don't think it's tough enough.” Guess that makes it OK for our enemies to employ that interrogation technique on any captured U.S. soldiers, huh?
I’m Peter Dekom, and sometimes in our fear of foreigners and our reactions to their aspirations, we turn friends into mortal enemies hell-bent on destroying us and our way of life.

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