During the foreign policy debate in the run-up to the US presidential election Republican candidate Mitt Romney agreed with much of what Barack Obama had to say on the issue. He disagreed slightly with Obama on the sanctions against Iran. Romney wanted tougher sanctions to make Iran give up its nuclear ambitions.
They both talked tough, but Romney talked a little tougher. A tough foreign policy is what swings the votes in America. It is as populist an issue as job reservations for the under-privileged is in India. Both the Republicans and the Democrats know that over the centuries, particularly since the twentieth century, US foreign policy has caused more harm than good to its image as the global peacekeeper and champion of democracy. This policy has left behind a trail of blood and destruction in Hiroshima-Nagasaki, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. It is obvious that Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People is not recommended reading for White House incumbents.
The hawkishness of the two candidates was exemplified by their unabashed support to increase military spending as an important component of US foreign policy. If the globe were to be served on a platter there would have been little left of it at the end of the debate. The two of them would have gobbled it all up to 'defend American national interest.'
Writing for The Huffington Post, Stephen Zunes, professor of Politics and Chair of Mid-Eastern Studies, University of San Francisco, noted that "Obama bragged that, despite record deficits and painful cutbacks in important domestic programs, 'our military spending has gone up every single year that I've been in office.' Furthermore, he pointed out his policy 'is not reducing our military spending. It's maintaining it.' U.S. military spending is now higher than it was during the height of the Cold War and comes close to equaling the military budgets of every other country in the world combined. Despite this - and his supposed concerns about the federal debt - Romney called for dramatic increases in military spending."
The Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers supported Zunes' claim. In a post on its website mapm.org it claimed that US military spending for 2012-2013 will exceed the combined spending of all other countries put together. It minced no words in declaring that "WE ARE A MILITARY GOVERNMENT."
According to MAP nearly 54% of the Federal Discretionary Budget will go to support the administration's military program. The US spends $686 billion on its military while China at number two spends $114 billion.
During the debate Obama mentioned Iran 19 times while Romney mentioned it 23 times. And they both argued that the sledgehammer must kill the fly before the fly attacked the sledgehammer. Look at the the size of the military budget of the countries which 'threaten US security'. Iran $8 billion, North Korea $7 billion, Pakistan $5 billion, Venezuela $3 billion and Syria $2 billion. MAP pointed out that Iran, unlike the US and Israel, does not have a nuclear weapon. Unlike Israel, it has signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. International law allows Iran the right to develop nuclear energy for civilian use. And finally it says "Iran poses no threat to the people of the US or Europe."
It was clear from the rhetoric of the two presidential candidates that neither of them have the moral courage to take the first bold step towards making the planet earth a more secure place for us and the generations to follow us. They have not yet woken up to the reality of living in a global village. In this village five households have given themselves the license to stock nuclear weapons. Israel, India and Pakistan also have nuclear weapons without a formal 'license'.
An American boasted that his country had nuclear weapons which could destroy the world ten times over. Without batting his eyelids his Russian counterpart replied that his country had enough to destroy the world at least once. After a significant pause he looked towards the American and said, "I guess that should be enough". The story is apocryphal, but it makes a significant point.
For decades America has waged war on weaker nations on the pretext of maintaining global peace. The time has come for the most powerful nation on this planet earth to give the Gandhian principle of non-violence for settling disputes an honest chance. It should persuade the powerful business lobby to invest in generating lasting global goodwill.
A beginning could be made by adopting the most backward countries in Africa as the American model for generating goodwill. Invest in creating infrastructure that would help the impoverished people of these countries to stand on their feet. Give them roads, hospitals, schools and means to gain economic independence. A prosperous Africa would create an assured market for American products.
Sow goodwill to reap everlasting gratitude.