Terminating Public Programs: An American Political Paradox


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Often the United States is resented for propping up dictatorial and corrupt regimes rather than prodding them to change. Osama bin Laden was the price of the U. The actions of the Taliban at that time largely served U. Promoting democratic principles could, in some cases, lead to the ascendancy of the Islamic opposition groups, some of which are not sympathetic to U.

Support for reform-minded groups, Islamic or otherwise, however, is likely to better accommodate some U. The democracy conundrum notwithstanding, there can be no doubt that U. This policy has contributed greatly to the militarization of the region. Yet the link between stability and militarization has been disproved in the case of the Iranian shah, whose mighty army was brought down by a mass movement in a fairly non-violent revolution, and in the case of Saddam Hussein, whose invasion of Kuwait had to be undone by direct U.

Reliance on huge and deadly arsenals has rendered regional stability fragile. Consider, for example, the superiority of Israeli military power, which has produced no order — much less peace — in the occupied territories. The massive infusions of military aid into the region have worked against the prospects of political opening and democratic change and created only the illusion of stability. To better understand the subtext of this militarization requires an extensive and careful analysis beyond the scope of this essay. Suffice to say, arms sales tend to fortify the position of the extremists in the region, making it difficult for the moderates to win against the militants.

The sale of U.

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Closely related to the rationale behind these flawed policies is the issue of how American weapons manufacturers influence the U. As one Middle East analyst reminds us:.

Who exactly are the U. The ambiguity of this question has cast its shadow over the relationship between the United States and pro-Western Middle Eastern regimes such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The governments of both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have over the years financed the export of Wahhabism to Afghanistan and Pakistan by building mosques and madrassas religious schools there.

That those funds supported Al Qaeda has been seriously debated only in the aftermath of September In fact, Pakistan was the incubator for the Taliban.

Terminating public programs : an American political paradox

Several questions loom: Has the Pakistani military been a major beneficiary of narcoterrorism in Afghanistan since , when the Taliban took power? Why did the Pakistani military, the main force behind the Taliban, decide to shift its position suddenly after the September 11 tragedy? Some of the tiny Gulf emirates have also been financial supporters of the Taliban, realizing full well that the Al Qaeda terrorist networks had been operative there. How then could these countries be characterized as pro-Western regimes? President George W.

This is perhaps the best example of the potential extremist backlash a country in a domestic ideological battle can face. Such rhetoric contradicts the goal of the antiterrorist campaign, which is to promote freedom around the world. It has long fought the issue of drug trafficking on its border and has been host to more than 2 million Afghan refugees.

Washington has yet to offer any evidence to substantiate the claims that Iran has become a sanctuary for the Taliban and Al Qaeda. That the campaign against terrorism must be inseparable from enhancing democracy, civil society and human rights is axiomatic. But this campaign is likely to be counterproductive and self-defeating if foreign-policy makers shy away from defining friends and foes along those lines.

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The gap between principles and practices of U. Since , U. The United States, the most powerful actor on the global scene, has grown steadily more dependent on its European allies. Warning against the trend toward unilateralism, Joseph S. Nye, Jr. The process might be contentious, tedious and sluggish, but it is likely to lead to more sustainable positive outcomes than unilateral actions.

Some Middle East experts argue that the conventional forms of deterrence are likely to bring about the most effective outcome here and that actual military action against Iran would be enormously risky. William Quandt, who was actively involved in the Egyptian-Israeli peace accords, argues that the United States has looked the other way as countries such as Israel have developed nuclear weapons and Egypt and Syria and others have long had chemical capabilities.

Others argue that U. International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect its nuclear facilities and materials. A more long-range missile program remains only a matter of speculation. A unilateral military action or a preemptive strike by the United States might encourage similar attacks by other countries against their real or perceived adversaries.

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This prospect bodes ill for stability and is reason enough to question the military option against Iran. This is a means by which the United States exerts immense leverage on other states to take part in international regimes dominated by Washington, especially in relation to the struggle against global terrorism, the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and the transnational control of migration and drugs. Some European observers have even suggested that this hawkish rhetoric, along with U.

We are reminded that despite military success in Afghanistan, the United States finds itself facing a much larger ideological adversary that may prove to be as hard to defeat as militant Islam: anti-Americanism, which is becoming increasingly visible all over the world. The Enron scandal, on the other hand, clearly was about us.

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I predict that in the years ahead Enron, not September 11, will come to be seen as the greater turning point in U. This painful tragedy can and should prove to be a valuable learning experience. The September 11 tragedy told us as much about Wahhabism as it did about U. The experiences of the past half century have shown that the profound problems that September 11 has brought so starkly to light cannot be resolved merely through the use of military force, partisan diplomacy and sustaining oppressive but pro- Western regimes.

In the long run, the resentment toward the United States will be significantly curtailed when and if such paradoxes are dealt with in the context of U. For the near future, three policy goals must be pursued: the resolution of Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the promotion of economic reform and the enhancement of democratic processes. An Equitable Solution to the Palestinian Problem.

An equitable resolution of the Palestinian Israeli problem is the key to ending the intifada and resuming negotiations. It is clear that a peaceful resolution of this conflict hinges upon fair and balanced terms of agreement. The peace proposal offered by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah — that if Israel withdraws to its pre borders, the Arab world will make peace with it — has won the approval of many Muslims throughout the Middle East. The land-for-peace proposal has stirred hope even in Israel, especially after a paroxysm of killing in recent months.

The creation of a Palestinian state is the first step en route to resolving other issues. Israel cannot gain security by imposing a version of peace unacceptable to the Palestinian leadership. Only the active and balanced involvement of the United States and the EU, coupled with progressive Arab leadership, can lead to peace. An effective negotiation must begin with halting further settlement building in the occupied territories, and a just solution must provide security and equity for both sides.

In the longer run, however, economic reform will be a key to undermining extremism. Justifying such aid in the name of the political necessity of victory, Ian S. Lustick argues that the victory over fascist Italy, Nazi Germany and imperial Japan was followed and consolidated by a massive program of aid in the reconstruction of European democracy and the foundation of Japanese democracy. The lack of consensus since the end of the Cold War on the purpose of foreign aid and its link to security issues needs an innovative analysis in the post-September 11 period.

What is needed is a reinvigorated foreign-aid program that is not based on bribing regional governments in exchange for support for the war on terrorism or other unilateral U. On the contrary, much of this new plan should be devoted to initiatives that force regimes to make tough and uncomfortable choices. The lesson learned from the end of colonialism, lasting peace in Europe and the collapse of the Soviet Union is obvious: When used properly, foreign aid will most assuredly prove to be the key to sustainable security. Arguably, the divide between the rich and the poor should be seen for what it is, not viewed from the perspective of Islam versus the West.

Neoliberal globalization has failed to eliminate poverty from the face of the earth.

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Said writes,. It is better to think in terms of powerful and powerless communities, the secular politics of reason and ignorance, and universal principles of justice and injustice, than to wander off in search of vast abstractions [such as civilizational talk] that may give momentary satisfaction but little self-knowledge or informed analysis. As to the question of whether economic reforms should be introduced in tandem with political ones, the decision resides in the hands of national leaders themselves.

There is no basic recipe that can take us through this process in the Middle East. What is clear, however, is that to the extent which Middle Eastern countries participate in the global and capitalist economies of the West, their continuing rejection of the underlying political forces for reform is contradictory. An Inward-Looking Approach. One of the unintended political results of September 11 was that it brought about a critical self-examination of social and political life in the Middle East.

This tragedy has unleashed a remarkably vocal and public debate in the Arab press about massive social and economic problems including poverty, corruption, failed expec tations, extremism and the inequitable distribution of wealth. Similarly, more and more Palestinians are openly criticizing the strategy of suicide bombings as the second intifada has left them worse off and more frustrated than ever. Educational reform needs to be at the heart of this effort.

The Muslim world has increasingly become the site of an emerging cultural conflict over who controls the process of social change, as well as whose interests are really served by change or resistance to it. In such an arena, power interests stake competing claims to the labels, ideals and symbols that Islamic communities hold in high esteem. The Middle East now faces a war of ideas that must be waged from within the Muslim world. Without that support, the moderates will be on the defensive, and the pervasive sense of powerlessness will keep the militants in the thick of politics.

Terrorism is bound to seep from within such societies. The September 11 tragedy also served as a vivid reminder that the growth of Islamic extremism poses a major threat to existing Middle Eastern regimes and leaders. Some courageous and progressive leadership from some Arab countries could go a distance toward promoting stability in the region. Perhaps the Saudi proposal to get involved will begin that kind of participation.

Certainly, if a coalition of countries in the region made reasonable and pragmatic proposals for peace solutions — territory for the Palestinians, secure borders for Israel, regional human-rights or democratic governance agreements, etc. A recent poll conducted by Shibley Telhami, Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland, shows that in Saudi Arabia more specifically and in the Middle East gener ally, the prevalent feeling of anti-Americanism has largely to do more with the U.

When asked if their attitudes toward the United States were mostly based on its policies or values, 86 percent answered policies. A mere 6 percent said values. It seems all too clear that new realities should inform the conduct of U. That U. Middle East policy is handicapped by conflicting agendas should not obscure the fact that several aspects of U. The policy of basing U. Until peace becomes a priority item on the overall U.

Looking back on a half century of U. To challenge effectively the threat of radical Islamist movements, the United States must shift its focus from trying to crush such movements to pursuing policies that lead to popular and civil participation. A foreign policy based on oil and pipeline politics is more of the same: unmitigated political support of unpopular and corrupt governments. How to make the proper policy adjustment on the basis of the new realities is an open question. There is a need to reflect on the deeper causes of the September 11 tragedy. Terrorism cannot be eradicated through military means alone.

To work against such tragedies in the future, it is essential to address the grievances that lead to political dispossession and terrorism in the first place. Mittelman, ed. VII, No. II, No. Islmael, ed.

Terminating Public Programs: An American Political Paradox

Burlington, VT: Ashgate, , pp. Forsythe, ed. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, , pp.

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