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R-E-C-I-P-R-O-C-I-T-Y: Find out what it means to me

For some time, I've found the best metaphor for international politics is a playground. It isn't a perfect one, as it lacks adult supervision yet doesn't degenerate into a Lord Of The Flies environment (most of the time), but overall it works pretty well. (I spelled it out here, but another blogger did it sooner -- and far better -- here.)

This is probably a bit of projection here, but sometimes I think that the United States is going through something similar to something I deal with pretty much every day -- what I call "The Big Guy's Burden." I'm a large guy (always stocky my whole life, overweight for most of that), and I have (to dump modesty here) a powerful mind. (Largely untrained and underutilized, but very quick and an amazing ability to retain useless information nonetheless.) As such, I've gone through most of my life trying to not be intimidating. I'd rather be liked than feared, so I've worked on being a bit of a clown.

That's one approach. There are others.

The problem with all of these is that you end up "buying" the good will of others, and they grow to expect you to continue paying for it. There will be times when you don't particularly feel like paying, and that's when you run into trouble -- all of a sudden you're not acting like people have grown to expect, and they don't care for it.

So, how does this relate to international politics?

Pretty well, I think.

Ever since World War II, the United States has been one of the biggest kids on the playground. And since the Soviet Union crumbled, we have been the world's sole hyperpower -- the undisputed most powerful nation in the world, ever. (A comparison to the Roman Empire at its peak might be appropriate.)

And we feel the burden of that constantly. We could crush any other nation without hardly working up a sweat. The only checks on our actions are our own national conscience, and whatever restraints we choose to accept -- or place on ourselves.

That power, however, is not one we take lightly. In fact, we go out of our way to downplay it, to draw attention from it, almost to pretend that it doesn't exist.

But it does.

In the United Nations, we content ourselves to a permanent seat on the Security Council, and no special privileges in the General Assembly. Never mind that we are the single greatest contributor both to almost any military action it sanctions AND supply roughly a quarter of the UN's annual budget; we could use that clout to shape matters, but we don't.

With most nations and cultures, we bend over backwards to defer to them. In so many cases, we respect their values and traditions to the point where we will abide by them in their nations -- that's what a good guest does. And at home, we will accept, even embrace their differing values and traditions, because that's what being a good host and "celebrating diversity" dictates.

But nowhere, it seems, are American values, American traditions, American beliefs, American mores, American ways considered worthy of similar treatment.

So, what to do?

We've tried being liked. We've tried to buy our way into acceptance, with foriegn aid, deference, and all other sops of appeasement. It's gotten us nowhere -- our "friends" are loyal as long as the payments flow.

We're not willing to do what needs to be done to be feared. It worked pretty well for the Soviet Union, but we have a bit too much of a national conscience to go that far.

Fortunately, there's a third choice: respect.

Respect, in this context, is a nice middle ground. It combines the likeability with the awareness of our capabilities. The United States needs the world to remember that we are not someone to be feared, but not someone who needs to bribe our way into acceptance. We are the 2,000-pound gorilla in this world -- and as the old joke goes, where does a 2,000-pound gorilla sit? Anywhere it wants. You just have to hope the gorilla chooses carefully and wisely.

I hear what you're saying. Nice idea, but tough to implement. Just how do I propose reaching this point?

One notion would be by introducing a concept that's been far too foreign to our foreign policy: reciprocity.

That's a fancy word for "we treat you the way you treat us." Also known as "payback's a bitch."

The United States Marines have their formal motto, "Semper Fidelis" -- "Always Faithful." They also have an informal one, "No Better Friend, No Greater Enemy." That idea should be brought to the world stage.

If a nation is friendly toward us, we will be friendly in return. Act decently, and we will be decent back. If you're unfriendly, then traditional courtesies will go right out the window.

And if you're openly hostile, that, too, may be returned.

We are currently involved in a war right now, openly fighting the War on Terror on two fronts and -- in other fashion -- also fighting it in many other places, many other ways. At the same time, we are also being confronted and challenged by other nations, often to the point of acts of war.

  • North Korea has been forging our currency for well over a decade, printing millions and quite possibly billions of high-quality bogus $100 bills, forcing the United States to redesign its own currency several times. The United Nations knew about it, and helped cover up this assault on our economy, this act of war.
  • Iran has been supplying weapons, training, and troops to the terrorists killing Iraqis and Americans in Iraq. Also, their seizure of the 15 British sailors and Marines was nothing short of piracy against a key US ally -- legal grounds for war.
  • Mexico openly aids and abets literally millions of its citizens in violating United States laws every year, starting with illegally crossing our border (the Mexican government even prints and distributes brochures showing how to do so safely) and continuing with aiding them in gaining employment and returning literally billions of dollars to Mexico. In effect, they have discovered how to turn their burdensome poor from a net drain into a net gain, by dumping them into the United States and helping them send money home.

So, there are three nations who are openly committing acts of war against the United States. I could add to that list nations that flirt with the line as well -- Syria and Venezuela come to mind -- but those three will suffice.

So, do we simply declare war on them?

There's an old saying: "when your only tool is a hammer, all your problems start to look like nails." But we have far more tools in our toolbox than the hammer of open warfare.

North Korea is attempting to save its own DOA economy by leeching off ours. They're drowning, and they're trying to save themselves by climbing up on us, shoving us under the water. And they're counting on their nuclear program to protect them from the possible ramifications of their actions.

So what do we do? Change our currency, of course. But inform them that it will not be tolerated. Their printing presses are being used as weapons of war against us, and if something unpleasantly violent should happen to those plants, well, so be it.

Iran has been fighting a proxy war against us? Cut out the middlemen. The next time we catch Iranians fighting alongside the terrorists in Iraq, bring them forward and force Iran to either accept responsibility for their actions -- and acknowledge that they are waging war in Iraq -- or deny them, brand them as illegal combatants. At that point, they can -- and should -- be summarily executed. After a few creative atrocities against these Iranians (burying them in pigskins, for starters), they'll find the willingness of their people to come across that border will rapidly diminish.

And if it turns out that we discover a few military bases are being used to prepare these terrorists, then perhaps some unpleasant violence ought to be visited on those facilities.

Mexico is committing open acts of economic warfare against us, invading us, flooding us with the underclasses that it can't -- or won't -- care for itself? Tell 'em to knock it off. Screw a fence, put up a wall along our border. Start collecting information on just how much illegal aliens from Mexico cost us every year, and start submitting the bill to the Mexican government. If they don't pay, take it out of the foreign aid we give them every year. After that, start seizing property. Impose taxes and duties on cash transfers from the US to Mexico. The argument over whether illegal aliens are a net economic gain or loss is irrelevant; we never agreed to accept them, so we are under no obligation to keep them even if it is argued that we benefit. We have laws against "negative option" marketing -- "enjoy your free issue of our magazine; if you like it, do nothing and we'll keep sending it and bill you later. If you don't, write back and cancel" -- and the same principle holds here. Any contributions by these illegal aliens boils down to an unsolicited gift to the United States, and we are under no obligation for not refusing it.

None of these proposed actions will do a damned thing towards getting more nations to like us. But being liked hasn't really achieved a damned thing for us anyway -- that was a cornerstone of Jimmy Carter's foreign policy, and we're still paying the butcher's bill for that four years of well-intentioned idiocy.

It's also not likely to inspire much fear around the world. They're all fairly restrained, considering the other options we have available to us.

But it might garner us a bit of respect -- and that's what we need in this world today.


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Comments (41)

In the rational world this ... (Below threshold)

In the rational world this would be common sense.

In the world of the left this would be never be acceptable. They would consider it selfish. We are already guilty of occasionally doing things in our national interest after all!

After all, in the mind of some we are the cause of all the worlds problems of the past 500 years.
DKK

We're already there. The a... (Below threshold)
kim:

We're already there. The adults of the world know.
===============================

You have just stated what I... (Below threshold)
James:

You have just stated what I have been thinking for years (much more eloquently than I could I'm sure). I couldn't agree more. I've always wondered why we had to bend over backwards to accept other people cultures and customs, but no one has ever done the same for us.

I especially like your options for the Iranians, but that is probably just my military background speaking :)

Yes Jay, this may have been... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

Yes Jay, this may have been an eloquent foreign policy address for September 12, 2001 but the tough-guy swagger 'bring 'em on", "you're either with us or against us" has got us stuck in Iraq.

Think what it would be with... (Below threshold)
kim:

Think what it would be without us there, Steve.
=============================

Steve, here is a paddle.</p... (Below threshold)
U. P, Man:

Steve, here is a paddle.

We can leave at anytime. The question is, when will it be appropriate ?

Steve don't care about that... (Below threshold)
DoninFla:

Steve don't care about that Kim..."It's Bush's fault..." is all he's about...Everything bad on earth today is all Bush's fault...My vote this year will go to the first guy who sounds like Jay Tea...I haven't heard one yet...

Alice Cooper?=======... (Below threshold)
kim:

Alice Cooper?
=========

Germany just released a pol... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

Germany just released a poll saying the vast majority of Germans think we are the bigger threat compared to Iran. I say close the NATO bases. Their unemployment rates will rise much further then they already are. If Saudi Arabia doesn't help us with the GWOT, close our bases. The Mullah's will take the country in a second. Close the UN altogether. I have never seen such a worthless institution and that is saying alot. It is not worth the billions of dollars they steal. Hire illegal immigrants, pay a fine that will out weigh the the profits they made from the lower rate they hired them at in the first place.

This country for the most part is really ashamed of being a super power and I don't know why. We worked hard, sacrificed much to have it. I would rather have us as a super power then Iran, Russia or China. We protect the world from the bully.

This is a very sad time in the world. Not hopeless, but the closest it has ever been. I love this country and am proud of it. It has defied all the predictions from the international world that a true democracy would not work. Well, here we are being guilty about proving them wrong. ww

Jay,I agree, but I d... (Below threshold)
Allen:

Jay,
I agree, but I don't think you took it far enough. Include our trade treaty's, what ever country we are trading with, if they have severe restrictions, such as Japan, we use their own laws here pertaining to their imports.

Also our Federal Govt. should require all entities that do business with the Feds have to have their HQ in the US, products made in the US, by Americans. No more outsourcing of Govt business.

It is different in the private sector, but the Feds should not be able to outsource anything. That in itself would help keep a steady economy in this country.

Iraq is a good style perfe... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

Iraq is a good style perfect case study of Jay's aggressive but elective ( war of choice) style of confrontation. The Iraqi invasion was like a relationship ; fairly easy to get into, but hard as hell, normally to get out of.. .And Mexico?..didn't Bush say in his debate with Kerry say, any poor Mexican worth his salt would try and leave for the US to put food on his family table...

Steve, you point to precise... (Below threshold)
kim:

Steve, you point to precisely the reason the founders gave the legislature the power to declare war, but the executive the power to make war. It is a hell of a lot easier to get into a war than to get out of one.

Now think about it for a minute.
======================

Jay, you frequently object ... (Below threshold)
cat:

Jay, you frequently object to the fact that the United States pays more UN dues than other countries. The US pays 20% of UN funds; it's GDP is 20% of the world's total. In other words, you pay your fair share and no more.

There have been very few examples of UN-sanctioned war. The only two that spring immediately to mind are Korea in 1950 and Kuwait in 1991. In both these instances, war was considered to be in the United States' strategic interest. The dozens of other invasions to enforce US supremacy were not sanctioned by the UN. In terms of actual UN peacekeeping, the US currently ranks #43, contributing three fewer troops than Rwanda.

http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/dpko/contributors/2007/feb07_2.pdf

It takes some impressive contortions of the mind to call your invasion of Iraq a War on Terror. There was no terrorism in Iraq before 2003, apart from a few bombs let off by Allawi's INA, paid for by the CIA. And, of course, there was Ansar al-Islam which was able to establish a base in the mountains of northern Iraq because of the US-British no-fly zone. The only reason you can fight a "War on Terror" in Iraq is because you created terrorists there on a scale that Henry Ford would have been proud of.

Your invasion of Iraq can only be called a "War on Terror" if you argue that by creating the biggest source of terrorism the world has ever seen, you are now able to fight your own creation.

Iran has been fighting a proxy war against you in Iraq? So far much of the evidence has been weak, but some of the charges may well be true. That would be no different to your own actions: arming and funding rebels (terrorists?) in Iran - i.e. Khuzestan, Kurdish regions and Baluchestan. Sauce, goose, gander.

By no stretch of the imagination can Iran's recent capture of British personnel be called "piracy." There is no defined maritime border between Iraq and Iran at that location. Iran cannot unilaterally insist that the arrest took place in its own waters. But neither can Britain, or anyone else, invent their own border and say they have an undisputed right to interdict shipping there. Neither Britain nor Iran can claim they were totally in the right on this issue. In complex waterways like that, sandbanks and shipping channels move - and so do maritime borders. The border has moved since the last agreement in 1975, but no one has established where it is now. A sensible answer would finally sit down together for the first time in three decades and hammer out an agreement on where exactly that border is.

Meanwhile, the supposedly sovereign government of Iraq has called on the US to release the five Iranian officials captured in Arbil. The United States has so far ignored that request. It now appears that the US raid in Arbil was actually an attempt to illegally seize two heads of Iranian intelligence who were there on an official visit to meet with the Iraqi president. If Iran had tried to seize the director of the CIA in Pakistan during an official visit to meet President Musharraf, you might get a little upset.

As for "payback's a bitch," I'm sure you won't mind if countless other countries invade the United States, or organize coups against your democratically elected leaders. And I'm sure you'll be quite happy for all those countries to have military bases in the US and restructure your economy to suit their own interests.

Of course, no one can actually do that, because they're not 2,000lb gorillas. But some of the people who live in those countries you've invaded or manipulated decide their only recourse is terrorism. I don't subscribe to arguments justifying terrorism. But it's hardly surprising when some of the terrorists use your argument and say "payback's a bitch."

Wow, cat, are you deluded. ... (Below threshold)
kim:

Wow, cat, are you deluded. You act as if there were no trouble in the Middle East until we got there. Read Duelfer for Saddam's intentions and Rossett for his plans. Tell me more about this 'official visit' by the Revolutionary Guards to Iraqi's leader.
==========================

Concerning Steve's comment.... (Below threshold)
jpm100:

Concerning Steve's comment.

Bust may have started the war in Iraq with a Swagger. But turned it into a Democrat like police action. If he haden't Al Sadr would have gone into hiding years ago.

Kim, I haven't read Rossett... (Below threshold)
cat:

Kim, I haven't read Rossett, which is probably why I'm deluded. I would, however, suggest that you take your own advice and read Duelfer.

As for the attempted kidnapping of Iranian intelligence officials, you can read about it here:

http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/article2414760.ece

I'm not sure what you mean by "we" in the phrase "there were no trouble in the Middle East until we got there." Do you include your current coalition ally Britain in this? If so, Britain has been at war with or occupying Iraq for half of the 99 years since oil was discovered in the Middle East. Next door to Iraq, it might be worth your while reading a bit of the history of British and Russian invasions and occupations of Iran since the 19th Century and the US-British overthrow of Iran's democratically elected prime minister. And you could look for the last time Iran invaded anyone.

cat, someone else put up th... (Below threshold)
kim:

cat, someone else put up that bogus report from the Independent. Any details on why the raid didn't get those two? Anything besides speculation that the US was targetting those two?
====================================

Kim, if look back you'll fi... (Below threshold)
cat:

Kim, if look back you'll find that I used the words "it *appears* that." You can find definitions of the word "appear" here:

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/appear

If officials at a US liaison office were seized by a foreign country at the exact time that your head of intelligence was on an official visit to that precise place, you might also think that it "appeared" to be an attempt to capture him.

Jay, that obviously made wa... (Below threshold)

Jay, that obviously made way too much sense. A couple of your readers are having trouble with it. Nevermind that on a micro scale, as an individual, they would likely subscribe to those same fundamental principles, but their hyper-criticism of the US and the CIC keeps getting in the way of allowing them to admit that respect is the best alternative when the price of "being liked" equates to extortion.

A whole lot more people "liked" us September 12. In my opinion, that's too high a price to pay.

Oyster, respect is a good t... (Below threshold)
cat:

Oyster, respect is a good thing. It's something that far more countries and individuals (including sometimes myself) should pay more attention to. My problem with Jay's post is that he tries to justify US exemption from the very thing he is calling for.

One of the standard cliches we hear so often is "in the mind of some we are the cause of all the worlds problems of the past 500 years."

No, but you haven't been particularly innocent either. Everyone needs to have a little more respect for each other, and you shouldn't try to exempt yourself from that by saying "I'm a gorilla."

two points...cat:<... (Below threshold)
_Mike_:

two points...

cat:
Jay, you frequently object to the fact that the United States pays more UN dues than other countries. The US pays 20% of UN funds; it's GDP is 20% of the world's total. In other words, you pay your fair share and no more.

Why is the metric of 'fair share' GDP ?

And I'm less concerned about the percent of total money that we throw in the whole than I am on what value is produced for the cost. By my estimation, the U.N. comes up very short on proving that it's value is commiserate with its cost.

Your invasion of Iraq can only be called a "War on Terror" if you argue that by creating the biggest source of terrorism the world has ever seen, you are now able to fight your own creation.

The problem isn't countries that import terrorism. It's countries that export terrorism. It's hard to make a case that terrorism occurring outside the boundaries of Iraq has increased over what it would have been without the war.

Further, as I've said before, often things must first get worse before they get better. Witness the Great Wizbang Troll Purge of '07 (sometimes you feed the fire to get it to burn itself out). How do we treat cancer patients ? We bombard them with toxins and radiation which makes them even sicker in the near term. The Mid-East is undergoing a transformation at current and much of the outcome of the transformation rest in how things settle in Iraq.

So if they were there at th... (Below threshold)
kim:

So if they were there at the 'exact' same time and the 'precise' place, why didn't they catch them? Maybe I need definitions of 'exact' and 'precise', or maybe you need to realize you're being propagandized.
===============================

Funny that at that 'exact' ... (Below threshold)
kim:

Funny that at that 'exact' time and 'precise' place, the Americans got the 5 Iranians who weren't supposed to be there and failed to get the 2 Iranians who were supposed to be there. Impressively funny.
================================

Kim, yes, after my sarcasti... (Below threshold)
cat:

Kim, yes, after my sarcastic link to a dictionary, I deserved that. However, I'm sure you're intelligent enough to not interpret my real meaning as "in the very same room with them at the moment of seizure."

Mike, it's lovely for you to be able to theorize about mass murder in terms of imports and exports when you're safely at home in the United States. The people of Iraq are not quite so sanguine about you having turned their country into the terrorism center of the world. The last reliable survey, which is now out of date, put the most likely number of excess (i.e. more than would otherwise have occurred) Iraqi deaths since the invasion at 650,000.

Now, I know that Bill O'Reilly has dismissed this figure, saying that it was produced by a "far-left website." Most people, however, do not consider that to be a fair description of the peer-reviewed official journal of the British Medical Association. And I know that among the other detractors of the Lancet Report was a Wall Street Journal op-ed by L.Paul Bremer's former propaganda tsar. But it now turns out that the British government's own scientists said the survey was sound and could even have been an underestimate.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,2044157,00.html

Tell the families of those 650,000+ victims in Iraq that it doesn't matter their loved ones are dead and they could be next - because they count as imports and domestic consumption rather than exports.

Americans were justifiably outraged by the murder of 3,000 people on September 11, 2001.Try 200 times that and see how you feel.

Incidentally, Kim, can you ... (Below threshold)
cat:

Incidentally, Kim, can you provide a reliable source for you claim that the five captured Iranian officials were not supposed to be in Arbil?

Nope, I'm guessing.=... (Below threshold)
kim:

Nope, I'm guessing.
==============

cat:Mike, it's lo... (Below threshold)
_Mike_:

cat:
Mike, it's lovely for you to be able to theorize about mass murder in terms of imports and exports when you're safely at home in the United States. The people of Iraq are not quite so sanguine about you having turned their country into the terrorism center of the world. The last reliable survey, which is now out of date, put the most likely number of excess (i.e. more than would otherwise have occurred) Iraqi deaths since the invasion at 650,000.

I'm sorry. I mistook you for someone capable of holding a rational discussion. Clearly that's not the case. It won't happen again.

I think the respect thing n... (Below threshold)
Knightbrigade:

I think the respect thing needs to be here in America, before we receive it internationally.

There is a certain "left" ideology that perpetuates the anti-American feelings abroad, by taking that position HERE.

They insist that WE/America must continue to bend, and that being a world power means NOTHING, that we are equal to Malta or Grenada.

Until we deal/treat/purge these "left" leaning people firmly, we don't have a chance to reciprocate with other nations.

It's like trying to run and put out a fire, with 100lb weights around each leg.

Lancet squandered a hundred... (Below threshold)
kim:

Lancet squandered a hundred and fifty years of credibility with that cheap hit before the '04 election. To repeat the act in '06 was absurd.
======================================

Mike, I rest your case. Or ... (Below threshold)
cat:

Mike, I rest your case. Or should that be you rest my case?

Kim, not everyone would agree that the Lancet squandered 150 years of credibility just because you didn't like the peer-reviewed report. The chief scientist at the British Ministry of Defence is one of the many people who would disagree with you on that.

Lancet only got the first o... (Below threshold)
kim:

Lancet only got the first one because they waived usual review. There is no excuse for the second one. They are both fallacious.
================================

You know, I haven't see Lee... (Below threshold)
James Cloninger:

You know, I haven't see Lee on here in a while. Was he part of the Great Purge?

cat, you're GOOD! ... (Below threshold)
bryanD:

cat, you're GOOD!

Their darts turned to rose petals...

cat and mantis tag team.

I'll be the cheating manager.

(sorry! OT, but it's all been said.)

You miss the point, bD, the... (Below threshold)
kim:

You miss the point, bD, the authors dodged peer review by using Lancet. Peer review post publication has been devastating.
========================================

I should say post publicati... (Below threshold)
kim:

I should say post publication peer review has been devastatingly pinpoint and Lancet nurtured a worm i' the bud.
============================

Post publication peer revie... (Below threshold)
cat:

Post publication peer review has been overwhelmingly supportive of the Lancet report. The only criticisms I've seen have been from propagandists and politicians who ignored their own scientists advice.

Isn't peer review supposed ... (Below threshold)
kim:

Isn't peer review supposed to be pre-publication. Isn't that what peer review means?

I think you just blather and project. There are many problems with the design of that study, and with its statistics. That's one reason they wouldn't dare pre-publication peer review.
==============================

Kim, you were the one who b... (Below threshold)
cat:

Kim, you were the one who brought up "post publication peer review." You know perfectly well that both reports were peer reviewed before publication. Since you know that, I think we can safely say you've deliberately brought the discussion to a grinding halt. Goodbye.

No, the peer review was sho... (Below threshold)
kim:

No, the peer review was short-circuited, particularly in the first one. And you know perfectly well that peer review since publication has been highly controversial, with the propagandists siding with the Lancet authors. A Dios.
================================

Well, hello again Kim if yo... (Below threshold)
cat:

Well, hello again Kim if you are there. Could you explain and provide evidence for "short-circuited"?

Only Lancet allowed them to... (Below threshold)
kim:

Only Lancet allowed them to short circuit peer review so the article could appear before the election. Dethpicable!
====================================




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