Archive for the ‘World events and foreign policies’ Category

CommonwealthAn earlier comment questioned my use of the word commonwealth as describing all those things Americans hold together—our public lands and resources, our defenses, our air and water, our government, and the list is long.  A commonwealth is described as “a community in which all have an interest.”

Though we are a capitalist economy which respects and protects private property, we also are a commonwealth of all those things in which we all have an interest.  A variation on this ancient notion is the commons.  That word describes not only the British parliamentary house of the people but it also, in early American terms, was the New England green, a common grazing area for everyone’s cattle and eventually a park and meeting place.

As some of my submissions suggest, I’ve always been puzzled by our efforts to leave a private legacy for our children while neglecting our public legacy, the character and quality of our commonwealth and its resources that we also leave to our children.

If a few of us are smart and fortunate, mostly fortunate, we leave large amounts of money, houses and land, maybe yachts and cars to our heirs.  But that private wealth is not worth much if our public resources have deteriorated or been plundered, our climate is warming, our rivers are polluted, or our education and health systems are in decline.  The transfer of massive private wealth does not ensure that our progeny will live in a better nation or world.

So, it seems to me we must all think about our public legacy, our commons and our commonwealth.  That is true of the United States, but in a shrinking world of globalization, information, and necessarily closer inter-national relations, a global commons is also emerging.  Climate and environment are universal.  Security and peaceful trade are of interest to all but the radical few.  International investments, student exchanges, and shared knowledge and research are among the many things the global community has a common interest.

Our leaders and policy makers would do well to focus on the American commonwealth, our public legacy, the global commons, and the “more perfect union…and blessings of liberty” we seek for ourselves “and our posterity.”

Afghanistan“We believe that our government is weak, stupid, overbearing, dishonest, and inefficient, and also believe it to be the best in the world and would like to offer it to others.” This insight of Professor Michael Kammen came to mind as I drove around the teeming, dusty streets of Kabul last week.

The United States has an enormous military, political and economic presence in Afghanistan, which will increase before it decreases, trying to bring to the Afghan people the kind of government against which Americans have been screaming in so-called town hall meetings recently. Many Afghanis are dying and risking their lives to achieve even a semblance of the kind of government many Americans seem to distrust at best and hate at worst.

Perhaps it is because this ancient culture is tired and wishes a halt to everyone using it as a modern-day version of the OK Corral for the U.S. Army and the Taliban.

Unlike Iraq, however, we didn’t send our Army there because we wanted to; we did so because our most recent day of infamy, 9/11, originated there. And, partly because we chose not to finish the job in 2002, we are now back to pick up where we left off seven years ago.

As a member of a small international group observing the second presidential election in this very old country’s history, these reflections are rendered not to stimulate debate about American policy in Afghanistan but to reflect on 21st century democracy and what it means through a different set of eyes and, strangely enough, to ponder whether the Afghan people, even in their desperate life-and-death struggle, might have a lesson for us.

A small army of media, non-governmental organizations, and members of the international community blanketed last week’s election focusing on the same questions that dominate U.S. elections: winners and losers; voter turnout; rumors of manipulation and fraud; and, in this case, numbers of dead and wounded. Within 48 hours, most of this army was at the airport, headed for the next war zone or arena of excitement.

The skeptics concluded that the turnout was low, especially in the hostile south and east, too many women stayed away out of fear, and as many as 50 or more were killed on election day. For the smaller group of us who saw the glass half full, however, it was an inspiring experience. Despite ancient cultural and religious traditions of misogyny, a surprising number of candidates of provincial councils were women, and women voted in appreciable numbers in the safer regions. Unlike the only previous national presidential election in 2004, this election was managed by the Afghan government and included an independent election commission. The candidates spoke to issues of great public concern and avoided attacks and acrimony much more, it must be said, than in American elections. No one called any of the candidates “socialists” or “communists.”

( read the full article at The Denver Post)

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Author: Gary Hart

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