Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Questioning the narrative, why do we have to 'engage' these countries at all?

From White House: Latin America now has new view of US:

"Obama will draw direct connections to the unrest in the Middle East, holding up Brazil and Chile as examples of nations that shifted from authoritarianism to democracy. And he will split his time between the policy and the personal. He will give speeches to business leaders but also the broader public, and spend time touring local sites as well as enjoying official dinners.

"We believe that it's imperative that the United States not disengage from these regions," Rhodes said. "There's a cost to disengagement. This has been a message I think we've delivered on why we've been so focused on Asia, for instance, and it's certainly true of Latin America. When we disengage, our ability to advance partnerships that serve our interest suffers."

As for concrete deals that may emerge, Rhodes said there will be some on energy and economy, but nothing "transformative.""

Something I resent is any country holding itself up as having some sort of world-historical mission out there to spread it's ideology throughout the world. The USSR or some component of the Soviet bloc, like Cuba, being the beacon for freedom, or the United States being a counter-beacon for freedom and liberation.

Why can't countries just renounce the grand claims and instead focus on regular concerns and issues? The problem with the United States using this rhetoric in particular is that we haven't actually done anything that spectacular lately. If we're an exemplar of freedom or democracy it's not because we really as a whole embody these ideals but because we've been coasting on gains established by people who came before us.

What does the U.S. engaging democracy in South America really mean? We have an outdate electoral system where a candidate can steal a close election via the courts, rejecting actual counting of ballots that may have shown that the other side won. There are distortions in the Senate that give two Senators from North Dakota the same power as the two Senators from California, even though the entire population of North Dakota could comfortably fit within either of California's two major metropolitan areas. The amount of actual participation of the electorate in voting or even showing a pulse about politics is low.

If anything, it should be South America that teaches the United States a thing or two about democratic participation and about people actually caring enough about what their government is doing to get out and vote, or otherwise concretely register their position.

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