Saturday, January 12, 2008

One polemic by Edwin Young

Debates Reveal US Politicians' Lack of Empathy in International Relations
by Edwin Young

At the CNN Kodak Auditorium Democratic Debate on January 31, Hillary Clinton mentioned the possibility of using a "Stick and Carrot" tough diplomacy with nations such as Iran in the Middle East. This diplomatic strategy implies a lack of respect of other nations that regards them as not being our equal in terms of the right of self-determination. In his timely (2003 post Shock and Awe) Movie “The Fog of War”, Robert McNamara's gave his famous admonition that the US needs to learn to have 'empathy' toward other nations. McNamara points to this one principle as one of the major causes of other nations' resentment of us and possibly a major cause of hostility toward us and destabilization of international relations. Seeing issues from the point of view of the other, one should infer that, if we were in their position, we would develop an immediate and intense indignation and resentment that would poison all attempts at negotiations. The one on the receiving end of such disrespect for the right of self-determination should perceive the offending other as haughty and arrogant. While Barack Obama also condoned the "Stick and Carrot" approach in an earlier speech, he has repeatedly, before and after the Kodak moment, stressed the need to approach other nations, for example Iran, by engaging in conversations with them as equals, due equal respect, and not as a member of Bush’s ‘axis of evil’.

At the Republican Debate in the Ronald Reagan Library, John McCain took Hillary’s errant tack quite a bit further when he suggests the necessity of our hundred-year presence in the Iraq, which actually implies suzerainty over the Middle Eastern territory as a whole. This might also suggest that he perceives all of those nations as a potential threat. One could infer that McCain has a xenophobia or paranoia toward the Middle East in general. One could also infer that McCain has, at the very least, an implicit or unconscious belief in the US imperialistic prerogative over that region, if not the entire international community.

I suspect that neither John McCain nor Hillary Clinton saw McNamara’s “The Fog of War”, or else they slept through it.

Those in our government who have that kind of mentality are unwittingly generating hostility in the rest of the world that, in turn serves to justify, in their minds, a militaristic posture toward the world. To be euphemistic, this (mentally disturbed) mentality is reframed and expressed as the need to keep our nation safe and promote the cause of freedom and democracy around the globe. Again, using empathy and taking the perception of others toward us, we should surely be seen as bellicose, haughty, arrogant, and culturally challenged. This is not exactly an ideal state of affairs for creating an international atmosphere of mutual respect in which negotiations and efforts to gain world peace can flourish.

As our starting point in negotiations with other nations, our deficiencies in empathy and mutual respect and our inability to grant that all other nations are equally deserving of self-determination may be the perennial causes of our poor international relations.

Author bio:

Edwin Young is working on a book tentatively called, "Can There Be a Paradigm Shift in Psychotherapy?" Links to some of his essays can be found at The Natural Systems Institute.

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