Does anyone want to play devils advocate, especially now that the G8 is about to happen?
Impact of the Tsunami: Terror Free Tomorrow Poll
The tsunami disaster that struck Southeast Asia in December 2004 was tragic at many levels. However, the American response has had a profound influence in Indonesia, based on a poll commissioned by Terror Free Tomorrow in February 2005. In the first substantial shift of public opinion in the Muslim world since the beginning of the United States’ global war on terrorism, more people in the world’s largest Muslim country now favor American efforts against terrorism than oppose them.
In a stunning turnaround of public opinion, support for Osama Bin Laden and terrorism in Indonesia has dropped significantly, while favorable views of the United States have increased. The poll demonstrates that the reason for this positive change is the American response to the tsunami.
By just sending some supplies and military ships to help with the Tsunami, the US managed to undo alot of damage to our reputation in Indonesia. Human rights can improve our reputation abroad.
Multiple polls show the vast majority of americans support promoting human rights and economic development in poor countries
aiding poor countries (79% to 86%) (high priority)
protecting human rights (71% to 81%) (high priority)
promoting democracy (49% to 60%) (high priority)
an over-whelming 74% endorsed the view that “the US
should do its fair share in efforts to solve international
problems together with other countries.”
Polls show that most Americans feel that too much is going to
international efforts–but apparently, this attitude is based
on misperceptions. In the current poll, when respondents were
asked how much of every $1,000 of the US economy, or GNP, goes
to humanitarian and economic aid for developing countries, the
median estimate was $100–while the actual amount has been
between $1.00 and $1.50 over the last few years according to
the OECD. Asked what would be an appropriate amount, a strong
majority wanted to reduce it well below the level they
perceived–the median preferred level was $25–still far above
the actual amount. When respondents were asked how they would
feel if they heard the actual amount was $1.50, only 18%
thought that this amount would be too much. …
These people are taxpayers, voters, people with jobs, military personnel, politicans, etc. Since they keep the country alive and afloat, their perspective counts and if 80% want something it should count for something.
Much of the US’s domestic criticism can be traced back to support for human rights. The ‘radical left’ as people like Limbaugh, Coulter, Savage, etc call them get a good deal of their motivation from the fact that the US used to support dictators in the cold war. Reading books by Zinn or Chomsky shows endless examples of the US supporting human rights abuses, and this leads to alot of domestic turmoil. Whereas promoting human rights abroad will likely lead to alot of domestic pride and unity.
Foreign hate for the US can be in part tied to human rights abuses. Support for dictators in the middle east for example is often cited as a reason for terrorism (I personally doubt this tie myself, but its still there)
There seems to be a coorelation between human rights abusers and enemies of the US. Freedom house is an organization that studies human, civil and political freedom in the world. They do an annual ‘worst of the worst’ list where they list the most human rights unfriendly countries on earth.
In 2000 the list of 11 included Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Cuba, North Korea, Turkmenistan, Myanmar and Equatorial Guinea.
The US went to war with Afghanistan and Iraq, terrorists have large support in Saudi Arabia (15 of the 19 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia). Syria and Libya have been tied into supporting terrorism, right now there is fear Syria is allowing & encouraging insurgency in Iraq and Libya just recently started giving up its WMD program. North Korea speaks for itself. Cuba still has US sanctions on it, so do Myanmar and the Sudan. I don’t know enough about Turkmenistan and Equatorial Guinea.
Suffice it to say several the US government’s worst enemies (North Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan) are also among the worst human rights abusers. I don’t know the tie exactly, but its something to ponder. Could be because the US is strongly involved in international affairs and governments with gross human rights abuses are more unstable and prone to invade neighbors
The birth of many international problems that threatened the US came out of misery and hopelessness. Nazism was born out of hopelessness and misery, so was communism (communism was a result of gross inequalities and oppression). Muslim fundamentalism is also in part due to feelings of hopelessness due to political oppression and large scale unemployment (I have heard this is why no Muslim terrorists seem to come from India, despite its muslim population of 130 million). By ending hopelessness, grotesque poverty & human rights abuses today we are preventing the newest forms of radicalism and oppression from taking root tomorrow.
R J Rummel has written extensively on human rights and their ties to economic development, famine, etc. He claims liberal democracies do not declare war on each other. Seeing how the US gets involved in many wars internationally this is in our best interest.
I can think of some reasons why we shouldn’t
- Its not the US’s responsibility to protect other countries
- Even if we do give aid (we give alot of aid to Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinians) it may not make any difference in attitudes. Aid for Israel has done far more damage to the US’s reputation than any Tsunami aid could undo.
- It can alienate other countries like China, North Korea, Cuba, etc which is relevant for international security.
- Some countries have too many domestic instabilities at present (Zimbabwe for example, or Sudan) to really accept a liberal democracy.
- It makes us somewhat hypocritical as we have abuses in places like Abu Gharib and Gitmo.