Heterodox Views on Politics and Public Policy from Michael Blaine

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Afghans Get A Glimpse Into The "Culture" Of Their Would-Be Liberators

The View From The US vs. The View From Afghanistan

Now that General Stanley McChrystal has been deposed, following some ill-considered remarks about his civilian bosses in the latest issue of Rolling Stone magazine, what impressions might the people of Afghanistan be left with? What if the magazine that brought the general down were to be distributed among the populace?

Would they be aghast over the cover photo of Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta (aka "Lady Gaga") posing with machine guns pointing out of her breasts? Would they be outraged by such a flippant treatment of violence? Would they wonder why the military officer making life-and-death decisions regarding their country saw fit to discuss his efforts in their country with a magazine generally focused on pop culture? Would they wonder why "serious" journalistic outfits such as the New York Times and Washington Post never dug deep enough to reveal the general's contempt for the civilian leadership?

More broadly, would Afghans wonder why the country that purports to desire the betterment of the lot of women in Central Asia has no females (or for that matter ethnic or religious minorities) in the upper echelons of its military establishment? Would Afghans wonder what they ever did to deserve having such a hypocritical, decadent and ineffectual power poking and prodding at them for nearly a decade now?

If Afghans don't end up asking these questions, at least we Americans should.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Marching For Immigration Reform: Promoting Justice, Acknowledging Reality

Today on the national mall I marched for immigration reform. It's time that our country's laws bow to demographic reality; with thirteen million undocumented immigrants living in the country, the humane action is to bring them out of the legal shadows. It's also economically rational to bring these people, the vast majority of them younger workers, into the financial mainstream in order to help support retiring baby-boomers who are about to create a giant sucking sound when it comes to the nation's "entitlements" system.
Indeed, the USA should consider itself lucky to have a steady stream of hard-working risk takers eager to make a new life here. Considering that these immigrants also tend to be staunch supporters of Jesus, democracy and capitalism, we natives ought to be grinning from ear-to-ear as we welcome them while implementing measures to ensure that the newcomers and their children find their way forward in the workplace and at school. Assisted assimilation of people who already mostly share the indigenous value system should not be viewed as too onerous to undertake.
It is true that the governments of the home countries of the bulk of immigrants, principally Mexico, could do a much better job of putting in place policies that help create jobs and keep people economically anchored to their place of birth. It is also true that the US government could do a lot to enable Mexicans to remain home by opening up its market for agricultural and other goods and finally ending the failed "War on Drugs." In any case, the phenomenon of people migrating every which way throughout the Americas in search of a better life - a tradition as old as the crossing of the Bering Strait at least 15,000 years ago - will continue regardless. The key is making sure that this restlessness benefits both new arrivals and the descendants of old arrivals to the USA.