Posts Tagged ‘foreign affairs’

It’s interesting to watch democracy in action in other countries.  In Russia, the elections seemed almost as controlled as in Communist days, consolidating more power for a man nearing the end of his constitutionally mandated limit but showing no signs of departing.  The charasmatic and infuriating leader of Venezuela tried a power grab and his referendum appears to have been defeated. Last year, Hamas swept to power among Palestinians, the year before, Hezbollah won a decisive victory.

Here in this country, we have hanging chads and faulty voting machines but in general democracy works well.  Free elections are accompanied by freedom of assembly, freedom of speech and the freedom to nominate the same kinds of candidates year after year. Democracy works differently in other places, subject to culture, history, religion and the strength or influence of a particular leader or group. It’s tempting to interfere but often more instructive simply to watch and wait and see how it all unfolds.

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The House Foreign Relations Committee voted yesterday to condemn the mass killings of Armenians in Turkey in 1915. The resolution, in particular the use of the word “genocide” infuriated the Turkish government, whose president strongly condemned the resolution and warned that Turkish support for US activities in Iraq could be seriously jeopardized. Turkey is already angry with the US for its perceived lack of support for Turkey’s incursions into Iraq to fight Kurdish rebels, a move which has been strongly condemned by a Kurdish lawmaker in the Iraqi Parliament.

Rather than condemn you to further reading about angry politicians in global hot-spots, I thought it would be interesting to consider resolutions like this most recent one. Today’s open question on Yahoo’s answer board was “Why does the US Congress Pass Resolutions Condeming Other Countries?” Bloggers noted that Congress had recently passed a resolution urging Japan to apologize for tricking South Korean women into sexual slavery during WWW II. One poster noted that the U.S. is loathe to condemn its own actions, which would seem to be borne out by a search for resolutions about slavery or the treatment of Native Americans. A resolution was passed in 2005 in the Senate apologizing for its failure to enact anti-lynching legislation (a rather roundabout way of approaching the subject of slavery and the government’s complicity). That same year, the Senate considered legislation introduced by Senator Sam Brownback (Republican of Kansas and a candidate for President in ’08) apologizing to Native Americans; the resolution was apparently never passed. There was, however, a Congressional resolution passed in 1993 apologizing for the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1893.

Actually, many governments around the world issue resolutions as a way to make symbolic gestures for particular political constituencies. It’s tougher than ever for the U.S. to make such gestures in a community that views us as morally suspect. Still, resolutions have their place, if for no other reason than to prevent history from being rewritten. Where it gets a little silly is when Congress starts making resolutions condemning private organizations or citizens whose views, whether we like them or not, represent exactly that – private views. Instead of the intemperate rush to condemn, I’d urge Congress to move on. There’s work to be done.

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