Sunday, April 5, 2009

Reflect on the unique history of the United States. Each nation has its own unique history that created its cultural values, political structure, and legal code. After reading the two C&C case studies for the week, how was the United States influenced by non-state societies in its founding? What contributions were made by smaller-scale societies? Were you surprised by these contributions?

In the article 'The Founding Indian Fathers,' Jack Weatherford demonstrates some of the ways that Native Americans helped to shape the current governmental system used in the United States. Native American political entities and organizations (most prominently the Iroquois League) strongly influenced this country's foundation. Concerning federalism, for example, Weatherford writes that "The Indians invented it even though the United States patented it." (CC, p. 285).  This shows that without the idea given by these people, who were referred to as "savages," the United States would not necessarily be the nation that it is today. This idea is strange to me, because I always assumed that the Founding Fathers of our country came to America with all the bright ideas, and just needed to get away from British tyranny to set them into action. It does not help to correct these misconceptions that the Indians have never been credited for their help in creating a model for U.S. Federal Government, as Weatherford points out at the bottom of page 289.

Secondly, how do the U.S. cultural values and ideas about “good” government impact our decisions in foreign policy? How can our assumptions, coming from our own unique history, cloud our understanding of other nations’ political systems and values? How might we use our understanding of other cultures and their political systems to better foreign policy?

The U.S. has become infamous for trying to beat democracy into other nations, and particularly into Iraq. Robin Fox writes about this dilemma in the article entitled 'The kindness of Strangers: The U.S. and Iraq.' Fox argues that because government officials believe so strongly in "American democracy," they find it their duty to try to spread it across the globe. Surely other nations would want freedom and equal voices for all members in society, as is the goal of the U.S.?  Unfortunately, that is not the case, and U.S. officials have failed at giving democracy a good name for many Arabic countries due to their harsh, non-understanding foreign policy tactics. U.S. history has shown that oppression is wrong; but it took the United States (and other democratic countries) a considerable amount of time to realize this. Supposing that Iraqi values were the same as those of the U.S., the U.S. still could not reasonably expect Iraq to change its policies overnight to suit U.S. desires.  This is only heightened by the fact that cultural values in these two countries are drastically different, from the rights of the individual, to the rights of females, even to appropriate marriage partners.  To better U.S. foreign policy, Fox suggests that "Before we try to make them over in our image, we should remember how unnervingly recent was our own makeover, and act with becoming humility and caution." (CC, pp. 296-297). Also, Fox writes that we must understand that the "Iraqi People," are really only unified in that the live in the same relative geographic location, and that they put more emphasis on tribal unity than doing anything for the "good of the country."  If we remember that they hold these values differently than we do, perhaps we become less impatient with the positive, however slow, changes they are making. 

1 comment: