If we are to make the urgent progress that we need to on The Path to a Future, we need to do it together. Areas of blight and conflict will be a drag on all of our progress, because they will suck resources away from more effective uses. The people in conflict are unlikely to participate in the global initiatives needed, such as tackling climate change. We need a coherent policy structure that protects the progress of those that are already building The Path, and provides on-ramps to The Path for the victims of oppression and conflict today, but who will join us tomorrow.
One of the more curious spectacles of our time is the apparent futility, cluelessness and impotence of the world’s governments, especially of the richest countries, in developing coherent strategies toward so-called “rogue states” or “failed states”.
What we mean by a “rogue state” is that their leadership is unresponsive to the plight of their population, at the same time that they reject pleas from other countries to join the community of nations. They fail to treat their people with respect, and refuse to submit to the principles of democracy.
What we mean by “failed states” are places where there is no established order because the interests of external actors trump and exclude the interests of the populations that live there.
As always, we must start with a clear picture of what is.
What is happening in these disrupted states is that one hand is supporting them, while the other points at them accusingly.
This happens because the foreign policy of most nations refers only to their diplomatic relationship; it does not include their commercial or military relationships. No rogue state has the capacity to stand alone; so we have to ask how it is that their leadership continues in power. Someone, somewhere, is supporting them.
When the Americans announced an embargo on the supply of luxury goods to North Korea in 2007, did you wonder to yourself how on earth luxury goods were getting there before the embargo? When the Zimbabwean army doesn’t run out of bullets or gasoline, do you ask yourself why? The answer is fairly obvious. Somebody is trading with the regimes of these states.
It turns out that quite often those traders and corporations are based in the very same nations as the governments that are publicly denouncing the actions and intransigence of the regimes. Not to put too fine a point on it, we are hypocrites. This is not lost on people around the world and corrupts the validity of all inter-national policy.
If we, the people, are to honestly represent our intentions and belief in the importance and ascendancy of democracy, the rule of law and human rights, then we have to have the courage to include all aspects of our society’s interactions in our foreign policies. We don’t need to be shy about our desire to see regime change in other states, because if they’re not engaged on The Path to sustainable prosperity, then they’re part of the problem.
But desiring regime change is not the same as imposing regime change. The primary objective of the policies we should have towards others is to ensure that we are not supporting governments that are not engaged in the solutions.
Let’s examine a counter claim, often made, that the separation of commercial and diplomatic spheres serves the populations of both countries. I guess it could be called “trickle up democracy”, because it says that creating a wealthier populace will lead them to demand democracy and their rights, and that commercial engagement facilitates this process. The logic of this argument rests on an oversimplification of the relationships we have with other nations and flies in the face of observable facts. Of course there are countries with which we have rich and complex trading relationships that obviously benefit the people on both sides, but doing business with rogue states quite obviously does not benefit their people. Another claim is that the destabilizing impact of the collapse of a rogue state’s government on its neighbours is reason to support the rogue. This need not be the case, if we have a coherent plan to support the population’s transition to a functioning super-trio state after the collapse of their oppressors.
What we can do, is to ensure that any trade with states is contributing to the forward progress of all. Where states are not investing in the freedom, security and prosperity of their people, we can do it for them. We can withhold taxes and duties on their behalf, and keep those funds ready for use whenever it becomes possible to make the investments.
We can develop a simple scale for how we will work with our neighbors, depending on their adherence to universal rights and representation; a scale of the extent to which we will engage with and support other countries and their establishments. A set of policies that provides assistance to the populations of suppressive states when we can, but which prevents empowering of their rulers when we can’t.
It so happens that the acronym for this relationship scale is easy to remember: LOVE. (This means we can truly have a foreign policy based on the phrase “love thy neighbour”!) By using LOVE we will have a consistent approach to how we relate to others, and they will be able to clearly understand where they stand with us.
The L in LOVE stands for “Life affirming”. This is the category for relationships we have with other countries that observe the same super-trio of peace, security and sustainable prosperity that we will. In these cases we can be confident that the relationship does not require close regulation because both parties are operating by the same standards, and the populations have the ability to protect their own interests through their democracies. L countries cooperate on joint interests and all have foreign policies based on LOVE.
The O in LOVE stands for “Oppressive”. This refers to states that have not adopted the super-trio that L states have. In these cases trade can be open, but must be regulated to ensure a level playing field and to prevent contortion of the LOVE policy standards. If they don’t provide super-security services for their people, we collect the equivalent costs for them by taxing their exports as well as the profits of companies operating in the O state but based in our country. Then we return the revenues to non-governmental organizations in those countries that are providing the missing super-security services. If they are not collecting carbon taxes, will collect their carbon taxes for them.
Trading with O states would include the monitoring of the origin content of products from O, so that any sub-content from V or E states can be treated according to the standards below.
V states are those that use “Violence” to suppress their populations. They might be imprisoning people without due process, violently suppressing freedom of speech or allowing the use of violence by one community against another inside their country. The primary policy concern here is to distinguish between the rulers and the people. We all know that people everywhere want the same things: freedom, respect and dignity. So we want to support the people, and not be enablers of their suppression. Trade with V countries should be closely governed, and exclude all financial services, luxury goods and potential military- or police-use products. Remaining trade would be subject to duties designed to collect funds for the implementation of super-democracy in the V country. The costs of implementing a democratic process would be estimated, and applied to all goods and services traded. The duties would be collected in a reserve fund that will be released to the people of the country when they can implement a super-democratic system. No rights or services would be afforded to the ruling elite that they do not allow for all of their own people, e.g. travel.
In cases where there has been an “Extreme” breakdown in the social fabric, what are called “failed states”, all trade is restricted and only direct support to the people is allowed. These are E states.
The LOVE policy stance applies to all people and businesses uniformly. For instance Zimbabwe would be classified as a V country, and so all businesses with Zimbabwean interests based in our nation would be subject to the duties and restrictions applicable to that category, and any profits derived from trade with Zimbabwe subject to the appropriate withholdings. Or in the case of petroleum/gas exports from Burma, the companies facilitating the construction of the petro-infrastructure as well as the products manufactured in countries that consume the energy exports, would be subject to withholding taxes on behalf of the people of Burma.
One of the great things about the LOVE thy neighbor framework for external relations is that it can be used universally by all super-trio communities, regions and states – even to relationships between themselves. The compensatory duties levied can be pooled and the value of those funds advertised directly to the people of the affected countries, so that they know what level of support is available to them, once they change their regimes and start down The Path with us.
It will not be perfect, it will be hard to assess appropriate withholdings and it is inevitably subjective, but it is a comprehensive framework with clear principles that can be activated and administered easily.
We need clear guidelines by which our politicians, businessmen and the military can operate, and LOVE provides them with a brightly lit playing field.
Part 21 in the serialization of the The Path to A Future – published 2009.
A new section will be posted every 2 weeks during 2011. Enjoy!
To get a free PDF of the book go to www.standardsoflife.org/thepathtoafuture.