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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

June 10, 2009 at 3:12 PM

U.S. foreign policy

Make friends and pay attention

This is my letter to those who believe that what we don’t know can’t hurt us!

Imagine that a foreign government sent an undercover agent here to overthrow our president. And he succeeded, leaving us a dictator. How would we feel about that?

Imagine a foreign government shot down a U.S. airliner. Their leader said it was a mistake, but rewarded the commander who did it with a medal, saying, “I don’t care what the facts are, I’ll never apologize for my country.” How would we feel? (You could just imagine “what if” the recent Air France jetliner had been shot down.)

You don’t need much imagination to know how we’d feel — how long we’d remember.

That’s Iran today! Even young Iranians — born years after 1953 — know of the CIA overthrow of Mohamed Mossadeq that year. President Obama alluded to it in Cairo — but didn’t mention our downing of Iranian Flight 655 in 1988, killing all 290 aboard.

We can say that what others feel is not our concern — we’re a superpower. But Martin Luther King Jr. put it very clearly in 1967: We are forcing even our friends into becoming our enemies.

Fortunately, I think we’re waking up to the fact that to succeed in the world — no matter how strong we think we are — we need to make friends rather than enemies. And to do that we need to know what in the world we really are doing.

— Bert Sacks, Seattle

Poverty breeds conflict

As Obama emphasized in his speech in Cairo last week, his administration is embarking upon a new age of religious tolerance and peace. Yet it is important to keep in mind that at the root of most world tensions is poverty.

Poverty is most often the cause of social unrest and violence, not only in the Middle East but worldwide. In light of this, the Obama administration needs to reprioritize its spending. According to the Borgen Project, the United States is ranked to second to last out of 22 wealthy nations that give out foreign aid.

Although we are the highest donor in terms of volume, we proportionally spend less of our budget on foreign aid than the overwhelming majority of first-world countries.

The annual shortfall to end world poverty is $30 billion. To put this in perspective, we spend $170 billion a year on the Iraq war. This disparity is a compelling indication of the need to reprioritize our global agenda.

Time is of the essence for Obama, as an unprecedentedly popular U.S. leader in the international sphere, to take a stronger stance regarding world poverty. While I’m happy that Obama is making an effort to forge new peace relations, he needs to recognize the most common source of international conflict: poverty. With the most powerful job in the world, it’s crucial that Obama applies his slogan of “change” to our policies in foreign aid.

— Johanna Leader, Issaquah

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