Sunday, January 27, 2013


What’s wrong with our Foreign Policy?

Recently I watched an episode of the TV program “Meet the Press.” One of the segments dealt with American Foreign Policy and the problems the Obama Administration will soon face. The commentators that the host had gathered to discuss the problems expressed concern that some of the revolutionaries that we are supporting or considering supporting are sympathetic to and contain members of Al Qaeda. They agreed that we must stay involved in many parts of the world and that we must not appear weak. The implication is that we must maintain a credible military force and appear to be ready to use it if matters get out of hand. There were clips of President Obama and Mrs. Clinton, our Secretary of State, commenting on the need for a strong, consistent foreign policy.

This is all well and good. I won’t argue in favor of weakness. I wish that some of these foreign policy experts would read a book that I recently read. It’s called “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man,” by John Perkins. In the book Mr. Perkins tells how he prepared wild and unrealistic economic estimates for various projects to be undertaken in small countries. The estimate would be given to the leaders of the country to convince them that if their resource (e.g., petroleum) were exploited, or if a new power system were built and installed their country would experience great prosperity and economic growth. Of course, they would have to borrow money from the World Bank or some similar institution to pay a capable American contractor (e.g., Bechtel or Halliburton) to carry out the project. The excess income resulting from the promised economic growth would provide funds to pay back the loan.

The project is built. If the purpose is to extract petroleum, indigenous people have to be moved out of the way. Heavy equipment is brought in. The extraction process pollutes the area, pollutes rivers, kills some native species, makes the native people angry, and does not produce the promised economic growth. If the project is a power grid, the local people do not get access to the power, and again the promised economic boom never occurs. The leaders of the country are happy with their bribe money. The natives are unhappy and angry at the Americans. The country is stuck with a big debt that it can not possibly repay.

Read the book for more details. I wish that President Obama would read the book. I have a dream in which he appoints John Perkins to be our Secretary of State. Then I wake up and I’m sad and worried.

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