July 3, 2014 (SSNA) — The following was originally published in Foreign Policy Magazine July 1, 2014.
Stephen Walt, professor at Harvard University, has made a valid point about the LEADERSHIP policies of the American government, in the magazine foreign Policy, but I would have suggested that the word "LEADERSHIP" added to the new headline would have more accurately described the reality.
The primary differentiation between the international perception of American foreign policy and the general affection held for the American people is twofold:
1. How can good, well regarded, individual Americans and their NGOs differ so greatly from their elected leadership and interventionist policies?
2. The bums running our country (insert name here) are OUR bums, and not the bums put in place by some foreign (American) devil with their own self-interests primary.
Throughout the decades of my experience in travels throughout the world, I have been consistently confronted with confusion by nearly everyone over the chasm between personal affection for American citizens on the ground and American political, commercial, and military interventionist realities. The most frequently asked question, if a conversation even gets this far, is "How can you good American citizens elect and tolerate leadership that acts so differently from what you individually espouse?" The answer is simple and unacceptable: American leadership will act in their own self-interests first, last, and always. And if we supported a foreign leader who subsequently becomes a dictatorial human rights disaster, he will continue to have American leadership support as long as he doesn’t interfere with those American best interests.
South Sudan is the current exemplar of egotistical American policy failure. While participation in todays world requires a single centralized leadership and political form of governance, no one asked the fundamental question: Do the citizens of South Sudan WANT to participate in world political and economic intercourse, or do they just want to be left alone?
The 71 tribal nations of the country now called South Sudan came together for the first time in history to throw out the foreign devils from Khartoum who were attempting to obliterate their cultures, and seize their lands, and natural resources. They threw the "foreign" bums out. And what did they get instead? Different foreign bums! We Americans may be well-advised to contemplate the following premise- maybe they fought for the freedom to be left independently alone.
Nobody thought to ask if the 71 tribes wanted a centralized, over-arching political and leadership structure. While that may be necessary for modern international involvement. Nobody asked these People if they wanted to give up generations of cultural independence. Nobody thought to ask if tribes would submit to some geographically distant "dictator" whose rule was defined by his (any culture other than mine) tribal and cultural loyalties. Nobody thought to ask what fundamental difference existed between foreign dictatorship from Khartoum and "foreign" dictatorship from Juba. Both choose to dictate rules for living under an alien, geographically disconnected political, economic, and cultural world.
And we "foreign devils" can’t understand why our foreign policy and resulting actions are seen as interference by a colonial power seeking to impose "Freedoms" as defined by some outlander. Even Imperial Rome had the common sense to grant significant autonomy and self-governance to its vassal holdings. Until a change in Juba’s political, centralized government is seen by the citizens of South Sudan as supportive, and respectful, of local autonomy and cultural history, rebellion against the “Foreign” bums will continue.
Maybe a cultural anthropologist should be a member of the president’s cabinet.
Papa Maury Clark is a former advisor to the government of South Sudan, retired investment banker/broker, as well as a Called and Commissioned Deacon in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), Northwest Washington Synod. He served under Bishops Appointment as pastor of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in Maple Valley, Washington in 1990 and 1991, and also served four years on the Synod Council and he has been deeply involved with the people of South Sudan since 1996.