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Friday, January 06, 2006

The Lesser of Two Evils

If you have been a long time reader of Bring It On, your bound to have come across this weeks guest poster, Ken Granlund. Ken is the author of the Common Sense blog, and one of the producers of our Contract With America video. We really enjoy Ken's insights because he brings a view that isn't Democract or Republican, but American. Thank you Ken for contributing as this weeks Guest columinst.

For over 60 years, U.S. Foreign policy has been predicated upon a doctrine known as “the lesser of two evils.” In essence, this policy was used as rationale for engaging in alliances with foreign dictators whose disdain for democracy held their own countrymen in virtual bondage to their whims. These dictatorships were free to act as they pleased within their own countries without pressure from the U.S. government with regards to human rights and freedoms so long as they sided with the U.S. in international matters or engaged in capitalistic endeavors with our government and corporations. Despite a stated goal of promoting democracy and freedom across the world (the chief rationale for a half century of opposing communism and a worthy ideal to be sure), successive U.S. administrations and Congresses have made pacts with tyrants who abhor individual freedoms and seek power and wealth at the expense of their countrymen.

The Shah of Iran was one. Idi Amin was one. Manuel Noriega was one. Ferdinand Marcos was another. So was Saddam Hussein. Osama bin Laden was one too. These and many others were at one time or another allied with the government of the United States in our battle against Soviet communism. Yet their tyrannical rule of their own people, with the acquiescence of U.S. governments and in total contradiction to our own stated beliefs of the state of man’s rights to freedom, led to tumultuous political upheavals in those countries and fostered an aura of distrust and outright hostility to the United States. We may have saved the world from the monstrosity of Nazism and Japanese totalitarianism, but we weren’t raising the lives of anyone but ourselves. In fact, we were nothing but hypocrites of the worst sort. We espoused ideas for the whole of humanity while embracing them for ourselves only.

Americans in general understood the concept at play, and recognizing Soviet communism to be a direct threat to freedom and democracy, accepted the rules of the game as the government wrote them. After all, American prosperity exploded. So what if the Arabs and Asians and Africans were being beaten and killed and starved around the world. We were too busy enjoying our access to cheap oil and trinkets to care about anyone else. The policy of the lesser of two evils had done us well, so why rock the boat?

Why indeed?

The simple truth is that the lesser of two evils policy is a fallacy. By choosing this method of foreign relations, the U.S. has not endeared itself to the people of the world. Despite the charity of our individual citizens to poor or ravaged countries around the world, the reputation of America is based on the actions of our government. We tout our freedoms and democratic principals everywhere we go, so the people of the world can only assume that we not only approve of what our government does abroad, we dictate that policy ourselves. They may want to come here and share in that power, but that doesn’t mean they like us. By choosing the lesser of two evils, we’ve shown the world that our means justify any ends, especially if the ends means more money and leisure for us. This approach to foreign policy has made us many false allies and real enemies, and the fruition of this approach is coming home to roost in the form of terror attacks and nuclear proliferation. And while the worst tyrants operate abroad, it is we who let them. Who is worse: the man who kicks the puppy or the one who pays to watch?

The lesser of two evils policy has come to haunt us in others ways too, ways equally as threatening to our way of life as the foreign enemies who are rising against us. So indoctrinated are we in this way of thinking, so convinced that there is always a time and a place to sacrifice our ideals to further our own comfort or success, we have adopted the theory to our own daily lives and politics. We accept throw away consumerism in exchange for cheap prices. We ignore illegal immigration for cheap produce. We vote for political hacks instead of people who really want to help their neighbors.

Well, we reap what we sow, both as a government and as a people. Not only do we have vicious enemies who really want to kill us and our way of life, we have a government who is becoming increasingly more like those dictatorships we propped up in the past. We have a government who espouses the use of torture, secret eavesdropping, indefinite detention, and defamation as a means of securing our freedom. We have a government who meets dissent with a sneer and a slur while telling us that our enemy is evil because they don’t let their people speak freely. We have an administration that will stop at nothing to protect us from our enemies, even if that means destroying the freedoms we hold so dear. We see the evidence mounting, and yet we allow it to continue.


It is because of the lesser of two evils theory, that foul, false policy that does nothing but decrease the total amount of liberty in this world by promoting fear over freedom; profit over people? Our government is telling us that unless we give them the power to do anything, anywhere, and anytime that they see fit, to stop the enemy from attacking us again, then we will surely lose the war on terror and fall victim to a dictatorial theocracy. They want us to believe that by suspending our own liberties to them at home, we will be averting an even greater decimation of our liberty in the long run. They are presenting themselves as the lesser of two evils.

By accepting the doctrine of the lesser of two evils, we may have driven Soviet aggression into the ground. But the price we are paying for our chosen method is an even more unstable world and a more unpredictable array of enemies. Perhaps had we chosen another path of confrontation, we would have won that battle with some real friends in the world. We can’t change the past, but we can learn from it. And we should start our first lesson here.

Our government still pursues the lesser of two evils doctrine abroad, and now they want to use it at home. We are at a crossroads. By choosing the lesser of two evils, we are giving up on the chance of choosing good. We are giving up on the promise of freedom, equality, and peace. We must oppose those who support the tyranny of others for our own prosperity. We must cast out those who would destroy freedom for the sake of false security. We must choose to follow those who will defend freedom for freedoms sake.

Posted by The Bastard at 12:22 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink


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Yeah that's probably true. But I still don't see what is being taken away from us. False security to me is less of a fact and more of an opinion to me.

If America is feeling safe then America will be safe until the next abomination that reaches our soil. I'd personally rather be in a false sense of security, knowing I can raise a family, enjoy a walk in a park or strum a guitar than to live in panic that my government is doing me wrong.

Constitutional rights are very very hard to take away from an American. Just look at the first amendment alone and watch how we fight over it. On one hand in this country, you have got a guy like the idiot down the street from me that gets national attention putting up crude soldier effigies protesting the war on his house and then you have pia's story from a week or so ago where a Catholic priest saying a prayer at a Catholic assembly. On one hand I am so pissed at Mr. Pearcy for what I think is an abuse of his right to free speech and pretty much disturbing the peace, endangering neighbors and disrupting the lives of innocent people around him, yet turn the other cheek at the Catholic priest saying a prayer at that public event. If you look at both, you all can form an opinion one way or the other but if you bring both to the attention of the American public, a huge majority of them don't care about religion in public or care how people use their free speech. And that is my real issue, I want to see people make a decision instead of just sitting their with there thumb up their ass.

So the real issue to me is who's gonna care if their freedom is indirectly and minutely abused if most of America is gonna sit there and not care either way? American's will still be able to do what makes them happy (as long as it's legal) And catching bad guys is always a good thing? Isn't it?

Posted by: steve | Jan 6, 2006 1:00:43 AM

After all this country did to win the Cold War with the Soviets it is sure ironic that we are now pumping $250 billion a year into the Communist Chinese economy while creating the greatest trade deficit between any two nations in the world. In addition, under Bush's watch over a million U.S. jobs have flowed to China and he has allowed these Commies to buy up over a half $trillion in U.S. Treasury bonds. These funds are helping to pay for his war, massive corporate welfare, farm subsidies and tax rebates for mostly the wealthy. Bush's China debt will take decades to pay back.

Remember, these are the same Chinese who have vowed to destroy "Yankee Imperialism" and who are using our assistance to become the fastest growing economy and military in the world. The Republicans are now in control and making a fast buck for their corporate sponsers appears to hold a higher priority than such trivial matters as human rights or civil liberties. They just don't seem to be capable of grasping the big picture. I'm just glad I still know how to use chopsticks.

Posted by: icoman | Jan 6, 2006 1:53:57 AM

Great Post Ken! The truth hurts sometimes, but at least its truth!

Posted by: LiberPaul | Jan 6, 2006 7:59:26 AM

Hey Ken, remember we did ally with Hitler at the beginning, just ask Prescott Bush.

And steve, you sound like a German citizen of the early 1940's. They thought the same thing and look what happened. When you have a president that says he can just skirt around the constitution whenever he wants in the name of protection you have a dictatorship. I wonder what you would say if he disbanded congress in the name of protection?

You know there is a reason that federal soldiers are not allowed on domestic soil in policing roles. I'll tell you that after 9/11 I was more afraid of the National Guard and Reserves on every street corner and the checkpoints I had to go through manned by special forces near the Federal Immigration building than I was of something else happening.

Steve the next time you get told you have to carry a photo I.D., proof of address and employment just to get through a checkpoint you let me know if it's worth giving up liberties for just a little while.

I've been there and I've done that and it was not in the least bit fun!

Posted by: The Bastard | Jan 6, 2006 7:59:32 AM

"the next you get told"... I am still waiting Bastard. God, what's with you. I didn't know we had a set a rules and regulations on how the government should act after a terrorist attack. FDR did the same thing but worse in the 1940's. He rounded up all the Japanese for their "protection". Protection from what? Imagine if we rounded up all the Arabs for their "protection". We denied the freedom of Japanese Americans for a few years yet fought Hitler because of freedom. The way you talk here Bastard is that everyone is an angel and should be left alone. Lincoln said it. The Constitution is not a suicide pact. Why do you need a photo ID to pay with a credit card? Why do you need a photo ID to drive a car, get on an airplane and buy alcohol or cigarettes? If you use your credit card at Starbucks for a cup of coffee they card you. I don't see you bitching about that. We pass through ID checkpoints every day. So what is the crime? I see you crying because Bush is in office. I am sorry you didn't win in 04, good luck in 08!

Your little 9/11 scenario and referring me to the 1940's German citizen is a joke at best. I almost choked on my shredded wheat reading that.

Thanks for the thoughts though, you know I enjoy Bring It On!

Posted by: Steve | Jan 6, 2006 10:27:43 AM

Steve, you are not gonna get it, ever! What you talk about are corporations securing their money. What I'm talking about is being able to walk down a fucking street!!! After 9/11 I went through three check points just to reach my destination!!!!!

Listen fucktard, I mean that in "having a beer" kinda way, you can not claim or ever claim of experience military rule unless you were in NYC or WDC so you rights were not infringed upond. I have given up a huge amount of rights living and working in the biggest target in the US, so feel safe and don't worry, you'll get shit taken away from you and I will love to hear your complaint!!!!

Posted by: The Bastard | Jan 6, 2006 11:30:17 AM

Steve- False security is the fact that our borders are porous. Our shipping ports are lightly secured. Our airports spend time frisking grandma's and baby strollers. This administration would have you believe that spying on phone calls and putting out color coded alerts makes us more secure. Baloney.

Feeling safe and being safe are not the same thing. This gov't keeps an edge of fear ever-present in our lives, but asks us to ignore the dangers and go on with life. Should we live in panic? Absolutely not. Should we be secure in our governments efforts? Give me a break...

And if you think our rights are so secure, just look at the Kelo decision or the positions that Alito supports- favoring police abuse over due process for one.

Of course, your points about American apathy cut to the heart of the issue, but as we become more absolved in ourselves instead of securing our rights and freedoms while fighting real terror at home and abroad, we open the door to the defraying of both freedom and security.

Icoman- I agree that our relationship with China falls into the "two evils" category. Our continued policies that allow China to absorb our debt will be to our own peril. As it is, turning back this clock will require much sacrifice here at home. In the present climate, Americans are both asleep to this and probably too selfish as a whole to make any changes.

Paul- Thanks.

Bastard- Some capitalists did side with Hitler, but on the whole, we just ignored much of what was happening in Europe during the 30's as we are often wont to do. After all, we had our own problems and weren't being threatened from abroad then.

Posted by: ken grandlund | Jan 6, 2006 3:48:06 PM

I often take the Long Island Railroad, when I get to the station I'm more scared of the National Guard accidentally bungling something than any burly male.

Steve you know that I wanted to be able to accept subway searches and the like; can't for too many reasons to go into.

I have always felt that NY is the safest place; probably because I know it so well. Not sure about that anymore.

It's not just having to walk around with ID; it's the feeling that if a National Guardsman, policeman, or even a security guard in a building doesn't like your looks or is in a bad mood or something, you really can end up in jail over nothing.

happened to 200 people before the RNC; do believe the charges were dismissed.

Yes damn it, I'm grateful to the ACLU because they help ensure that kind of thing doesn't happen on a daily basis.

But sometimes I do feel like I live in a war zone. I fear that as Bush loses more power because more things about his admin are exposed, he will set things up here so that we keep expecting another attack.

I have faith in the Bush admin to try to divide to conquer; y'all know my feelings about Rove. He's still a member of the admin; his feelings about NY are well known

Many of the 20% of people who voted for Bush here don't like his domestic stances. They voted for him because there wasn't another attack. That logic escapes me; but Bush knows that's a reason people in the entire NY metro area did vote for him, and plays to it.

Three years ago I had my identity stolen. Turned out to be a nationwide pick pocketing ring The police were very excited by my particular case, because I made a good witness, and had tons of documentation.

This is a major, real and growing problem They found the fuckers and had to let the Texas authorities do whatever they could as the ring was centered there.

Why? This was exactly three years ago, and the warm up to the war was starting. The police had to concentrate on all the false threats.

Selfish of me to want my day in court to explain how my bank tried charging me with fraud, though I had cancelled my ATM card and had done everything you're supposed to do. Not true: reported all my cards, and SSA--my health insurance card had my number on it, but I didn't go to the police then. Didn't even think about it.

Still dream about suing the bank for giving a stranger who didn't know my bank account numbers or PIN full access to my accounts; the woman put in a large deposit that of course was worthless.

I went away two days after the robbery and came home to a city where nobody was on the streets because of phony threats; Bin Laden or somebody who looked like him had been on airport CNN, saying he would attack again, my doorman told me that the subways were closed, not, but a lot of people thought that. And the first letter I opened was from my bank. It said that I had defrauded them; and that they were going to file felony charges against me; well it didn't say "felony" but I knew that a phony deposit of 200+k was felony material.

If I didn't have to go to the police to have a police report to give to the bank and all other parties, I wouldn't have. When the first patrolman I spoke with asked me why I hadn't reported it to the police immediately, I couldn't stop laughing. He went to get more experienced police who laughed along with me

Going into this because it's a real and constantly growing problem.

At the time I was so screwed up because of 9/11 and other things that when the lead detective called to tell me that he had been taken off the case, couldn't go to Texas as planned, and couldn't do other things, I didn't pick up on his obvious want for me to publicize it. As I wrote for a paper then, I might have been able to

Understand what I mean? That real crime gets pushed to the side, for phony attack tips that must be taken seriously. NY has the lowest crime rates of any major city. Do believe the murder statistics; not sure I believe the rest. First because unless you have to you don't report a crime; second because crimes like the one that happened to me probably got pushed from a major felony charge to something minor and palatable.

And I was lucky; I knew how to work the system so that I didn't lose anything; and was able to put safeguards into place so that any future identity theft might be stopped before the people are allowed into any of my accounts.

I let myself fall into the fear trap; it wasn't until I met The Bastard and everybody else here that I was able to put things into perspective.

And I was never really scared of an attack; if it happens, it happens. We can make it harder for people but we can't all stop suicide attacks. It's a physical impossibility; always knew that. El Al might be the safest airline in the world; but I sure wouldn't want to go to Israel

What you can stop on a plane, you can't stop on the streets. That's one of the reasons people will submit to a search before a plane ride. It's a true deterrent. Though I will never again ask a woman security guard who is feeling my breasts in full public view if she's enjoying herself.

New York stopped feeling magical to me on 9/11. The other day Pataki made his state of the state address and called for massive tax cuts. I'm not sure where he was going with that speech. And won't go into it in detail here.

How are we supposed to pay for all these faux attack services? Why should we? Bloomberg's taking money from here and there to pay for everything

I really don't like New York anymore. I realized that what I believed to be fear was really sadness for a city that no longer exists as it did

Real crime goes unpunished, or underpunished, while faux crimes are investigated. I'm just beginning to understand how wrong that is

As I have always felt that NY was the victim on 9/11, but after six months of empathy, it was blame it on the victim.

Steve let me say that Katrina made me understand how you feel about 9/11. But as horrible as I felt, I wasn't there, wasn't displaced, wasn't any of those things. So I can empathize, I can cry, I can want to make things right, but I will never, hopefully, know how they felt.

Hopefully, you will never exactly know how TB and I felt and feel.

I will never pretend to understand exactly how TB feels because I wasn't downtown then

But I live in Manhattan and my world was changed so much then

Sorry Ken didn't mean to write a comment that's probably longer than your post

Posted by: pia | Jan 6, 2006 3:56:25 PM


What if everything and everyone is evil? What are our choices? Venality does not usually run in degrees, unless the venality is murder 1, 2, voluntary and involuntary manslaughter, which was the old way of resolving problems.

What say you?

Martin S. Friedlander, Esq.

Posted by: Martin Friedlander | Jan 6, 2006 3:59:17 PM

I don't think it's all apathy Ken, I think it is ignorance, partisanship and complacency.

It's not gonna change because we remove a Republican President for a Democrat. Sometimes I wonder if the readers here get that.

Posted by: Steve | Jan 6, 2006 8:02:19 PM


Yes, complacency and partisanship play a large role, as does ignorance (not to be mistaken with a lack of intelligence.)

And I also agree that a mere switch of party leadership does not make things a-okay.

What we need is an end of career politicians whose only goal is to stay in power and enrich their political benefactors. And I think that many people do understand that, but remain entrenched into the two party debacle because they buy the lie that there is no other way.

But there is a way, and that is to return to the concept of the citizen-legislator, something the founders envisioned at the start. Washington wisely declined to serve more than two terms in office. His precedent finally became law. Lincoln's own constituents wouldn't let him run for a second congressional term because "it was someone else's turn."

However, in this era of political debauchery, when one party leads the circus, at the least, a change in party domination allows for a reversal or roll-back of the excesses that come from one party domination.

The solution, I think, lies with independent leaders and self imposed term limits.

Posted by: ken grandlund | Jan 6, 2006 8:13:01 PM

I completely agree with the thrust of this very well-written and well-conceived piece. Our convenient allies of lesser evils are very reason we've suffered the blow-back of 9/11 and countless other pains.

I do have a couple of questions and points, though - just for fun:

How so did the doctrine of "the lesser of two evils" play into "sav(ing) the world from the monstrosity of Nazism and Japanese totalitarianism,"?

In the case of Nazism, the Soviets had more at stake than any other warring party and so the "alliance" was a mutual given, not a policy choice. We did not choose to bring the Russians in, they already were in. The only choice we made was not to pursue the Patton Option at the end of the war - and option we may well have seriously regretted (the Soviet people had yet to regret the Revolution in any sense at that point and so we would have looked like further imperialistic aggressors - and, at that point, we really didn't know what Stalin was up to).

In the case of Japanese Imperialism, who was the lesser evil there? Mao? If so, would not that fit right in with the aforementioned Soviet example? And regardless, was not Mao even a lesser evil than the Nationalists, especially considering the Nationalists' impotency when confronted with the Japanese and other foreign aggressors and interests?

Mr. Granlund says, "Despite the charity of our individual citizens to poor or ravaged countries around the world, the reputation of America is based on the actions of our government." I don't know if I would concur with this. I think most people around the world understand well enough that the American Government and the American People are not one in the same, though, ideally, they are supposed to be. The world understands and likes or dislikes individual Americans based on our brash, low-brow/hi-fi culture, our mixed working-class heritage, etc. They do not care for our Government's foreign policies - policies in the name gluttonous consumption causing misbalance to the world's economy. He hits that right on the head. I think most people around the world see this all for what it is. America never was seen as a "shining city on a hill," a perfected Athenian Democracy. The world sees America as an Oligarchic Empire, and they're right.

We may tout freedom on the TV for those who already have it, but on the ground in poor nations, the voice they hear is quite different. For example - the US does not spend a lot on foreign aid (I wish people would realize that). Most of our aid goes to two nations - Egypt and Israel - to keep them from killing each other (it's like keeping two angry lions apart by constantly throwing steak at them). We, as individual citizens, do spend money on charity, but a lot of that is religious charity, and that voice is useless and annoying to those who get stuck hearing it. Third World people need condoms and stability - not Bibles and a few wells.

He continues, "…we have vicious enemies who really want to kill us and our way of life,…" Actually, we have pretty weak enemies who can't do much about what they want. 19 of them got "lucky" on 9/11. That's about the most they could have ever done. Their real "victory" then (and OBL knew this would happen) was the jingoistic, idiotic reaction of the Bush "Administration" and a country dumb enough to put that sort in power.

I do love, by the way, Ken's bringing the whole "lesser of two evils" theory full circle - from abroad to right here at home and from foreign evils to ourselves. Brilliant!

Posted by: Jersey McJones | Jan 6, 2006 8:38:04 PM

Pia, it sounds like NY is becoming a bit over-fortified. Over on this side of the river, I feel underfortified. I don't venture in much anymore. I live in the vast Industriopolis around the Rahway river. I look at all the chem plants and oil tanks and... oosh, it really makes me nervous - but I'm with you - I'd rather die free than live in a police state! (Unfortunately, I've thought we were all living in a police state for years...)

Posted by: Jersey McJones | Jan 6, 2006 8:43:19 PM

I agree - the "less of two evils" foreign policy doctine pretty much blew up in our face on 9/11 when Osama, who the CIA trained and armed to fight the Soviets, attacked the U.S.. There is a cost for everything, the cost for chosing the lesser of two evils to use Osama to fight the Soviets was 9/11. This fact alone warrants an extensive review of future long-term foreign policy decisions.

Posted by: JPL | Jan 6, 2006 11:02:57 PM

"The Ugly American" co-authored by Eugene Burdick, beat you by about 50 years. Burdick was just a correct then as you are now.

Posted by: Chief | Jan 7, 2006 8:58:19 AM

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