The Three Stooges, Take II

[Setting: After an agonizing session with his foreign policy advisors, Bill Clinton decides he needs another source of expert help for his foreign policy decisions. He calls on his wife to help him set up a psychic link to some important dead personalities to help him through his trying times.]

Hillary: Alright Bill, it’s simple. Just think really hard about who you want to see. No not, her! You were going to see somebody about work! That’s better. I can see him coming. Here he arrives. It’s George Washington! [She leaves]

George: What? Where am I?

Bill: Nice to meet you George. I’m William Jefferson Clinton, president of the United States of America. I was wondering if you could help me. Here’s a report of the events of the last two-hundred years. [Hands Washington the briefs. Washington begins to read.] So, Mr. Washington, What should be the basis of U.S. policy as we cross the bridge to the 21st century?

George: [glancing up from the papers] You men have succeeded in accomplishing some severe disasters. Didn’t anybody listen to my farewell address?

Bill: Well, Mr. Washington, as you can see, things have changed a great deal in the past two centuries. The United States is now the superpower.

George: Yes, George. I see that through hard work and determination the concept of the United States of America has succeeded. But why must the United States intervene in the affairs of other countries. Did you not remember my final speech?

Bill: Yes-

George: -And do you not recall what I said about alliances?

Bill: That we should stay out of entangling alliances.

George: Well, not exactly that language, but yeah, that’s it. And what do you call these things? NATO, UN, NAFTA. They all contain ends which also is the first letter of the word no, which is what you should have said when asked to join.

Bill: But we fought hard for these organizations! They are the way to keep peace in the world!

George: Peace? What peace? You have sent troops to die in other parts of the world, while implementing an income tax at home. You are destroying the dream that we set to fulfill while at the same time killing the dreamers.

Bill: But George! [begins to pout] You just don’t understand! Look at all Wilson had fought for! He was seriously injured in his quest for the first League of Nations. Oh Woody, why don’t you come here! You could explain it to him. [smoke appears]

Woody: [Coughing] Where am I? Hey, the White House! But who’s that in the Lincoln bedroom?

Bill: [embarrassed] Uh, you didn’t see anything. [Quickly changing the subject] Now, Woody, I’ve called on you to help explain to this stiff the importance of international alliances.

Woody: Stiff? Oh. [looks at George] Oh it’s you again. Haven’t you realized that you’re time has passed? Things have changed a lot since your foray into power in the 18th century. Our little isolated experiment ceased to be isolated. We can send a near instantaneous telegram to London. No more waiting weeks or months for news.

Bill: And now we have teleconferencing, Concords,-

Woody: -Yes, and all that too, whatever it is. As I was saying, George, it is impossible to even feign an isolationist policy today. As I recall, you mentioned in your speech that alliances would cause us to be subservient to other major powers. Well, I talked about alliances, too - secret alliances. Those are bad. But open alliances are a necessity. Though it may be difficult for you to comprehend, America is on its way to becoming one of the great powers. We were participants alongside Britain and France at the end of the great World War-

Bill: Uh, Woody, maybe you should check out this brief [hands him a brief on post-Wilson 20th century event] We are the superpower.

George: And with ourselves in such a strong position, our actions become all the more important. As you mentioned here, the United States was the dominant economic power in the 1950s. How did our country achieve this? We weren’t destroyed in warfare. Our alliances weren’t so strong that they forced us to enter in to petty conflicts. Only when attacked did we retaliate. Following the war, we had the resources ready to rebuild the world. Had we remained militarily neutral, our nation would still be the economic power it was. However, the alliances formed and the excessive military intervention interfered with our economic growth. Soon economies such as Germany and Japan, our very enemies in the war came to dominate us economically. Why? Because they were prohibited from devoting excessive outflows to military. They did not enter in to alliances that didn’t affect them nationally.

Woody: Impressive George. You can read and comprehend. Unfortunately, you missed the important points of the war. The Second World War to which you refer was an unnecessary travesty, a senseless carnage of human lives that need not have taken place. If congress would have permitted the United States to enter in to the League of Nations, the League could have reached a peaceful resolution to the problems plaguing Europe.

Bill: Uh, Woody, I don’t know what you might have been not inhaling, but even with UnitedStates participation in the League, there were many flaws that had to be worked out. Even the United Nations is greatly flawed. Look at that [mumbles to himself, trying to remember a name] Boutrus... Boutrows? Golly what’s his name? Anyway, that old UN dude. He was trying to send the UN troops here there and everywhere. We had a real fight to try to get rid of him.

George: Major powers exercising tyranny towards the minor powers that have aligned themselves to them...

Bill: No. No. No. Why did I call you guys? I need help to build my bridge to the 21st century. It all sounded great when my speech writers put it in my convention speech, but now? What am I to do? The world is such a mess. We don’t have a common enemy like we did in the cold war. We are no longer the dominant economy we once were. Europe is forming the Union. Even South America is jumping into the free-trade game. And what do we have? NAFTA: Nothing mor than a political headache.

George: Now you are starting to make a little more sense. Trade. Free trade will go a lot further than any other military alliances. If we stay out of the political affairs of the other countries, we will be more freely able to enter in to the trade agreements that are much needed for successful economic development.

Woody: But where would economic development be if there were no political stability? Free trade was just one of my Fourteen Points. We also need to ensure peace in the world, and the restoration of all lands to the leadership of their inhabitants.

George: Then who gets America?

Bill: We are trying our best to unify the world, but at the same time all the countries seem to be splitting off in to small ethnic units. Just take the former Warsaw Pact. Just three of the countries, USSR, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia, have now split off in to about 20 different ethnic states. Even here in the Untied States, we have problems with our ethnic minorities: the Asians, the Hispanics, the Blacks-

George: -I was always good to my slaves. But I knew that those who abused theirs were just asking for trouble. That is similar to foreign policy. We have to be good to our neighbors. We must keep our word. We must avoid unnecessary conflict. Our fierce enemy may soon become our best ally. Engaging in unnecessary conflict and alliance forming will make it difficult for the natural course of events to take place.

Bill: But what about when the natural course of events consists of genocide and numerous deaths?

George: Have you not studied history? Look at the bravery of the American troops fighting in our revolution. Oh you wouldn’t be able to comprehend the military experience. But, if you had actually served, you might get a sense for the trauma involved. Our boys were sacrificing everything in hopes of the elusive goal of freedom. There wasn’t a great deal of interference. We asked for assistance, and after considering the situation, a few European powers helped out, but we still fought the war ourselves. That helped us to grow to become strong! If others had come in to fight the war for us, we would not have had the strong unifying event that we had.

Woody: But others did come in! If it were not for France, the British would have won the war.

George: France and Britain were already bickering! Sure, we were able to play our cards right to use the events in Europe (from Russia’s armed neutrality to the Anglo-French feud) to our advantage. However, it was our initiative that prevailed. Self determination is the key! We were able to achieve our own destiny.

Woody: Self-determination! No you are beginning to understand. As I recall, I alluded to that in many of my fourteen points. The nations should be permitted to chose their own course of action, independent of colonial dictatorship. It is our solemn responsibility to ensure that all nations can have the same opportunity for which we fought: to have a representative government responsive to their interests.

Bill: Ok, guys. This is all interesting debate, but I need some real help now. With the breakdown of the Soviet empire we have the real question about the position of the former Soviet satellites in the new world picture. How should we handle the expansion of NATO? Should we permit the former eastern block countries to enter in to the alliance?

George: You know what I think about alliances.

Woody: Same goes here. Remember my "Peace without Victory" speech? [to himself] That was a really good one. Anyway, in it, I, too, cautioned against entangling alliances. I’m not sure of the details of this NATO organization, but it appears to be a military alliance set up to pit the capitalistic democrats against the communists. If the victory has now been achieved, why must the alliance still be continued?

George: For once Woody is making sense. We do not need long-term military alliances like the such. They can only damage our free ability to grow. Look at the Cuba situation. We are prevented from trading with our own very neighbor. Even Tommy Jefferson would agree that that is not a good situation. And how did we get stuck with an embargo on our closest neighbor? We let political idealism interfere with our own interests.

Bill: Now wait a second George, we were talking about NATO. Cuba is different. Castro stole the property and possessions of many innocent Cubans. To trade with Cuba would be to acknowledge the robbery. [to himself] jeesh, what’s this, I’m talking like a Republican... [Out load] Besides, though it has been historically strongly conservative, the Cuban-Americans are finally starting to switch over to the democratic camp with the rest of the Hispanics. Get me a few more and my party will be locked in through the next millennium.

Woody: Alright back to your NATO situation, I believe it should be greatly reduced. NATO is a special, highly restrictive group that doesn’t have a place in our present society. With anorganization such as the League of Nations-

Bill: -United Nations-

Woody: Yeah, whatever. So they’ve renamed my League of Nations. Anyway, this organization is what we need to create the ideal world situation. All people are naturally good, and if they can channel their forces together for the common good of the world, we can have a lasting peace. Most conflicts can be eliminated by focusing on the needs of both parties and using the international governing body to arbitrate.

Bill: But the United Nations is so muddled in bureaucracy that it seems that it never is able to accomplish anything useful. Even with the United Nations in existence for half a century, there has still been a great deal of tension in the world.

Woody: But no large scale world war.

Bill: Hmm. I guess not. But we still did lose thousands of American lives.

George: But have you two considered that this might have been nothing more than the natural course of human events? Mankind has succeeded in inventing weapons capable of mass destruction of the entire world. With these large scale weapons, peace is the only option. Back in my days, you could afford to fight major wars because you knew that you could afford to start over again afterwards. Today, a large war might mean annihilation of the entire planet. There are very few goals that are worth such an expense. By keeping the United States out of the ‘entangling alliances’ (as Woody eloquently proclaimed it), we are free to grow in prosperity.

Bill: But what about the problems in Bosnia, the Middle East, Africa? Shouldn’t it be our responsibility to help out these people?

George: To an extent. Sure, the French provided us with a boost in morale, and helped us in our quest for independence. However, they didn’t fight our war. We fought it ourselves. They provided a little assistance, thus helping bring the war to a slightly faster conclusion. However, we would have been able to accomplish victory ourselves even without their assistance. Bosnia is a similar event. Different ethnic groups want their independence. Thus they are fighting for it.

Bill: But it’s not that simple. There are enclaves of Serbs in Bosnia, and-

George: -but it is still a matter of internal warfare. What interest does the United States of America have in the warfare?

Woody: I beg to differ, George. If you would have paid attention to your briefing you would realize that it is the United Nations that is undertaking the mission.

George: So you are saying that the United States troops are fighting under the command ofanother party. That makes them mercenaries, right?

Woody: No. That makes them part of an international force for the organization of peace. There is a major difference between a world organization for peace and an entangling alliance. While the UN is a peace organization, NATO is an alliance. The United States is a willing participant in the United Nations, just as the American states are willing participants in the federal government.

George: So the United States is subservient to the international force?

Woody: Not subservient. The nations still maintain their autonomy and ability to function independently of the organization. However, the may risk possibly repercussions in so doing. A large scale commitment of nations is needed for peace to be effectively carried out. Thus, it is in the best interest of all member nations to follow the consential agreements of the United Nations in order to ensure a world peace.

Bill: Uh, Woody. Yeah, the United Nations sounds great on paper. Only, it doesn’t quite seem to turn out so well in actuality. NATO has been far more successful in accomplishing our goals. That’s why we are talking of expansion. The Partnership for Peace arrangement is in place to help maintain a peaceful transition to democracy. But how far should we go in expanding this crucial alliance? And what about moral intervention?

George: We should mind our own business and let the other countries go about theirs.

Bill: But if we do, many innocent people will lose their lives. We need to enter in to help them have the advantages of a stable government, free from violations of their human rights.

George: What human rights? The world seems to have deemed slavery of man to man as an unjust evil, while at the same time it is encouraging the slavery of man to machine. Is it necessarily best to force the world to adopt the industrial standard? We were plenty happy as surveyors and farmers during the birth of our nation. Can’t people be happy like that today?

Woody: George, he is referring to much more wide-scale human rights violations, such as the right not to be locked up in jail and beaten for no apparent reason. Human rights is an important concept. By concentrating on the needs of groups of people, and encouraging self-determination we can help the nations of the world to work in harmony one with another. The United Nations is the organization that can help them to be free.

Bill: You sure love this United Nations. Unfortunately, the American public doesn’t have quite the sentiment that you do. They want U.S. troops to be under command of United States officers, not U.N. officials.

Woody: [sigh] The public never did understand in my day, either. If we could just escape the hotheadedness of some of these officials and carry out what needs to be done, we could have a comprehensive world peace.

Bill: You assume that everybody has equal knowledge and power. Unfortunately that is not the case. The General Assembly of the United Nations is dominated by many small third-world nations. Most of these nations weren’t even in existence when you were president, Woody. They just don’t understand all the forces in play in the international world. They need to be guided on towards prosperity. Left on their own, the attempt quick-fix solutions, such as communism. This only leads to their downfall. It is our responsibility as a great power to guide these nations. We help them economically and militarily. We encourage them to conform with the standards for moral behavior within the international realm.

George: That rhetoric sounds familiar. Oh yes, wasn’t this what the colonizers said about their colonies? The European powers thought that they were much more knowledgeable than the ruffians that inhabited the new world, thus it was their responsibility to rule over them and guide them on their course of actions. What this usually meant was sucking the economic resources from the colonies, while ruling with a strict force inhibiting their freedoms. Remember "taxation without representation"? Well, having another government demand that your government perform certain duties or risk decreased aid is essentially the same thing.

Woody: Now, George! How dare you even compare this with "taxation without representation"? This is our moral obligation! We don’t view the other nations as subservient colonies. They are all equals among nations. We voluntarily give of our experience in order to help them to grow. It is moral principles that guide our actions. We must place morality first.

Bill: Uh, moral principles? Morality? [mumbling] That word always seems to get me in trouble-

George: -Huh?

Bill: Well... You see... Let’s just stick with foreign policy. We would be stupid to think that other third-world nations could have an equal position as we do. We must help them to eventually grow to institute the same great institutions. That’s why we have entered in to Haiti, Somalia, and Rwanda. With just a small amount of US intervention we can do a lot of good.

George: But what good have you accomplished? I’ve read about Jimmy’s ‘doctrine’ that says we should get involved in neighbors like Haiti, but the others? Even Haiti posed no great security threat to the United States. Sure, there were refugees pouring in to Florida, but that is not sufficient cause for military intervention.

Woody: People were dying! The entire nation was on the brink of collapse! How could we sleep at night if we failed to aid them?

Bill: Well, I do hate to see people die. Even more important everyone that watches TV hates to see people suffer. You guys had it easy back then. You didn’t have to deal with live CNN broadcasts of war. The news crews are quick to arrive at any hotspot and obtain the most distressing images of human pain and suffering. What can a president do when he is pressed by his constituents to come to the immediate aid of a people?

Woody: Ah, Bill, journalism has been a strong shaper of public opinion long before TV. Look at my predecessors, literally forced to go to war with Spain due to the yellow-dog journalism of the day.

George: Even back and my days, Tommy, Jimmy, and Alex were busy churning out pamphlets to help mobilize the colonists against the crown.

Bill: But there have been some great changes in the world in the last 200 years-

George: - not that you need to worry about. On the surface the world has changed with different countries formed in different areas. Our experiment with democracy has proven to be successful and has been emulated around the world. In some places, democracy may not be the best institution. That’s fine. There are still strong nations and week nations. The strong nations become week when they try to overextend themselves and rule over people without their consent. Your best policy would be to stay out of all the petty wars and internal struggles of the world. Keep away from alliances. Confine foreign policy the United States itself and the direct interests thereof. By all means remove the troops from Bosnia. We don’t want our great nation to merely be the world’s mercenaries!

Bill: So we should stay here and let the world take care of itself?

George: Exactly. Like it says in the Bible, we should first take the beam out of our eye before we attempt to remove the motes from the world.

Bill: Well, I did promise to focus on domestic policy... What do you think Woody?

Woody: You can’t neglect our responsibilities to the world. The United Nations is an institution that must be supported. Nations can still retain their sovereignty when part of an international organization, just as men remain themselves even after joining a club. It is impossible to separate the economic and political factors. In order to defend our nation’s economic position, we must also be prepared to defend it politically. Similar, the economic influence can be a crucial factor to aid us in avoiding warfare. With unified international force, world peace can be maintained. All nations can enjoy their sovereignty and be ruled by their own citizens. We must be willing to fight for peace. Bill, to build your bridge to the 21st century, you need to start first by building a bridge to the United Nations. Maybe you can even incorporate NATO in the United Nations? That would ease most of the policy debates.

Bill: Well, uh, thanks. You guys have given me some great prospective, but I still feel just as confused as I was before. Maybe I should just relax and take in a game of golf with Greg. Last time I did, I was able to get a delay in my summit with the Russian. Maybe it will work again.

George: Some day you will have to face your problems head on. I hope you are prepared for the challenge. Just remember, less is better. [He disappears in a puff of smoke]

Woody: Alright, Bill, now that we’ve got the stiff out of the way, lets get some good idealismgoing. You’re the master image man. Even with a slew of scandals and a poor record, you were able to get reelected. You can use your charisma to achieve world peace! Do it. [He disappears in a puff of smoke]

Bill: [dazed] That was some dream. [sees the smoke] I sure hope I didn’t inhale....