07 October 2007

Weather & Foreign Policy

First, a little story that a friend sent to me the other day:

It was October and the Indians on a remote reservation asked their new chief if the coming winter was going to be cold or mild. Since he was a chief in a modern society he had never been taught the old secrets. When he looked at the sky he couldn't tell what the winter was going to be like. Nevertheless, to be on the safe side, he told his tribe that the winter was indeed going to be cold and that the members of the village should collect firewood to be prepared. But being a practical leader, after several days he got an idea. He went to the phone booth, called the national weather service and asked, "Is the coming winter going to be cold?" "It looks like this winter is going to be quite cold," the meteorologist at the weather service responded. So the chief went back to his people and told them to collect even more firewood in order to be prepared. A week later he called the national weather service again. "Does it still look like it is going to be a very cold winter?" "Yes," the man at national weather service again replied, "It's going to be a very cold winter." The chief again went back to his people and ordered them to collect every scrap of firewood they could find. Two weeks later the chief called the national weather service again. Are you absolutely sure that the winter is going to be very cold?" "Absolutely," the man replied. "It's looking more and more like it is going to be one of the coldest winters ever." "How can you be so sure?" the chief asked. The weatherman replied, "Because the Indians are collecting firewood like crazy!"

It struck me that this story illustrates in a way how U.S. foreign policy is often carried out. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union and as more and more historical documents are brought to light in both Russia and the United States it seems to me that more foreign policy decisions were made by reason of intuition, rumor, false claims, and paranoia than anything else. It also looks like this same pattern is repeating itself over and over in foreign policy matters involving Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Burma etcetera. In the end I think that personal visits, dialog, and face to face negotiation work better than sifting through rumors collected by the FBI and CIA. We need to call in the “weatherman” as it were and find out just where he is getting his information.

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.