Shadow Government

Are the kids alright?

A nation can be judged by how it cares for and protects the most vulnerable.  As our fearless curator Will Inboden pointed out, it was a welcome change when President Obama gave due credit to President Bush for one of his proudest legacies, combatting HIV/AIDs globally.  It would have been easy for President Bush, when faced with the global suffering caused by HIV/AIDs, to look the other way or to do lip service to addressing it.  Instead, he made it a signature initiative that saved millions of lives just because it was the right thing to do. 

A related challenge presents a similar opportunity to President Obama. Millions of highly vulnerable children today are living outside family care in every country including our own.  Some have been orphaned by HIV/AIDs, others trafficked or forced into labor and still others are living in institutions, on the streets or in refugee camps alone.  The Obama Administration, mostly due to Secretary Clinton's leadership, has made significant progress addressing this global challenge and could leave behind a solid legacy if it builds upon it again this year.

I recently participated in two groundbreaking events focused on highly vulnerable children. The first in November was the Way Forward Project Summit sponsored by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) which brought together African and U.S. officials and experts in this field to make recommendations for strengthening child protection systems in six African countries.  The event was held at the State Department and Secretary Clinton gave solid remarks making her the first Cabinet level official to specifically address this important cross-cutting issue. 

The second event in December was an Evidence Summit on protecting children outside family care.  It was sponsored by USAID with participation and support from over a dozen U.S. government agencies or offices that work with vulnerable children.  For the first time, a true ‘whole of government' approach was presented that is beginning to break through the silos that typically define our government's approach to children's issues globally.   USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah drew from his personal experience in Haiti seeing the devastating toll of the earthquake on children and ended his opening remarks by noting that the most important line of protection for vulnerable children is a safe and loving family. 

There remains a strong disconnect between our diplomacy and foreign assistance when it comes to children's issues that I highlighted here.  Still anyone who has worked on children's issues for awhile knows that this interdisciplinary gathering was a welcome step forward for USAID which is not always known for its flexibility or coordination.  The credit here goes to the hard-working team from the P.L.109-95 Secretariat that manages a congressional mandate to coordinate the U.S. response to orphans and other highly vulnerable children.  The mandate is of the dreaded ‘unfunded' sort, but USAID and the other offices involved have proven that hard work, commitment and a little cooperation can accomplish much.   They also have shown that a relatively small amount of money directed strategically through coordinated mechanisms could go a long way in protecting children from exploitation, abuse and neglect.  The social return on investment (SROI) numbers for money targeting at-risk children are impressive.  There are huge benefits to children, families and whole societies by decreasing crime, human trafficking, gang violence, unemployment and poor physical, mental and emotional development of entire populations.  It's a strategic opportunity to use our limited foreign assistance dollars wisely.  

There are two big challenges to launching a global initiative to help vulnerable children.  Money is tight and it's an election year. But money also was tight when President Bush launched his Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.  He made it a priority and did it anyway.  It may be wishful thinking to believe any progress could be made on a major new initiative for children and families in an election year. But like HIV/AIDs, this is a strongly bipartisan issue. It garners broad, passionate support on both sides of the increasingly polarized political divide. The Congressional Caucus on Adoption is the largest bipartisan caucus in the U.S. Congress. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) is one of its House co-chairs and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D), who attended both the events I referenced above, is one of its most vocal Senate leaders.  Many Members of Congress - both Republicans and Democrats - also are champions of the fight against human (child) trafficking.  For these reasons, I will continue my wishful thinking that, even in these difficult times, we might still pull together as a nation to help the very poorest and most vulnerable.  Because securing liberty and justice for all is simply the right thing to do.     

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Shadow Government

Misunderstanding Fukuyama

In a thoughtful article, "The Bend of History," John Arquilla argues that the events of 2011 have proven that Francis Fukuyama was wrong about the "end of history." Therefore, Fukuyama's analysis that democracy and free market capitalism have triumphed can be decisively put to rest.

According to Arquilla, Fukuyama had been observing merely a "bend in history":  the end of a great historical clash between empires and nations. That clash has now finally resolved in favor of a new kind of conflict. According to Arquilla, "history" is not over, we are just witnessing a new epic unfold. This epic will be characterized by how nations deal with new "networks," from the protestors in Egypt to China's  alliances with hacker and criminal networks.

While the idea is thought provoking, it does not truly engage Fukuyama's argument. Fukuyama was defining history in the Hegelian, philosophic sense. He argued that the mainspring of "history"  is the basic desire for recognition by others of one's freedom and equality as a human being. That desire is what drives a (fitful) democratic revolution.  

In one of many responses to his critics Fukuyama wrote:

"In order to refute my hypothesis, then, it is not sufficient to suggest that the future holds in store large and momentous events. One would have to show that these events were driven by a systematic idea of political and social justice that claimed to supersede liberalism. A nuclear war between India and Pakistan -- horrible as that would be for those countries -- does not qualify, unless it somehow forced us to reconsider the basic principles underlying our social order."

In other words, the mere unfolding of large events, or struggles between or within nation states does not refute his thesis. Rather, a new systemic idea about the social order would have to emerge to really disprove Fukuyama. To date, none has. Al Qaeda's ideology has no universal appeal. Even within the Muslim world, it is highly unattractive. It is certainly no competitor to liberal democracy as a means for humans to find recognition at the most profound level.

Neither have powerful nations such as China and Russia come up with an attractive systemic idea of political and social justice. The protests unfolding in both countries are in some sense caused by the failure to provide for the "basic human yearning for equal recognition." It is highly debatable that, as some argue, China has developed a new model of human organization around "State Capitalism" or a "Beijing Consensus" that is exportable to others. That "model" is not even attractive to the Chinese people. Indeed, it can be argued that Chinese government is fighting a rearguard action against the "end of history" -- its people are finding more ways to satisfy their must human of yearnings, and the government will eventually give in or have to fall back on a very non-universalist ideology of power and coercion.

As the analyst Stanley Kurtz wrote:

"Fukuyama's great accomplishment in "The End of History" is to establish that democratic rights and participation are fundamental ends in themselves, not mere epiphenomena of capitalism. Communist dictatorships and capitalist autocracies alike rob human beings of their dignity, and Fukuyama successfully shows how the growing turn toward democracy in both types of society is not simply a demand for wealth but, at the deepest level, an insistence upon equal personal dignity and recognition."

In some important ways, Arquilla actually bolster's Fukuyama's point. The new networks about which he writes more often than not have formed to fight dictatorships who have robbed people of their dignity. While the Arab Spring is still a process fraught with danger, at a fundamental level it is about people standing up for their basic rights. And, China is simply co-opting the "networks" Arquilla mentions to exercise state power in innovative ways.

Arquilla does not refute Fukuyama's argument (despite the article's provocative title). No one has  developed a competing ideology that speaks to the human insistence on equal personal dignity and recognition. Standing in the way of liberal democracy are not competing ideologies, but rather hidebound traditions and particularistic state ideologies of power. Arquilla's "new networks" employ technologically sophisticated strategies to either embrace or resist the "end of history."

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