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Gallup: Americans Tend to Trust Only News That Confirms Their Beliefs

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On September 11th, Gallup headlined “Bias in Others’ News a Greater Concern Than Bias in Own News”, and reported (based upon polling a randomized sample of 20,046 American adults) that:

69% of Americans say they are more concerned about bias in the news other people consume than its presence in their own news (29%).” In other words: 69/29, or 2.38 times, as many Americans are closed-minded (prejudiced) regarding information-sources which don’t fit their ideology, than are not. Overwhelmingly in America, only Democratic Party information-sources are trusted by Democrats, and only Republican information-sources are trusted by Republicans. Each side distrusts the other’s information-sources. Gallup’s news-report aptly noted the important fact that “This plays into the political polarization in the U.S. national discourse.” The more prejudiced a population are, the more polarized it will be. Of course, one would expect this to be the case, but Gallup has now found striking new empirical evidence for it — that the public’s closed-mindedness is greatly increasing America’s political polarization. Each side is craving propaganda instead of truth, but each side’s voters want only the type of propaganda that is funded by the billionaires who also fund that side’s politicians and control that side’s ‘news’ media. Consequently, American politics is controlled by the conflict between liberal billionaires versus conservative billionaires — totally controlled by billionaires (instead of by the public). There is the liberal herd, and the conservative herd, but they’re both herds — not by the public in an actual democracy. And each of these two herds is controlled by its shepherd, who are its billionaires. (Here is how that’s done.) Billionaires control each Party and thereby control the Government. This is why the Government ignores the preferences of America’s public. As will be shown here, the September 11th Gallup findings help to explain how and why that results.

Neither Democrats nor Republicans can become exposed to the other side’s evidence and arguments unless they see those — the other side’s evidence and arguments, both for its own case and against the opposite side’s case (i.e., against the case that oneself believes). Not to see the opposite side’s viewpoint is to be blind to it, and thus to become locked into whatever oneself believes. This 69/29 is like a jury’s rendering its verdict and nearly three quarters of the jurors having not listened to — and thus not considered — the opposite side’s presentations. That’s a frightening situation to exist in any court of law, and it is an equally frightening situation to exist in any nation’s electorate.

As a consequence of Americans’ strong tendency to be closed-minded, America’s politics are, to a very large extent, driven more by prejudices than by the realities that the public are actually facing. Individuals are seeking for sources that will likeliest confirm what they already believe, and are seeking to avoid sources that are the likeliest to disconfirm their beliefs. This is consequently a population that’s highly vulnerable to being manipulated, by playing up to, and amplifying, the given Party’s propaganda, to which the given individual already subscribes. Republican Party billionaires (by their use of their conservative newsmedia and think tanks, etc., which they control) can easily manipulate Republican Party voters, and Democratic Party billionaires can, likewise, easily manipulate Democratic Party voters, by their liberal media, think tanks, etc. That’s billionaires, on each of the two sides, guiding each of the two Parties’ voters; and, therefore, the nation is an aristocracy — a country which is controlled by its wealthiest fewinstead of an authentic democracy (which is controlled not by the numbers of dollars, but actually by the numbers of residents, each one of whom is independently and open-mindedly seeking for credibly documented facts).  An aristocracy rules any such land. The public are not the rulers in such a nation. It’s not a democracy; it is a collective dictatorship, by its billionaires (its aristocracy). Both of the two Parties’ voters vote in accord with their billionaires’ agenda, but especially in accord with whatever is on the agenda that’s shared by both liberal and conservative billionaires — billionaires fund both of the national Parties: Democrats and Republicans, and thereby control both Parties. Billionaires, in each Party, have their very golden, very heavy, thumbs, pressing down hard upon the scale of any such ‘democracy’, such that regardless of which group of billionaires ends up winning any ultimate election, the public inevitably will lose, because it’s really just a contest between billionaires, who are stage-managing the nation’s entire political proceedings. This is like two boxers fighting in a ring, in which the selection-process which placed them there was corrupt; and, so, even if the ultimate winner is not equally corruptly pre-determined, the final result has nonetheless already been rigged (during the primaries). When the contenders have been selected by a corrupt process, the ultimate outcome cannot be a democracy.

This happens not only regarding elections, but regarding particular issues. For example, in 2002 and 2003, “regime-change in Iraq,” and “Saddam’s WMD,” were just as much agendas of liberal billionaires’ media and think tanks as they were of conservative billionaires’ media and think tanks (and were thoroughly based on lies); so, a closed-minded public were actually trapped, into the lies that were agreed-upon by both sides of the domestic American political spectrum — the sides that are funded and controlled by the liberal billionaires, and by the conservative billionaires. The nearly $2 trillion cost of the invasion and military occupation of that country, and the consequent destruction of that country, were done for America’s billionaires, and produced nothing for the American people except that enormous public debt and those injuries and deaths to America’s soldiers and to Iraqis. And that’s typical, nowadays, in this (just as in any) aristocracy: the aristocracy are served; the nation’s public serve to them. (In the U.S., this has caused “U.S. Satisfaction at 13%, Lowest in Nine Years”, as Gallup headlined on 4 August 2020; and it has caused Americas’ satisfaction with their Government to have ranged from its all-time low of only 7% in 2008, to its all-time high of only 45% at the very start of 2020 — well below 50%, for as long as Gallup has surveyed this.)

What all of the billionaires want is what the American public get as their Government. It’s bipartisanship amongst its billionaires. That’s what produces this Government’s policies. It’s what determines the Government that Americans get. However, what is basic in making it a dictatorship of the aristocracy-type (such as this America is) is that the population is very prejudiced, not open-minded — not each individual constantly seeking solid evidence to change one’s mind about how society works (what the reality in the nation actually is), so as for one’s view to become increasingly accurate over time. Instead, one’s myths are constantly being fed. Such a public, as this, are not individuals, in a democracy, but more like mobs, very manipulable

Often, America’s bipartisan views are based upon lies that virtually all billionaires want the public to believe. In such cases — and these instances are frequent — the truth is being simply ignored, or else outright denied, by both sides (and by the media, for both sides). Individuals’ prejudices are thus being increased, instead of reduced, by what the public see and hear in “the news.” Everyone has prejudices, and truth can predominate only if people are constantly skeptical of the sources that they are relying upon — constantly trying to root out and replace whatever false beliefs they have. This is the essence of scientific method. Democracy depends upon it. Aristocracy requires the opposite. America has the opposite.

Change away from this present situation, to a democracy, would be difficult. On both of America’s political sides, there needs to be far less trust of the Establishment (including its politicians, its media, its think tanks, etc.), in order for any real democracy to become able to exist. It’s not even able to exist now. And, therefore, it does not exist.

But what is even more depressing is that America’s educational system, most especially its colleges and universities, are encouraging, instead of discouraging, this situation, this closed-mindedness. The more educated an American is, the more closed-minded that person becomes — as is further shown in this same September 11th Gallup news-report:

Whereas 52% of Americans with a high school education or less are more concerned about bias in others’ news than in their own [and 45% of that minimally educated group think that the news which they are reading might be biased], the figure is 64% among those with some college education and is even higher among college graduates (73%) and those with postgraduate education (77%) [and only 22% of that maximally educated group think that the news which they are reading might be biased].” The most-educated Americans are the most-manipulable (the most closed-minded) Americans.

No finding in this Gallup report was as extreme as the finding that the more highly educated an American is, the less open that person is likely to be to changing his or her mind (outlook) about the situation. In other words: the more educated an American is, the more closed-minded that person tends to become. Higher education in America increases, instead of decreases, an individual’s closed-mindedness. However, other contrasts which were almost as extreme are:

“Those who identify as liberal (80%) are more concerned than conservatives (68%) and moderates (65%) with other people’s media bias. In other words: liberals are 80/65 or 1.23 times as closed-minded as are moderates, and are 80/68 or 1.18 times as closed-minded as conservatives are.

“While 58% of Black adults are more concerned about bias in others’ news than in their own, fully 73% of Asian Americans and 72% of White adults say the same.” Thus, African-Americans are 58/72.5 or 80% as closed-minded as are Euro-Americans and Asian-Americans.

This is the worst combination possible: it’s a closed-minded population, which is especially closed-minded amongst its most educated segment. The leading segment is also the most closed-minded segment. These are crucial agents of the billionaires, and they crucially inculcate into the next generation of Americans the aristocracy’s values.

This means that the leaders keep themselves, conceptually, inside a cocoon. They have minimal contact with the most vulnerable members of the society, which is the less-educated members. That enhances inequality of opportunity, throughout the society. Since the most-highly-educated Americans are the group that are the most-closed to opinions which are contrary to their own, it’s easy for the most-highly-educated Americans to view individuals who disagree with those persons’ views as being simply a “basket of deplorables.” Their disagreement then becomes their contempt. ‘Facts’ about politics are — for those persons, highly educated persons — more derived from their values and priorities, than their values and priorities are derived from the political facts. Scientific epistemology is being turned upside-down, regarding political issues, in such a country. Overwhelmingly, some sort of faith, instead of any sort of science, determines what individuals in such a country believe about politics. In every aristocracy, this is the way that both conservative and liberal persons view any persons in the general public who oppose themselves: they’re viewed as being a “basket of deplorables.” It’s the very essence of elitism — on both sides. (For prominent examples of this: both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump had contempt for each-others’ voters — blotted them out.) 

The leadership’s minimal contact with the public makes exceedingly unlikely the leadership’s compassion, concern about the sufferings that they, themselves, are causing down below. Actually, though every aristocracy claims to want to improve conditions for their public, the reality is that whenever doing that would entail their own losing power, that claim becomes exposed to be sheer hypocrisy — a lie; often a self-deception, and not merely a deception against the public. Deceiving themselves about their own decency is easy, because they have minimal contact with the most vulnerable members of the society, the very people whom they claim to care the most about (and to be working in politics to help). Fakery is built into each and every aristocracy. Americans’ strong tendency to be closed-minded causes the aristocratic con to be widely accepted as if it were instead truth. (Again: the “WMD in Iraq” con was a good example of this — the aristocracy’s media just blocked-out the reality.) Scientific studies have even demonstrated that the wealthier a person is, the less compassion the individual tends to have for people who are suffering.

Furthermore, since the less-educated persons aspire to be more-educated, they are — even without knowing it — aspiring to become less open to contrary views, instead of to become more open to such views. One bad consequence of this is: it strangulates imaginativeness, openness, and creativity, in favor of being rote, rigid, and bureaucratic. Another bad consequence of it is that the authority-figures, in such a society, are, in some important ways, actually inferior to the rest of the population. Moreover, America’s colleges and universities are not increasing their students’ open-mindedness (as they should) but the exact opposite — they are reducing their students’ open-mindedness. Even if professors are teaching some truths, the professors are training their students to be authoritarian, instead of to be open to a more truthful, comprehensive, and deeper understanding, which encompasses those truths, but also many more — which the majority of professors either ignore or else deny, because such deeper understanding violates the existing Scripture, or standard viewpoint (shaped by both sides’ billionaires). At least in the United States, this is now the normal situation. That Gallup poll showed it not merely weakly, nor even only moderately, but extremely.

This is a perverse situation, which bodes ill for the future of the entire nation. Any country which is like this is not only an aristocracy instead of a democracy, but it is greatly disadvantaged, going forward. It will be disadvantaged both in the arts and in the sciences. Its future will be stultifying, instead of dynamic. Aristocracies tend to be this way. Also, because it will remain highly polarized, its internal ideological frictions will waste a large proportion of the nation’s efforts. As a nation, its forward-motion, its progress, will thus largely be crippled, by its internal discord and distrust, between the two warring factions of its aristocracy — and friction between the respective followers on each side. 

This describes a declining culture — a nation that is in decline.

That’s what this poll-report, from Gallup, indicates, as clearly as any poll-findings can.

It indicates a nation in decline.

During the Presidential primaries in the Democratic Party, a major point of difference between the two major candidates, Joe Biden versus Bernie Sanders, was whether billionaires are bad for the country: Biden said no; Sanders said yes. (This was a major reason why the billionaires made sure that Sanders would lose.) In any country where wealth-inequality is so extreme, there can be no authentic democracy. America’s extreme inequality of wealth makes democracy impossible in this country. America’s other problems follow from that. In reality, it’s a one-party state, and that party is controlled not actually by the counts of voters, but by the counts of dollars. It is an aristocracy; and its decline — to what has been documented here — follows from that fact. Whatever democracy America might once have had is gone now. It has become replaced by a land of mass-deceptions, which are bought and sold.

Author’s note: first posted at Strategic Culture

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010

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Americas

Biden Revises US Sanctions Policy

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Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

In the United States, a revision of the sanctions policy is in full swing. Joe Biden’s administration strives to make sanctions instruments more effective in achieving his political goals and, at the same time, reducing political and economic costs. The coordination of restrictive measures with allies is also seen as an important task. Biden is cautiously but consistently abandoning the sanctions paradigm that emerged during Donald Trump’s presidency.

The US sanctions policy under Trump was characterised by several elements. First, Washington applied them quite harshly. In all key areas (China, Iran, Russia, Venezuela, etc.), the United States used economic and financial restrictions without hesitation, and sometimes in unprecedented volumes. Of course, the Trump administration acted rationally and rigidity was not an end in itself. In a number of episodes, the American authorities acted prudently (for example, regarding sanctions on Russian sovereign debt in 2019). The Trump-led executives stifled excess Congressional enthusiasm for “draconian sanctions” against Russia and even some initiatives against China. However, the harshness of other measures sometimes shocked allies and opponents alike. These include the 6 April 2014 sanctions against a group of Russian businessmen and their assets, or bans on some Chinese telecommunications services in the United States, or sanctions blocking the International Criminal Court.

Second, Trump clearly ignored the views of US allies. The unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran in 2018 forced European businesses to leave Iran, resulting in losses. Even some of the nation’s closest allies were annoyed. Another irritant was the tenacity with which Trump (with Congressional backing) threw a wrench in the wheels of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project. Despite the complicated relations between Moscow and the European Union, the latter defended the right to independently determine what was in its interests and what was not.

Third, concerns about sanctions have emerged among American business as well. Fears have grown in financial circles that the excessive use of sanctions will provoke the unnecessary politicisation of the global financial system. In the short term, a radical decline in the global role of the dollar is hardly possible. But political risks are forcing many governments to seriously consider it. Both rivals (Moscow and Beijing) and allies (Brussels) have begun to implement corresponding plans. Trade sanctions against China have affected a number of US companies in the telecommunications and high-tech sectors.

Finally, on some issues, the Trump administration has been inconsistent or simply made mistakes. For example, Trump enthusiastically criticised China for human rights violations, supporting relevant legislative initiatives. But at the same time, it almost closed its eyes to the events in Belarus in 2020. Congress was also extremely unhappy with the delay in the reaction on the “Navalny case” in Russia. As for mistakes, the past administration missed the moment for humanitarian exemptions for sanctions regimes in connection with the COVID-19 epidemic. Even cosmetic indulgences could have won points for US “soft power”. Instead, the US Treasury has published a list of pre-existing exceptions.

The preconditions for a revision of the sanctions policy arose even before Joe Biden came to power. First of all, a lot of analytical work was done by American think tanks—nongovernmental research centers. They provided a completely sober and unbiased analysis of bothха! achievements and mistakes. In addition, the US Government Accountability Office has done serious work; in 2019 it prepared two reports for Congress on the institutions of the American sanctions policy. However, Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election significantly accelerated the revision of the sanctions instruments. Both the ideological preferences of the Democrats (for example, the emphasis on human rights) and the political experience of Biden himself played a role.

The new guidelines for the US sanctions policy can be summarised as follows. First, the development of targeted sanctions and a more serious analysis of their economic costs for American business, as well as business from allied and partner countries. Second, closer coordination with allies. Here, Biden has already sent a number of encouraging signals by introducing temporary sanctions exemptions on Nord Stream 2. Although a number of Russian organisations and ships were included in the US sanctions lists, Nord Stream 2 itself and its leadership were not affected. Third, we are talking about closer attention to the subject of human rights. Biden has already reacted with sanctions both to the “Navalny case” and to the situation in Belarus. Human rights will be an irritant in relations with China. Fourth, the administration is working towards overturning Trump’s most controversial decisions. The 2020 decrees on Chinese telecoms were cancelled, the decree on sanctions against the International Criminal Court was cancelled, the decree on Chinese military-industrial companies was modified; negotiations are also underway with Iran.

The US Treasury, one of the key US sanctions agencies, will also undergo personnel updates. Elisabeth Rosenberg, a prominent sanctions expert who previously worked at the Center for a New American Security, may take the post of Assistant Treasury Secretary. She will oversee the subject of sanctions. Thus, the principle of “revolving doors”, which is familiar to Americans, is being implemented, when the civil service is replenished with personnel from the expert community and business, and then “returns” them back.

At the same time, the revision of the sanctions policy by the new administration cannot be called a revolution. The institutional arrangement will remain unchanged. It is a combination of the functions of various departments—the Treasury, the Department of Trade, the Department of Justice, the State Department, etc. The experience of their interagency coordination has accumulated over the years. The system worked flawlessly both under Trump and under his predecessors. Rather, it will be about changing the political directives.

For Russia, the revision is unlikely to bring radical changes. A withdrawal from the carpet bombing of Russian business, such as the incident on 6 April 2018 hint that good news can be considered a possibility. However, the legal mechanisms of sanctions against Russia will continue to operate. The emphasis on human rights will lead to an increase in sanctions against government structures. Against this background, regular political crises are possible in relations between the two countries.

From our partner RIAC

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Sea Breeze 2021: U.S. is worryingly heading closer to conflict with Russia in the Black Sea

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On July 10th, the 2021 iteration of the joint military exercise, Sea Breeze, concluded in the Black Sea. This exercise, which began on June 28th was co-hosted by the Ukrainian Navy and the United States Navy’s Sixth Fleet. According to the U.S. Navy, the annual Exercise Sea Breeze consists of joint naval, land, and air trainings and operations centered around building increased shared capabilities in the Black Sea.

This year’s Sea Breeze included participation from 32 countries, including NATO members and other countries that border the Black Sea, making it the largest Sea Breeze exercise since its inception in 1997. All other countries bordering the Black Sea were included in participating in the joint drills, except Russia.

Russia’s exclusion from these exercises is not unsurprising, due to its current tensions with Ukraine and its historical relationship with NATO. However, it signals to Moscow and the rest of the world that the NATO views Russia as an opponent in a future conflict. At the opening ceremony of Sea Breeze 2021 in Odessa, it was made clear that the intention of the exercise was to prepare for future conflict in the region when the Defense Minister of Ukraine, reported that the drills “contain a powerful message – support of stability and peace in our region.”

These exercises and provocations do anything but bring peace and stability to the region. In fact, they draw the United States and NATO dangerously close to the brink of conflict with Russia.

Even though Sea Breeze 2021 has only recently concluded, it has already had a marked impact on tensions between NATO countries and Moscow. U.S. Navy Commander Daniel Marzluff recently explained that the Sea Breeze drills in the Black Sea are essential deterrents to Russian assertions in region. However, these drills have consisted of increasingly provocative maneuvers that ultimately provoke conflict in the region.

These drills have done anything but act as a deterrent for conflict in the Black Sea. In response to the Sea Breeze drills, Russia conducted its own drills in the Black Sea, including the simulation of firing advanced missile systems against enemy aircraft. As the Black Sea is of utmost importance to Russia’s trade and military stature, it follows that Russia would signal its displacement if it perceives its claims are being threatened.   

Sea Breeze followed another rise in tensions in the Black Sea, when just a week prior to the beginning of the exercise, a clash occurred between Russia and Britain. In response to the British destroyer ship, the HMS Defender, patrolling inside Crimean territorial waters, Russia claimed it fired warning shots and ordered two bombers to drop bombs in the path of the ship. When asked about the HMS Defender, Russian President Vladimir Putin described the ship’s actions as a “provocation” that was a “blatant violation” of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Putin also went on to claim that Moscow believes U.S. reconnaissance aircraft were a part of the operation as well. Despite this, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson responded with a denial of any wrongdoing.

Russia’s actions to provocations by the United States-led Sea Breeze and interaction with the HMS Defender in the Black Sea signal its resolve to retaliate if it feels as its sovereignty and its territorial claim on Crimea is being impeded on. Despite Russia signaling its commitment to defending its territorial claims in the Black Sea, the United States still willingly took actions during Sea Breeze that would bring the United States closer to a clash with Russia.  

Provoking conflict in the Black Sea does not align with the national security interests of the United States. In fact, it only puts the United States in the position to be involved in a costly clash that only would harm its diplomatic relationships.  

As Russia has signaled its commitment to its resolve and scope of its military response in a possible conflict, any potential conflict in the Black Sea would be costly for the United States. Over the past few years, Russia has increased the size and capabilities of its fleet in the Black Sea. Two of these improvements would especially pose a challenging threat to the U.S. and NATO – Russia’s drastically improved anti-access/area-denial capabilities and its new Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missile. This would mean any conflict in the Black Sea would not be a quick and decisive victory for U.S. and NATO forces, and would instead likely become costly and extensive.  

A conflict with Russia in the Black Sea would not only be costly for the U.S. and its allies in the region, but could irreparably damage its fragile, but strategically valuable relationship with Russia. If the United States continues to escalate tensions in the Black Sea, it risks closing the limited window for bilateral cooperation with Russia that was opened through increased willingness to collaborate on areas of common interests, as evidenced by the recent summit that took place in Geneva. After a period of the highest levels of tension between the U.S. and Russia since the Cold War, this progress made towards improving bilateral relations must not be taken for granted. Even if the U.S. and NATO’s maneuvers in the Black Sea do not ultimately materialize into a full-scale conflict with Russia, they will most likely damage not just recent diplomatic momentum, but future opportunities for a relationship between the two powers.

In such a critical time for the relationship between the United States and Russia, it is counterproductive for the United States to take actions that it can predict will drive Russia even further away. Entering into a conflict with Russia in the Black Sea would not only engage the U.S. in a costly conflict but would damage its security and diplomatic interests.  

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Maximizing Biden’s Plan to Combat Corruption and Promote Good Governance in Central America

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Authors: Lauren Mooney and Eguiar Lizundia*

To tackle enduring political, economic and security challenges in the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, the Biden administration is attempting to revitalize its commitment to the region, including through a four-year, $4 billion plan submitted in a bill to Congress.

In its plan, the White House has rightly identified the root causes of migration, including limited economic opportunity, climate change, inequality, and violence. Systemic corruption resulting from the weak rule of law connects and entrenches the root causes of migration, while the increased devastation brought about by climate change exacerbates economic hardship and citizen insecurity. 

The renewed investment holds promise: previous foreign assistance in the Northern Triangle has shown results, including by contributing to a reduction in the expected level of violence. As the Biden Administration finalizes and begins implementing its Central America strategy, it should include three pillars—rooted in lessons learned from within and outside the region—to maximize the probability that the proposed spending in U.S. taxpayer funds has its intended impact. 

First, the Biden administration should deliver on its promise to make the fight against corruption its number one priority in Central America by supporting local anti-graft actors. The sanctions against officials which the United States is considering  are a step in the right direction, but lasting reform is best accomplished through a partnership involving regional or multilateral organizations. Guatemala’s international commission against impunity (CICIG) model was relatively successful until internal pushback and dwindling U.S. advocacy resulted in its dismantlement in 2019. Though Honduras’ equivalent was largely ineffective, and El Salvador’s recently launched version is marred by President Bukele’s campaign against judicial independence, there is room for learning from past mistakes and propose a more robust and mutually beneficial arrangement. The experience of Ukraine shows that while external engagement is no silver bullet in eliminating corruption, the role of foreign actors can lead to tangible improvements in the anti-corruption ecosystem, including more transparent public procurement and increased accountability for corrupt politicians.

In tandem with direct diplomatic pressure and helping stand up CICIG-like structures, the U.S. can harness lessons from prior anticorruption efforts to fund programs that address other aspects of graft in each country. This should involve empowering civil society in each country to monitor government compliance with anti-corruption laws and putting pressure on elected officials to uphold their commitments. While reducing impunity and improving transparency might not automatically persuade Central Americans to stay, better democratic governance will allow the three Northern Triangle nations to pursue policies that will end up expanding economic opportunities for residents. As Vice President Harris recently noted, any progress on addressing violence or food insecurity would be undermined if the environment for enabling corruption remains unchanged.

Second, the United States should support local initiatives to help reverse the deterioration of the social fabric in the region by expanding access to community decision-making. Given the high levels of mistrust of government institutions, any efforts to support reform-minded actors and stamp out corruption at the national level must be paired with efforts to promote social cohesion and revitalize confidence in subnational leaders and opportunities. In the Northern Triangle countries, violence and economic deprivation erode social cohesion and undermine trust in democratic institutions. The U.S. government and practitioners should support civic efforts to build trust among community members and open opportunities for collective action, particularly in marginalized areas. A key component of this is expanding sociopolitical reintegration opportunities for returning migrants. In so doing, it is possible to help improve perceptions of quality of life, sense of belonging, and vision for the future. While evidence should underpin all elements of a U.S. Strategy for Central America, it is particularly important to ensure social cohesion initiatives are locally-owned, respond to the most salient issues, and are systematically evaluated in order to understand their effects on migration.

Lastly, the U.S. should take a human-rights based approach to managing migration and learn from the pitfalls associated with hardline approaches to stem migration. Policies rooted in a securitized vision have a demonstrable bad record. For example, since 2015, the European Union undertook significant measures to prevent irregular migration from Niger, including by criminalizing many previously legitimate businesses associated with migration and enforced the imposition of legal restrictions to dissuade open and legal migration. Not only did this violate freedom of movement and create adverse economic consequences, but it also pushed migration underground, with individuals still making the journey and encountering significant threats to their lives, security and human rights.

A welcome realignment

Acknowledging the role of push factors is key to responding to migration effectively. Most importantly, putting political inclusion and responsive governance at the center is critical for ensuring vulnerable populations feel rooted in their community. A more secure, prosperous, and democratic Central America will pay dividends to the United States not only in terms of border security, but also in the form of improved cooperation to tackle global challenges, from climate change to the rise of China. 

*Eguiar Lizundia is the Deputy Director for Technical Advancement and Governance Advisor at IRI

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