As an American and a Zionist, I would be the last person to suggest that any sovereign state should change its values or re-align its foreign policy at the behest of any other country or entity. (The extent to which internationalist elements currently drive Bangladeshi foreign and domestic policy is a discussion for another day.) But national leaders do need to realize that citizens of other countries have the same autonomy and choices that theirs do. This is especially important if a nation chooses to provide aid or award special benefits to specific foreign countries, and other nations wish to be the beneficiaries of that largesse.
If a nation claims sovereignty and equality with others in the international arena, it must recognize that its relations with others have to be premised on mutuality for that claim to have a ring of legitimacy. That is, a nation that only asks and does not offer is a beggar nation; and beggars have to content themselves with whatever others give them. At the same time, if the leaders or people of any nation choose certain policies or actions, they must do so with a clear understanding of the likely consequences of that choice. (If they do that, by the way, they might be able to prepare for or even avert them.) Myanmar and the Palestinian entity provide two contrasting examples of how that works.
In 1962, a military junta seized power in the nation of Burma. The western world, including the United States subsequently condemned the brutality of that regime and its human rights violations. Through various channels, public and private, the US made it clear that it would not continue to have relations—both political and economic—with that nation as long as it carried on as it was. What was the generals’ response? They determined to maintain their policies, and if the United States did not care for them, tough. They did not cry and complain. They did not, as we say in the US, want to have their cake (their policies) and eat it, too (the trade and aid). They stuck to them—whether or not we agree with those actions are immaterial for the purposes of this illustration—and re-oriented their economy toward China. Case closed; that is, while the US and others continue to issue periodic statements condemning the junta, they have been unable to affect the military rulers who have picked up their marbles and gone elsewhere (to China).
On the other hand, we have the perpetual crybabies of the Palestinian entity. Try and think of a time in recent memory when that group has done anything other than take from others, than demand or cry about what it wants others to do. Try and think of a time in recent memory when the Palestinian Authority (whether Fatah or Hamas) recognized that being anything other than what it is—the world’s greatest beggar and whiner—would require that it demonstrate its understanding of mature international relations. Palestinian leaders have complained for over a decade that they cannot control the terrorists under their hegemony—a disingenuous claim proven extensively time and again. Yet, its official radio and TV stations consistently carry broadcasts that lionize terrorists and call for the murder of Israeli and Americans. That’s Fatah, which still said it will never recognize Israel; whose president denies the holocaust and the entire history of Israelites in Jerusalem; then wonders why he is not taken seriously as a peace partner. Fatah and Hamas alike do nothing about the daily barrage of missile fire against innocent Israelis, then complain when Israel retaliates to protect its own citizens. To be perfectly honest, Israel’s retaliation is much milder than what is deserved. Similarly, the Palestinians chose the terrorists in Hamas as their leaders. Hamas calls for genocide against Israel and the Jews. Hamas declares its essential opposition to living with the Jewish State. Then, it cries because Israel and the US refuse to have relations with it or to force their citizens to support the terrorist entity. But Palestinian leaders continue to behave like spoiled children, maintaining their anti-peace policies but complaining when others react to them. And look at the state of their entity today!
What about Bangladesh’s leaders with regard to the United States? Since 2003, I have been able to observe first-hand what Bangladesh wants from the United States. From day one that has been a Free Trade Agreement (FTA). The US exports about 70 percent of Bangladesh’s garment exports. That trade provides millions of job—and billions of dollars—for the people and nation of Bangladesh. Imagine how much more it could provide this nation with so many poor if tariffs did not make it difficult for Bangladesh to compete with tariff-free Central American nations Honduras and Guatemala, or giants like India and China. I was present when an influential member of the House Appropriations Committee told the Bangladeshi ambassador point blank that he would secure an FTA for Bangladesh if that government withdrew all charges against Blitz editor Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury—charges the ambassador just admitted the government knew to be without substance. He also told the ambassador that he would make sure Bangladesh would never get an FTA as long as it continued to maintain these charges, which the government admitted was being done only to placate radicals. Both the carrot and stick were offered several times, but Bangladesh’s leaders chose to penalize the entire nation to curry favor with one small segment of the population.
Similarly, US appropriations to Bangladesh are being held up right now because of that country’s continued persecution of Shoaib in defiance of a Congressional resolution (as well as similar resolutions by the European Parliament and Australian Senate). The fact that the current government has not come through on its promises to prosecute corruption fairly without favoritism, to end appeasement of Islamist radicals, and to end persecution of religious minorities and dissidents is also causing Americans to decide that Bangladesh’s rulers are taking that country into the anti-American and pro-Islamist camp.
The good news, however, is that the problem is simple to correct. The tap for US aid and increased commerce can be turned on at any time. As noted time and again, the government admits there is no substance to the charges against Shoaib. All it need to is tell the court that it does not have sufficient evidence to proceed—which it does not have. It can also advance the cause of its people by announcing a reversal of the policy enunciated by Ambassador M. Humayun Kabir that the government will not address the openly bigoted Vested Property Act during its term of office.
Now, it is entirely up to the Bangladeshi government. It can choose to move closer and closer to rogue nations like Iran, which does not have the wherewithal to give its own people the standard of living they previously enjoyed; and in doing so, it will decide it is all right to deprive its people of the aid and trade the US and other western nations have to offer. Or it can return to the people’s basic values of religious plurality and justice, which will open up a floodgate of assistance and partnering between the people of the United States and the Bangladeshis. In the former case, the people must pay the price of the government’s decision not to be responsible for its actions. In the latter case, the people benefit greatly, and Bangladesh finally takes its place among the mature nations of the world.