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LETTER: ... major world problems on the horizon

Dear Editor:
We are witnessing the most significant attempted shift in American foreign policy in more than a half-century. Our current administration is seeking to achieve a diplomatic resolution to Iran’s potential threat of creating nuclear weapons.
In the past decades, we have met our perceived threats to America by military actions. The results have often ended without satisfactory resolution coupled with huge loss of life and monetary costs along with collateral damage and death to millions of bystanders.
Will we be successful in an effort to achieve a diplomatic solution to anticipated nuclear confrontation? Maybe, and most likely neither side will be totally happy with the results of the negotiations. But it may avoid a costly war that has no assurance that war would be successful.
Yet some current Presidential contenders are calling for a military preemptive strike without waiting to consider a possible diplomatic solution. Have these Presidential candidates ever been to Iran or witnessed first hand other cultures outside of the United States?
In the recent past we elected a President, who, except for one VIP trip outside of the U.S., had never been beyond the borders of the U.S. His legacy was costly and resulted in unwinnable wars.
We have been known to appoint foreign ambassadors who have never been outside of the U.S., nor are they able to speak the language of their appointed country. How can we successfully operate in a world in which our highest Ambassadorial representatives lack knowledge of the history and culture of countries in which they have to interact?
We need to seek an understanding with those people sharing our ever-shrinking personal space on the Earth. We have major world problems on the horizon with an expanding population, a fragile food supply and distribution system, climate change causing drought and flooding, to mention just few of our challenges.
The U.S. is not going to solve these problems for itself or by itself. It takes an in-depth understanding of how to move our international relationships beyond the old shibboleths and cultural myths to reorient our actions to new world realities. It takes a comprehensive understanding of how other societies function to fashion a workable cooperative effort.
We need to expand and add to the many existing travel and exchange programs on a national, local and individual basis. Personal involvement should not be some seemingly out of reach concept, but something in which we can actually participate, experience and learn.
There are numerous international programs in existence sponsored by non-governmental entities, corporations, non-profits, churches, and professional organizations, but still more are needed. Examples of outreach include Peace Corps, School Year Abroad, Seeds of Peace, international components of Habitat for Humanity, and The Hole in the Wall Gang. And not surprisingly, there are examples of individual initiative efforts like our Paul Schurke who promoted international diplomacy with a combined Soviet-American expedition team across the Bering Strait.
These multi-dimensional international efforts are the most viable and valuable components for successful diplomacy. It is an informed and culturally educated electorate, government, and media with hands on foreign experience that gives Americans a better chance to meet our monumental forth-coming global challenges.
We need a knowledgeable and well-informed public with a better understanding of world dynamics. We cannot leave our foreign policy to a small group of insular politicians unfettered by an uninformed and uninterested constituency.
Gerry Snyder

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