Breaking Bad Habits – Cuba, Afghanistan & Iran

Weekend workshop near Philadelphia: “Shapeshifting the Story” with John Perkins and Charles Eisenstein is coming soon! Details below.

Being in Guatemala now, a month ago in Peru, and looking at spending a good portion of 2015 traveling again – in Latin America and the Caribbean, then on to Europe and Asia (My Schedule) – and with all the recent tragedies involving terrorists, I’m focused once again on the US’s role in global economics and politics.

I’ve talked often in these pages about this era of change and revolution that we’ve entered. I see many examples of this, and lately one of the more important is in the evolution of our relationships with nations that have been our enemies or at least where we have interacted violently. Significantly, Cuba, Afghanistan, and Iran will view us differently in the future, though in what way depends on each step that we take now. President Obama pointed out that to continue with a policy that hasn’t worked for 50 years and expect it to work in the future is not the path of wisdom. I agree.


President Obama recently announced that our relationship with Cuba will finally change after half a century; exactly what “normal” will look like in the future is not yet determined, but if we want to create a peaceful, prosperous future we need to become good neighbors instead of acting like bullies. We need to empower other nations instead of threatening their autonomy and hurting their economies. Cuba has long been a nation at odds with us, but by opening our doors to its people we can help them move forward in peace. We can create an ally instead of maintaining an enemy.

Hopefully we will carry the lessons we’ve learned in Cuba to the other side of the Atlantic. Our policy in the Middle East reflects one that we tried in Vietnam to no avail. Why do we expect it to work in one place when it didn’t work in others? Have we learned nothing from our history and past actions?


Officially, the US military is preparing to withdraw from the campaign in Afghanistan that began October, 2001. But is that what is really happening? Questions are being raised on all sides. The thousands of US troops who are still on the ground there are nominally serving as support for the Afghan military as that military assumes more responsibility.

However, Washington continues to send in mercenaries known euphemistically as “private contractors.” And at the same time we oppose the UN decision to offer increasing legitimacy to Palestine. When will we learn that violence begets violence and solutions lie in helping desperate people improve their lives? As we wake up, we must encourage our leaders to wake up, also. The answers we give for these questions will help guide the whole world into the future; we must take responsibility for that.


Iran and the US have not been aligned diplomatically for three decades. In the wake of nuclear peace talks with Iranian officials, President Obama has said that re-opening the US embassy in Tehran is not on the agenda, but is also not impossible in the future. The suggestion, however vague, of renewed good relations with a nation in the Middle East is in line with the changing face of US foreign policy that I support – if it can be kept free from the corruption of the corporatocracy.

Breaking Habits

Being the world’s police has not won the US any affection among the nations we’ve invaded (“protected.”) The only people these foreign policies favor are those who are already powerful: the wealthy elite of the US and other nations, as well as giant multi-national corporations. Furthermore, it is one of the reasons that increasing numbers of nations are turning to China for technical and financial assistance instead of to the World Bank and its affiliates. It is time we recognized that we need to apply democratic principles to our own policies, rather than enforcing draconian military methods. Let’s take care of our own dysfunctions before daring to correct other nations.

Western colonialism and corporate greed over the years have contributed heavily to the turmoil in the Middle East and elsewhere. However, instead of acknowledging the facts, the West has a habit of using military and financial power to get its way. It is time for the US to break these habits and to lead other nations by example instead of by might. Through my travels around the world, I have seen the people waking up to this realization and taking power back into their hands, where it should have been all along.

Terrorism and violence in all forms are cancers that must be healed. It is important to recognize that our past and recent acts of retribution and attempted persuasion through military might have done the opposite of healing. Although it is tempting to feel discouraged as we enter 2015, there are many signs that We the People are determined to change. Let us focus on reducing tensions, stopping the tendency to respond with hatred and violence, and instead taking the positive actions of helping desperate people around this planet live better lives.

Coming Up:

February 20-22, 2015: Shapeshifting the Story with Charles Eisenstein
Date: Friday-Sunday, Feb. 20-22, 2015
Topic: “Shapeshifting the Story”
Location: Pendle Hill – Philadelphia
Sponsor: DreamChange
Information and Tickets:

About John Perkins

John is a founder and board member of Dream Change & The Pachamama Alliance, non-profit organizations devoted to establishing a world future generations will want to inherit & the author of the NY Times bestseller, Confessions Of An Economic Hitman.

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