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12 Sep, 2012

11 Disastrous Years Post-9/11: Whither Global Travel & Tourism?

Editor’s Note: Six reports, studies and statements released on or just prior to 9/11 clearly show how the winds of change are affecting the United States, internally and externally. Compiled exclusively by Travel Impact Newswire, they are designed to initiate some soul-searching by the U.S. and global travel and tourism industries, both of which have been heavily impacted by U.S. government policies.

In a nutshell, these reports show more wariness about U.S. involvement in foreign wars; more concern about rising suicide rates among U.S. Military Veterans; a declining U.S. share of the global foreign student market; and a critical assessment of the status of Indigenous Peoples in the U.S.. The Chinese are warning about the consequences of the failed U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and Iraq; and the Indian government has declared its public support for the Palestinian bid for statehood.

All show that U.S. claim to be the world’s self-appointed leader is under siege.

No empires last forever. For those who are Number One, the only way to go next is down. As the Buddhist faith affirms unequivocally that impermanence is the only permanent, the peace and stability of the emerging new world order will depend on how smoothly this transition takes place, and whether the U.S. accepts change gracefully. Unjust rulers always fall. Always. The facts compiled in this dispatch speak for themselves.

1. Survey Shows Americans Leery about Involvement in Yet Another War, More Young People want U.S. to Mind its Own Business

On September 10, 2012, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs released a survey report, entitled Foreign Policy in the New Millennium. The report sought the opinions of more than 1,800 adult Americans, across all age and demographic groups. The report showed that majorities oppose the UN authorizing a strike on Iran (51%), oppose a unilateral U.S. strike on Iran (70%), and do not want to get involved in a potential Iran-Israel war (59%).

The report also showed that fewer Americans are concerned about international terrorism as a “critical” threat to the United States than at any point since September 11, 2001. While a majority is still worried, the intensity of concern about terrorism has steadily declined. At the same time, most Americans do not credit the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan with reducing the threat.

While Americans consider the Middle East as the greatest source of future threats, they are gradually shifting their foreign policy focus towards Asia and a rising China, viewed as important more for their economic dynamism than as a potential threat. For the first time since the Chicago Council first asked the question in 1994, a majority of Americans (52%) see Asia as more important to the United States than Europe (47%).

The survey also finds that the views of “Millennials” – those between the ages of 18 and 29 – are shifting in a more pronounced way than those of older Americans. They see the world as less threatening, and show less concern than other age groups about international terrorism, Islamic fundamentalism, and the development of China as a world power. Millennials also favor a less activist approach to foreign policy, with a slight majority (52%) saying the United States should “stay out” of world affairs, compared to just 35 percent among older age groups.

Conclusion: Clearly, the internet and iPad generation is more aware of a greater global good, less inclined to believe militaristic lies and hype and more conscious of the fact that young people pay the worst price for misguided wars, either in terms of their lives or jobs.

Download the full report here.

2. Bid to Reduce Rising Suicide Rates among U.S. Military Veterans

On September 10, 2012, in recognition of September as Suicide Prevention Month, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs called on individuals and communities to show their support for Veterans in crisis. The theme for the outreach campaign, “Stand by Them,” is part of a joint VA and Department of Defense (DoD) effort focused on Veteran and Servicemember support networks, especially their friends and family members, who may be the first to realize a Veteran or Servicemember is in crisis.

“History shows that the costs of war will continue to grow for a decade or more after the wars have ended,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “The mental health and well-being of our brave men and women who have served the Nation is the highest priority for the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

Throughout September and beyond, VA is partnering with the DoD and other agencies, while urging community-based organizations, Veterans Service Organizations, health care providers, private companies to stand by Veterans and Servicemembers.

A report released on the same day, entitled “2012 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention: Goals And Objectives For Action” said, that between 2001 and 2009, an average of 33,000 suicide deaths occurred each year in the United States. Suicide is among the top five causes of death for adults under age 45 in the United States, and in 2009, more Americans died from suicide than from motor vehicle traffic-related injuries.”

The report adds, “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that veterans account for approximately 20 percent of the deaths from suicide in America. There is controversy in the scientific literature about whether suicide rates are higher among veterans than among other Americans after controlling for sex, age, and minority status. However, rates appear to be increased among two important groups: veterans who have recently returned from service in Afghanistan and Iraq, and those who receive health care services from the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), the health care system operated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

“In the most recent years for which data are available, suicide rates for male VHA patients were approximately 1.4 times greater than for other American men. For female VHA patients, rates were approximately twice as high as among American women. Both increases reflect the higher rates of medical and mental health conditions, disability, and other risk factors for suicide that occur among VHA patients.”

“An increase in the suicide rate among returning veterans first appeared in 2006, and rates continue to be monitored closely. The rates as observed echo the increase that occurred for the first few years after veterans returned from service in Vietnam.”

Conclusion: The U.S. may be killing terrorists abroad at will but it is paying both the costs and the price back home.

Download the full report here.

3. Commentary in China People’s Daily about failed U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and Iraq

On 11 September, the People’s Daily website in China published a commentary by Clifford Kiracofe of Global Times. It was headlined, “Attacks spurred tragically mistaken wartime strategy” and discussed how the U.S. military strategy in Afghanistan and Iraq has backfired big time.

It said, “The decade-old US counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan has alienated the Afghan people from the US, caused untold suffering and devastation in the country, and spread into neighboring Pakistan. Not surprisingly, anti-Americanism rose sharply in Pakistan, in Iraq, in the region, and in the Muslim world generally.

“The US war in Afghanistan also caused significant security problems for regional states such as India, Iran, China, and Russia. India does not want to see a destabilized and fragmented Pakistan. Iran has concerns about culturally close minorities in Afghanistan. China and Russia do not wish Muslim extremism to spread in the region.

“Washington must exit Afghanistan forthwith and jettison the counterinsurgency theory as applied to counterterrorism operations. It must focus on strengthening its appropriate counterterrorism capabilities. And it must work closely with friends and allies around the world on terrorism matters and refrain from destabilizing actions.”

Conclusion: That last mention of “destabilizing actions” was clearly a reference to ongoing speculation about an attack on Iran. China does not want any more wars.

Read the full commentary here.

4. Global Foreign Student Numbers Nearly Double, but U.S. Market Share Falls

On 11 September, the Paris-based Organisation of Economic Cooperation Development released Education at a Glance 2012, a study of the education systems in the OECD countries, and some non-OECD countries such as India and Indonesia. One entire chapter was devoted to the status of international study and the growing number of young people studying abroad.

It notes, “Over the past three decades, the number of students enrolled outside their country of citizenship has risen dramatically, from 0.8 million worldwide in 1975 to 4.1 million in 2010, more than a fivefold increase. Growth in the internationalisation of tertiary education has accelerated during the past several decades, reflecting the globalisation of economies and societies, and also the expansion of tertiary systems and institutions throughout the world.”

Then, on page 363, the report adds, “The United States received the most (foreign students) in absolute terms, with 17% of all foreign students worldwide, followed by the United Kingdom (13%), Australia (7%), Germany (6%) and France (6%). However, it adds, “Over a ten-year period, the share of international students who chose the United States as their destination dropped from 23% to 17%, and the share of international students who chose Germany fell by more than two percentage points.

“In contrast, the shares of international students who chose Australia and New Zealand as their destination grew by more than one percentage point, while the share of students who chose the United Kingdom and the Russian Federation grew by around two percentage points.”

Conclusion: The report does not go into a detailed analysis of the reasons for the decline in market share, but it is commonly known in the travel & tourism industry that one primary cause is the onerous visa and security restrictions imposed in the post 9/11-era. Assuming that the U.S. travel & tourism industry is aware of the declining market share and recognises the need to address it, this would be a good time to act.

Download the full report here.

5. Status of Indigenous Peoples in the United States

On 11 September, the United Nations Office of the Commission for Human Rights released a report on the status of Indigenous peoples in the United States – including American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian peoples. The report was authored by the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, a Regents Professor and the James J. Lenoir Professor of Human Rights Law and Policy at the University of Arizona (United States).

The report calls on the United States authorities to adopt new measures “to advance toward reconciliation with indigenous peoples and address persistent deep-seeded problems related to historical wrongs, failed policies of the past and continuing systemic barriers to the full realization of indigenous peoples’ rights”.

It says, ““Indigenous peoples in the United States – including American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian peoples – constitute vibrant communities that have contributed greatly to the life of the country.” However, “they face significant challenges that are related to widespread historical wrongs, including broken treaties and acts of oppression, and misguided government policies, that today manifest themselves in various indicators of disadvantage and impediments to the exercise of their individual and collective rights.”

According to a U.N. media release, the Special Rapporteur’s report provides an overview of significant federal legislation and programs that have been developed over the last few decades. He notes that these, “in contrast to early exercises of federal power based on misguided policies, constitute good practices that in significant measure respond to indigenous peoples’ concerns.”

Says the release, “Mr. Anaya welcomes the many new initiatives taken by the executive to advance the rights of U.S. indigenous peoples in the last few years, but finds that existing federal programs need to be improved upon and their execution made more effective. The report stresses that the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is an important impetus and guide for improving upon existing measures to address the concerns of indigenous peoples in the United States, and for developing new measures to advance toward reconciliation.

The Special Rapporteur will officially present his report on Tuesday 18 September 2012, during the current session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. It has been released publicly and can be downloaded here.

Conclusion: Can the same policies which were applied to the U.S. indigenous peoples be applied at the foreign policy level, too? A moot point.

6. India backs Palestinian Bid for Statehood and full U.N. membership

On 11 September, Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in New Delhi and released a statement calling him “a very special friend.”

The statement said, “Support for the Palestinian cause has been a cornerstone of India’s foreign policy. During our meeting, I reiterated India’s firm support for the struggle of the Palestinian people to achieve a sovereign, independent, viable and united state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital, living within secure and recognized borders, side by side and at peace with Israel.

“India had played an active role in supporting the efforts of the State of Palestine to secure full member status at UNESCO. We will continue to support Palestine’s bid for full and equal membership of the United Nations.

We also look forward to early resumption of peace talks between the Palestinians and Israelis leading to a comprehensive resolution between the two sides.”

The statement also President Abbas and I also exchanged views on regional developments, particularly the developments in the West Asian and the Gulf region. There is a great degree of similarity in our views. We both agree that the developments in the region must be addressed through political dialogue and peaceful means without recourse to violence and outside interference, while taking into account the legitimate aspirations of all people.

Conclusion: The India-Palestine meeting and statement were important because they again expose the U.S. foreign policy isolation in terms of its blind support for Israel. If the U.S. government were to fall in line with the Indian view, and provide the requisite backing to the Palestinians, the Middle East situation would change overnight.

Read the full statement here