July 15th, 2009

America’s Foreign Policy: The Analogy of the Beehive

photo credit: Jokull

While shrouded in layers of propaganda and political intrigue, the foreign policy of the United States of America is really not too difficult to understand. In discussions with others, I have often employed the use of an analogy I created to demonstrate its core circumstances. It is simple to understand, and I have not yet encountered anybody who disagrees with its premise or implications (perhaps this blog post will change that streak). One might hope that this child-level analysis would be clear enough for politicians to comprehend, but it seems that their constant quest for campaign contributions clouds their cognitive capacity. But I digress.

Consider, if you will, a beehive. This beehive, like any other, is home to a community of bees focused on production, productivity, and survival. Left alone to pursue their private endeavors, the bees enjoy a symbiotic relationship with the rest of the world by obtaining nectar and assisting in the process of pollination. But one day, a new threat introduces itself into the beehive. A curious teenager named Derek was looking for honey, and, thinking of his Winnie the Pooh cartoons growing up, decided to shove his hand into the beehive.

Naturally, the bees go into defense mode and begin to retaliate. After all, it’s their home and their honey; Derek has no claim to what he is forcibly trying to take. So, he gets stung repeatedly. Shocked at this display of aggression on the part of the bees, he runs home and quickly returns with his pockets containing an arsenal of bug sprays and repellents—but not before crying to his mother in a grand display of self-pity, and rallying his family members to the cause of vengeance. Ready for the attack against what they now unanimously consider as pests, the family moves in on the wounded beehive from several angles—the mother whacks it off the tree with a broomstick, a sibling throws a rock at it, and Derek and his father attack the fallen community of bees with their weapons of mass fumigation.

Before this occurred, though, some of the more angry bees decided to strike back. They had departed the beehive in search of the family’s home, and finding the family absent, began to pursue and sting the unsuspecting and innocent toddler left behind in his bouncy chair. When the victorious family members returned, they discovered that poor Tommy was horribly swollen; the suicide bees were found only inches away.

The father took pictures to document this attack, and created a stirring video set to emotion-inducing music. He emailed it to his neighbors in an effort to tug at their heartstrings and elicit support for an all-out neighborhood offensive—a war on stinging. In Tommy’s name, the humans and bees were from that point in a never-ending conflict.

And to think, it could have all been avoided had Derek kept his hands out of the beehive…

While this simple analogy might be viewed as simplistic by some, its premise is sound and its implications are even sounder. An honest historical assessment of America’s foreign policy—especially in regards to the middle east—betrays a power-hungry, testosterone-driven (like a teenager, of course) collection of decisions that have killed, injured, displaced, angered, and offended countless millions throughout the world stage. Upholding dictators, dethroning democratically-elected leaders, supplying weapons and drugs, distributing foreign aid to corrupt leaders, giving consent to offensive military engagements, withholding support as a result of others’ decisions, passing resolutions regarding external affairs, training and supplying rebels, and a litany of other interventionist actions have all contributed to and resulted in a seemingly never-ending conflict between the American military machine and countries who lose our favor and blessing.

True, our hand has already been shoved into others’ beehives. But even the youngest of children can understand the logical action to take when being stung by a swarm of bees inside their own beehive. Remove your hand! Only then will the stinging decline in frequency and intensity. As a consequence of our initial, aggressive action, there will no doubt be subsequent stings from vengeful bees looking to teach us a lesson. But in this situation, we are not justified in using their retaliatory attacks as just cause for again fighting back. Remember—we started it.

26 Responses to “America’s Foreign Policy: The Analogy of the Beehive”

  1. Kelly W.
    July 15, 2009 at 3:32 pm #

    And of course, 99% of Americans believe Derek is Islam. To suggest that Derek is “us,” is, of course, unpatriotic.

  2. ldsliberty
    July 16, 2009 at 7:51 am #

    With this analogy someone would have to be truly obtuse to claim that we are blaming America for the terrorist attacks. America’s foreign policy is to blame for terrorist attacks. Americans who support this foreign policy bear some of the fault for terrorist attacks.

  3. JHP
    July 16, 2009 at 3:50 pm #

    I like your analogy and agree with the general premise, Connor. The part I don’t think it addresses, however, is what if there is a dictator bee in the hive that controls the political, economic, and social aspects of the hive and even murders other bees in the hive? What if Derek notices this from the outside and reaches in to eliminate the dictator bee in order to save the others and in his efforts to kill the dictator bee also kills a few other bees on the way out but in the end the hive is better off?

    Is Derek justified in intervening to help the other bees? I’m not implying anything here about Iraq, just any general situation in which there’s a tyrant/dictator oppressing his own people. When is it appropriate to intervene? I’m guessing that your analogy isn’t meant to cover every foreign policy situation and also that you’ve addressed this in other posts. It’s something I still haven’t formed a solid opinion on, even after reading and thinking quite a bit about it.

  4. Connor
    July 16, 2009 at 4:01 pm #

    I think your proposition depends upon a few factors:

    1. Did the oppressed bees request Derek’s intervention, and did a majority of them agree to this request?
    2. Can Derek kill the dictator bee without killing tens/hundreds/thousands of innocent bees in the process?
    3. What reassurance do the bees have that once the dictator bee is killed, Derek won’t steal the honeycomb, reshape the hive in a fashion he prefers (and thinks would result in the bees being better off in the future), and manage the community as he sees fit?
    4. Is Derek morally authorized to kill the dictator bee?
    5. Why should Derek kill that dictator bee instead of the dictator wasp a few farms over? How does he prioritize his noble bug-killing campaigns when insects around the world are suffering to some degree from oppressive rulers?

    Clearly it’s not a simple issue, but I think that there are extremely few instances in which a government is morally and logically justified in intervening in the internal affairs of other nations. Most of us here recognize the assistance of France in the revolutionary war as being crucial to our victory over the British, so there are exceptions that must be made. But remember: France didn’t stick around and shape our government for us. They came in, helped, and got out. If this type of thing is going to happen at all, then it must be for a specific amount of assistance in achieving a previously-identified (and not continuously changing and ever-prolonged) objective. Then, go home.

  5. JHP
    July 16, 2009 at 4:05 pm #

    I think I agree, especially with the part about it being complex. The problem is deciding when and how it is appropriate to intervene, but I definitely think we should err on the side of caution.

  6. Carborendum
    July 16, 2009 at 4:24 pm #


    Your France point is interesting. The French actually were trying to keep their fingers in our hive for a while. But they were repelled through some fantastic political leger-de-main on the part of several of our founders.

    Interesting things happened those first few decades of the Constitution.

  7. Carissa
    July 16, 2009 at 7:10 pm #

    Unless #1 happens (a majority requests our help) AND Congress votes to commit the necessary troops and funding, I would tend to agree with President Benson that our government doesn’t have the moral authority to intervene:

    Nothing in the Constitution nor in logic grants to the President of the United States or to Congress the power to influence the political life of other countries, to “uplift” their cultures, to bolster their economies, to feed their peoples or even to defend them against their enemies.

    Now should individual citizens of our country, through their own initiative and action, wish to help in some capacity- that would be perfectly acceptable (and commendable).

  8. Doug Bayless
    July 17, 2009 at 10:17 am #

    Sadly, I think one of the major problems with current US foreign policy is that most Americans know about as much about Afghanis and Pakistanis (etc.) as they know about bees. Perhaps they actually feel more empathy for bees. [So pretty good analogy on that.]

    I know too many good people that don’t even blink when considering the possibility of “killing a few bees” in order to make the far-away hive “better” according to some standard that they neither comprehend nor investigate.

    I certainly believe that if the Chinese [or choose-any-foreign-occupiers] came in and leveled their family’s home and inadvertently murdered their wife and children in some sort of “humanitarian effort” to stop our “misguided” political leaders that those same people might just start changing their politics a bit, heh.

    Until we see past the seemingly ubiquitous, yet horrifying, propaganda that foreigners are somehow ‘less human’ and even — to put it bluntly — ‘worth-less’ [than ourselves] I don’t see many of my fellow Americans ‘waking up’ anytime soon to the ‘awful situation’ of current U.S. foreign policy.

  9. rachel
    July 18, 2009 at 1:47 pm #

    A family member of mine is currently fighting in Afghanistan in one of the most volitile areas. I am sympathetic to his family for the stress of having a son who is literally daily in the line of fire. It seems to comfort them to call the enemy “evil,” and to count their son’s “notches” (“evil” people killed). They have even gone so far as to say that he is there “bringing the world His truth” (referring tothe teachings of Jesus Christ). They have also asked the rhetorical question, “Could this be the beginning of the final war between the wicked and the righteous?”

    Although I am also very concerned for my family member and impressed by his courage and toughness, I can’t help but think of those human beings who are equally as convinced that they are fighting on the side of right.

    I agree that the United States has taken on a somewhat despotic attitude of foriegn policy while spewing propaganda and nourishing a public persona of the United States as a peacemaking and noble, freedom-spreading defender of democracy.

    And despite the fact that I don’t know everything about the conflicts, I know enough to know that we are not fighting a Holy War.

  10. Josh Williams
    July 18, 2009 at 2:58 pm #

    I find it a bit ironic that the photo shows, not a bee, but a Southern Hornet, obviously robbing the hive.

    I just think that’s funny.

  11. Kelly W.
    July 18, 2009 at 3:10 pm #

    Yeh Josh, I noticed the same thing. I didn’t know it was a Southern Hornet, but knew it didn’t make honey in a hive. I assumed it was robbing honey also!

  12. Carborendum
    July 21, 2009 at 12:53 pm #

    Doesn’t this analogy require that the bees/hornets are unaware, mindless creatures who only know how to react to things with violence?

  13. Clumpy
    July 21, 2009 at 4:18 pm #

    That analogy wasn’t unrealistic, it was AWESOME.

  14. Carissa
    July 21, 2009 at 4:42 pm #

    Honey bees are actually quite intelligent! 😉

  15. Jimmy Davis
    July 25, 2009 at 1:34 am #

    This analogy works very well. Blowback is a reality few policy makers either realize or refuse to recognize. Whenever I talk about our meddling in the affairs of the middle east with those who feel our involvement is justified I use this analogy:

    Suppose a few disgruntled Americans go to Russia and blow up a few of their buildings killing thousands of innocent people. Then Russia retaliates by invading the United States taking over our government and propping up a government they feel will better fit our needs.

    You better believe we would be pointing our guns at their military.

    (My analogy is flawed in this regard- Instead of a saying a few disgruntled Americans blew up Russian buildings it would be more appropriate to say a few disgruntled Canadians blew up Russian buildings. After all, most of the accused terrorists of 9-11 were Saudi Arabian. We invaded Iraq.)

  16. Jon H
    December 2, 2009 at 3:40 pm #

    While I can sympathize with and partially agree with the intent of the analogy, I think it is a far too simplistic scenario to be entirely descriptive of our current circumstances. I think you are trying to over simplify something that is not a simple matter at all. In reality, there are so many difficult elements involved in our foreign policy as to render any simplistic analogy useless. One would need to know more details and considerations to make it functional. To boil down international economics and the survival of nations to mere curiosity, is to promote a naiveté that overlooks the difficult balance we must dance in order to utilize and share the world’s life sustaining resources. Perhaps we need to figure out what resources we are comfortable fighting for because it seems like so many Americans want to have it both ways. We want to enjoy the free use of petroleum based products without paying the price to get them. There are many things I want to know about Derek and the bees before I can draw formal conclusions. Why is Derek looking for the honey and what does he intend to use it for? Would it make a difference if, for example, his whole family was dying of some obscure disease where the only known cure requires the use of honey? Would he be justified if he were more than just “curious,” but knew that not only his family’s survivability, but also perhaps his entire community rested on his difficult decision? What if these “honey wars” we are fighting were not based on our need/desire to control and protect our oil supplies? What if the resource were to change to something like fresh water? After all, fresh water is much easier to swallow than oil right? Let’s say that our fresh water reserves run dry so we contract with the leaders of Canada who allow us to tap their fresh water supply. If there is a shift in Canadian leadership and the new government decides to revoke our agreement and access to “their” resources, what would you propose we do? We know that they have the resources we needed to survive, plenty to share but they won’t cooperate, so, maybe we just decide to take them anyway. Who is to say that one people’s economic survival and free access to the earth’s resources are more important than another’s? Difficult issues. Humans have been trying to figure them out for ages. Unfortunately, I doubt we will resolve them anytime soon. I love this country, but seriously, every country has been built upon the borrowing or theft of another’s resources. I’m pretty sure there were people already in this land, utilizing its resources, before our forefather’s arrived. In fact, some of my forefathers were already here, while my others came on boats to stick their hands into someone else’s beehives. In a perfect utopian world we would all share our resources freely without violence. We do not live in a perfect world, so, we fight for them and defend them after we obtain them. Sadly, that is just the way it works. If you don’t want people invading other people’s beehives for honey, don’t use the honey when it gets here. Can’t have it both ways. The fact of the matter is that without oil, our economy, and then the world’s economy, shuts down altogether.

  17. Autumn B
    February 28, 2010 at 4:20 pm #

    I understand more of where you are coming from with the analogy. Yes, I agree that we shouldn’t be using our freedoms as reason for being there. I do not believe, such as you say, our soldiers are fighting for our freedom in Iraq. I believe they are fighting for the Iraqi people’s freedoms.
    I am assuming you do not agree with ANY war this country has been in accept for the Revolutionary War. Because none of the wars our country has been in (except the Revolutionary) has been to protect OUR freedom, but the freedoms of others.
    I believe the gov’t used 9/11 as an excuse to go after Iraq. Like Jimmy stated above, the terrorists were not Iraqis. So I certainly will not defend our governments reasons for going into Iraq because of 9/11. We should have gone and “invaded” Afghanistan…bombed it maybe like japan in WWII??
    Despite your thought on Congress not declaring war, because it was a resolution, congress handing over the powers to the executive branch is just as good as declaring it themselves. They just didn’t want to take the fall for it. But in my eyes they do!
    So our troops are over there. There’s no going back. It was wrong, but then every time our troops have gone “over there” it has been. Because every time we have fought it has been because of someone else’s problems.
    But instead of going on and on about why they shouldn’t have gone, let’s look at what we have done and continue to do over there. They are building schools (when/where they couldn’t have ones before). They are building medical centers, freeing people from religious oppression, etc.
    Yes, our troops need to come home. But it would be unwise to “pull our hand out of the hive” quickly when it could crumble if we do.
    You can use our country’s history as an example of working to independence right away (from the French), but doing that you have to look at the circumstances of each country (USA and Iraq). Is Iraq similar enough to our country (in 1700’s)? Was Iraq already establishing gov’t, states, trade, etc. when the US “invaded” Iraq, much like the US when England invaded? Can we just walk away and Iraq will be able to go about their business constructing a country/gov’t? And do not say it is our fault for demolishing the country and that would be why they couldn’t!! They didn’t have a country of people before, they had a country of Saddam!!!
    Our gov’t was wrong for invading Iraq, much like Europe, Korea, Vietnam, etc. But let’s do good for the people there. Some people refer to our country as the “world’s police”. Well, no, but we are part of the U.N. and we have agreed to protect/help others. So that’s what we are doing now.
    Maybe we can be the wasps helping the bees construct their hive????

  18. Connor
    February 28, 2010 at 4:29 pm #

    …congress handing over the powers to the executive branch is just as good as declaring it themselves.

    Congress does not have the authority to delegate their power to another branch of government, hence it is illegal and on-constitutional to do so.

    Another example would be the Supreme Court turning over its responsibilities to Congress, or Congress telling the President that he can confirm whatever nominations he himself makes. It doesn’t work that way, and thus Congress cannot delegate its warmaking authority to anybody else.

    But it would be unwise to “pull our hand out of the hive” quickly when it could crumble if we do.

    We came home from Vietnam pretty quickly, and look how well they’re doing. This fortune-telling argument is not a valid one, in my opinion, because you cannot know what would happen. Still, the issue is one of morality, and if the troops should not be there, then the logical response would be for them to come home.

    I’m reminded of what Ezra Taft Benson said regarding Vietnam:

    The key to a solution of the problems in Vietnam is an understanding that we have no business being there in the first place — at least not under the present conditions or authority. Nevertheless, we are there and we are involved, so what do we do now? Since we shouldn’t be there in the first place, we should now concentrate on doing whatever is necessary to bring our boys home.

    Same goes for our troops in the Middle East.

    As for building schools and such, here’s another golden quote:

    here is one and only one legitimate goal of United Stats foreign policy. It is a narrow goal, a nationalistic goal: the preservation of our national independence. Nothing in the Constitution grants that the president shall have the privilege of offering himself as a world leader. He is our executive; he is on our payroll; he is supposed to put our best interests in front of those of other nations. Nothing in the Constitution nor in logic grants to the president of the United States or Congress the power to influence the political life of other countries, to ‘uplift’ their cultures, to bolster their economies, to feed their people, or even defend them against their enemies.

    Our military should not be used for police work, school-building, and any other non-defense-related project.

    They didn’t have a country of people before, they had a country of Saddam!!!

    I’m not sure I understand your point, especially in light of other dictatorships around the world. Why, then, haven’t we gone in and toppled those other oppressive regimes? Still worse, why do we fund and supply other “countries of ____” (fill in the blank), such as Pakistan?

  19. Autumn B
    March 1, 2010 at 7:27 pm #

    I do not disagree with you as a person. In fact I respect you whole hardedly. I watched Ron’s video, and see your point about the branches of the gov’t. And I see how screwed up it is. It’s almost like a big, bad monster that’s gotten way out of control. The balance of power? I guess you’re saying, “What balance of power?” Huh?
    What is so sad is that we as a society, are so ignorant. Our history books, our civics class (HS)…is any of it truth?
    It’s funny that you brought up Vietnam. Another war we shouldn’t have been….but do you believe in any war we’ve been in? I can only think of one that can count as good in what you’re saying: The Revolutionary. But I just feel that it’s inevitable…if given the chance, we will go to war if “we” feel it will help us. Do you think maybe the real reason for Iraq is fuel? As in S.A. – the terrorists were S.A.
    You say that we are not the world’s police, and shouldn’t be helping others with schools, hospitals, and such. But I just read your talk/article on preparedness…didn’t you say the man in Haiti should have supplies to help himself and his fellow men?? I guess that’s how I look at what our military is doing. It sucks that the money has to come from us, with a failing economy, but if it has to, then we’re a “better men” for it.

  20. Jeff T
    March 1, 2010 at 8:36 pm #

    Autumn B,

    I like your response. However, it is a HUGE leap to say that because a man in Haiti should be assisted, that the government (much less the U.S. government) should be the ones to provide that assistance. WE have a moral obligation to provide assistance, and we ALSO have a moral obligation not to compel our neighbors to assist (which is what the U.S. government does when it contributes tax money).

  21. Autumn B
    March 23, 2010 at 10:56 am #

    If WE have a moral obligation to provide assistance, how is that going to happen? The church can call it’s members to donate, etc. But how is assistance going to happen from our country if we are not compelled?? Not everyone is willing as Mormons, haha! I think when you are a citizen of this country you have to understand that you can’t be an island. You will be compelled to help. If you don’t like it, move. Haha! I know that’s a very socialistic view (give everything to the gov’t and they’ll distribute as they see fit). But what can I say, we pay for our freedoms…

  22. vontrapp
    March 25, 2010 at 10:34 am #

    I think if you really looked, you’d find that there are many many people far MORE charitable than the average Mormon. We by no means hold a monopoly on charity.

  23. Autumn B
    March 25, 2010 at 1:59 pm #

    Maybe not individually but as an organization, YES!

  24. oldmama
    March 25, 2010 at 4:27 pm #

    interesting things being said, and I like the analogy.

    As for needing to ‘rob’ hives to get precious honey–

    any person can just go to a domestic beekeeper and buy honey, or work for the honey or buy his/her own hive.

    It isn’t necessary to ‘steal’ from a wild beehive.

    And yet that is what massive global (many starting in America and Europe but some from Asia) companies have been doing for centuries. They use political manipulations to get into ‘third world’ countries (called underdeveloped, because often they can’t defend themselves against these corporations or their backing governments)–

    and take land (either by force or with very low prices) from indigenous people in order to use the land for (whatever: getting out oil and other natural resources, forestry, industry, mining, agriculture, usually monocultural, which is destructive of healthy agricultural sustainability)–

    It has already been going on for a long time, and many Americans don’t even know about it, don’t know how deeply ‘invested’ America is in corrupt and unethical ways in so many countries in the world.

    If you question this, read the book:

    Saddam Hussein was ‘set up’ by the CIA/American military–

    the monster was created by *us* (U.S.)–

    The idea of evil and conspiring men goes beyond the Mafia. There is a powerful reason LDS leaders have admonished that *we* read the Book of Mormon.

    Thanks again–

    Your writing and your blog are hopeful.

  25. oldmama
    April 6, 2010 at 1:23 pm #

    here is an interesting link.

    *I* do not know how to document this; I received this ‘second-hand’, as in the Washington Post article was documented by another article–

    but it’s interesting to think about:


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