Since the events of 9-11-2001 I have been watching the developments in the US and throughout the world with ever-increasing panic and astonishment. At the start I was in a minority concerned about the black and white stance the administration, the media, and most Americans were taking. I must say though that I always find some relief to see that there are still voices in this nation which do surface in the midst of overwhelming apathy, and that the stance of many Americans has changed, unlike that of the Administration’s.
It seemed pretty obvious to myself and others who were familiar with, had lived in other cultures, and were aware of the lax state of security in the US that some form of terrorism, though not on that scale, would eventually reach our shores as they had in Europe and other countries for decades. Since then this Administration’s policies as implied reactions to the events of 911 have brought a then sympathetic world to one predominantly against American arrogance and it’s policy of bringing the world to a war that few seem to want. There are endless arguments and opinions one can have, especially with regards to the historically complex and volatile Middle-East. The crucial point here however is not whether one should get rid of evil leaders, institute regime change, free oppressed peoples, or find weapons of mass destruction, but how is this US Administration really protecting this country from future terrorist attacks and protecting it’s citizens, as they claim is the basis for all their actions since 9-11-2001.
There is serious cause for alarm in that this Administration’s views of what needs to be done to protect this country, is actually going to seriously hurt the United States.
There are a couple of issues to look at in order to formulate a rational conclusion:
1. Overconfidence following humility in war: The now distant Vietnam War, the overwhelming victory in the Gulf War, and the quick air victory of the war in Afghanistan has given the Administration and Americans a false sense of power because it is just raw power; and essentially air power which is never conclusive for long term policies.
2. Regime change: Since the end of World War II and the US successes in the rebuilding of Japan and Europe, the US has not exactly proven it’s constructive talent for regime change, other than for short term special interests. US foreign policy aside from direct military action seems to be one of too little to late. The recent situation in Afghanistan is yet again proof of that policy. Since the overthrow of the Taleban in Afghanistan , the infrastructure of that country is still in shambles and wanting for many of the promises of supplies and assistance which were to be provided. We have yet to find the main proponents of the terror: Bin Laden, Al Zuhari, and Mullah Omar of the Taleban. The Karzai government has been pleading with the US to send in the economic aid and other forms of assistance promised a year ago before it is too late and Afghans loose faith in his administration.
The overwhelming majority of leaders we supported throughout the Third World were never chosen for their human rights records. Diem and Thieu in South Vietnam, Armas in Guatemala, Pahlavi in Iran, Noriega in Panama, Pinochet in Chile, the Somozas in Nicaragua, Suharto in Indonesia, Saddam in Iraq. After all as FDR once said of Anastazio Somoza Sr. “He may be a son of a bitch, but he is our son of a bitch.”
So in the field of reconstruction and human rights the US suffers from a serious case of attention deficit disorder where it has covertly replaced many governments, left, and then wondered why they collapsed years later.
3. In support of Saddam: Previous US administrations and Western European nations were willing to do anything and everything to fight Iran. They propped up Saddam Hussein, gave him funds, know-how and materiel for the weapons of mass destruction we are so concerned about today. Iraq flourished during the Iran-Iraq war. After the Gulf War the US had many opportunities to assist rebellions from within Iraq. The Shiites in the South, then the Kurds in the North with dissident Iraqi military backing. They were let down repeatedly and voluntarily in part for fear of a dangerously destabilized Iraq, and the familiarity of a known despot to an unknown one. The present situation of direct invasion will be no different for the future.
4. Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: The only relatively consistent US Middle Eastern foreign policy is with regards to Israel. Unlike that with other governments there is little change in US policy regardless of the administration in power in Israel. Regardless of the fact that one should be able to be against the policies of an Israeli administration as in any country, without having to be labeled as anti Israeli, anti Zionist, or anti Semitic. Regardless of guilt labels this endless conflict will not be resolved unless the US drops it’s double standard and mediates the Israeli-Palestinian conflict fairly. If this conflict is ever resolved it will also eliminate the principle raison d’être of many dictatorial Arab governments and radical religious groups. The late King Hussein of Jordan summed it up in that peace must be based on justice, especially in such a small geographical area.
For one the US has to admit that what is going on between Israelis and Palestinians does not fit neatly in the terrorism campaign where Israeli’s are not simply fighting Palestinian terrorists but are actually engaged in a civil war. It is just a question of semantics. Furthermore both nation’s leaders Sharon and Arafat have too many grudges and are irreconcilably incompatible. A distinction also has to be made as to what constitutes terrorism in this case. Where Al Quaeda’s nihilist soldiers strike to instill terror for it’s own sake, in the Israeli-Palestinian case members of both of these governments have been involved in acts of sabotage and terror to safeguard and promote their national rights.
Whether one cares or not, that conflict is relevant in that this US administration has decided to make it a part of an anti terrorist strategy with a double-standard which then increases the risk of anti-Americanism which increases the potentially subsequent harm to Americans at home and abroad. Therefore creating the reverse desired effect of the war on terror.
5. War fronts: This administration has decided to fight terror on “two fronts” for as the President claims, we can afford it. The problem is that terrorism is not fought on fronts. The administration talks of dealing with the world on a 21st Century view. Then the war on two fronts, or preemptively striking every nation in the book is not exactly 21st Century thinking since we know that true terrorist cells can operate at random anywhere against anyone. A level of cynicism is required here where one portrays a positive image, educates, and fights if necessary covertly and overtly. The present Administration in itself becomes a national security risk with it’s policies of world alienation, and it’s leader a greater threat than Bin Laden himself for if the latter’s intentions were to destabilize, events did not need to get so far out of hand.
6. The United Nations: One of the saddest parts of this chapter in our history is that by bullying and disregarding the United Nations we essentially renege it to the powerless status of the League of Nations before W.W.II. Is this what we want? Do we want to create a vacuum where the US can have the power over other nations but without the respect and a certain understanding among nations we tried so hard to promote. As history has shown, we must never forget how fragile democracies and democratic processes are.
7. Domino effect of democratic change: By destroying the secular regime in Iraq in the hope that it will propel other nations in the Middle East to reform their dictatorial regimes for democratic change we are missing a crucial point. If most of the pro US authoritarian regimes in the Middle East have a chance at universal suffrage, and taking into account the present war situation in Iraq, it is very likely that they will go the religious route, and even more likely that they will no longer be pro American. Authoritarian governments have so far managed to keep this in check, but following the backlash from this direct military invasion, the proponents of religious fundamentalism will have a greater following than they have ever had so far, since the specter of foreign intervention has transformed itself from a shadowy covert one into a harsh reality.
This is in part what occurred during the Iranian Revolution where religion became the only strong rallying point to throw off the yoke of foreign influence. At present, Iran is also viewed by this administration as a target for regime change. This would be an even greater mistake than the current war in Iraq since it would in effect again greatly strengthen religion as a tool against the West in a country where a huge majority are not for the remaining diehards of a dying regime but for a democratic change which has already been taking place and which is much more advanced than in any other nation in the region. By direct military interference in Iran, years of political evolution since the revolution twenty four years ago would be destroyed and would set the whole region back even further, thus completely discrediting US foreign policy.
8. Homeland Security: Our existing intelligence organizations, the FBI and CIA need substantial overhauls. Creating a whole new mammoth bureaucracy in the guise of the Department of Homeland Security which by all accounts will take huge funding and will only be efficient in protecting American soil within five to six year is preposterous. If we are indeed in an emergency situation then we must act immediately and streamline for greater efficiency.
The FBI and CIA have seriously suffered in the past ten years. The FBI did not even possess an adequate centralized computer system to exchange data between their different agencies, or have enough Arabic translators to tackle wiretaps that were made.. The CIA did not even have competent Arabic speaking operatives in Germany. So why not reform and enhance these agencies rather than create more waste in terms of time and money, which the government has not even been able to allocate.
This country is so vast and with over two billion items entering every year we would have to turn this nation into an armed fortress to control all imports. A terrorist only needs one chance. Does the Administration not see that force is not enough and that in order to have a lasting peace there has to be respect backed by force. Only the most intolerable totalitarian systems have managed to keep absolute control, at the expense of unhappy populations, and only for a time. Members of the Administration would be well advised to exchange their prayer books for copies of Machiavelli where he states that the balance for long term, efficient control can only be a combination of love and respect backed by force.
9. Western labels: Many feel that the US is biased against Muslims. That is somewhat true. The West in general addresses Judeo-Christian issues. The National Socialist Holocaust in Europe has been regularly addressed. The genocide perpetrated in Japanese occupied countries in Asia are seldom addressed in depth in the West. Stalin’s crimes in the Soviet Union and Soviet occupied Europe are also not given the weight they deserve. The proximity of the culture as well as the power of the perpetrator of crimes leads to the conclusion of how these crimes are addressed. Therefore Muslims fall in the more distant category to Western consciousness. This is a gap which has to be bridged on both sides, and only by trust.
10. Civil rights: The latest policy of holding US citizens indefinitely without trial who may be regarded as tools of terrorism is not unlike the Shutzhaft principle (protective custody) adopted by the National Socialists in Germany to combat Communism, which led to the most outrageous excesses of human rights violations. Many policies are already being implemented in the guise of combating terrorism and unless people and Congress curb these excesses, the American people will be one of the many targets of this administration’s war on terrorism.
11. Congress and Iraq: Congressional members voting for the resolution to go to war against Iraq, many against the wishes of their constituents, is not unlike the votes cast in the last German election in 1933 by Reichstag representatives from various parties who voted themselves out of power and legitimizing Nazi rule without the consent of their constituents. The circumstances may be different but the principle is similar. Both occurred in a modern state, and both did not honor the voters who voted them in.
12. First strike: The administration’s policy of preventive war and first nuclear strike option regardless of whether the enemy possesses such weapons is another sad regression for world balance and long term peace. This revives the paranoia of the fifties and greatly encourages smaller nations to acquire nuclear weapons in order not to be bullied.
13. The reach for empire: The single-mindedness from the beginning to attack already contained Iraq, irrelevant of lack of ties to Al-Quaeda, and non credible proof of that country’s rearmament program shows that it is not a direct threat to US national security. The tantrums of the US administration at the world and the United Nations as obstacles to an invasion of Iraq all show the different motives of a US policy that has taken an aggressive stance which does not conform to the logic of a rational war on terrorism to protect American citizens.
This extreme and determined policy of this US administration to invade Iraq can only lead one to believe that it is either out of touch with certain realities, or simply motivated by greed and the reach for empire.
14. The present US Administration: It is too convenient to refer to the President of the United States as a puppet who is being manipulated by his cohorts. It makes things more palpable. The President and many in his administration may not be the most worldly, but you don’t get to these positions by pure accident. The fact being that whether one is smart or educated or both, does not mean that one cannot be provincial, narrow-minded, or greedy. The key here is common sense which seems to be in short supply.
In conclusion, the present administration’s so called war on terrorism has in less than a year left people all over the world baffled by policies which have further alienated not only most of the Developing world but the majority of the First-World as well. How they have failed to come through in their economic assistance to Afghanistan. How they have failed to not only justify the huge expenses and payoff for a new department of Homeland Security, but have failed to deliver the funding for it. How they have failed in delivering the top Al-Quaeda and Taleban leaders, and have spent the whole year concentrating on Iraq. How they have justified to smaller nations the need to acquire nuclear weapons with the doctrine of preemption including nuclear first strike against a non-nuclear power. All this with the backdrop of a tottering economy with so many promises and very little reform.
All these elements comprising this Administration’s policies have already made the world a much more dangerous place in the long run for all Americans.
For a US Administration to have spent so much of it’s time and ours on the issue of a small contained dictator when there are so many other pressing domestic and international issues, is not worthy of such a mighty nation. The same Administration’s incessant talk of illegal regimes is the least qualified in US history to do so in light of it’s own lack of absolute legal legitimacy in the eye of the American voter.
For years European nations have had stringent security measures while the US disregarded these issues while benefiting from a complete lack of terrorist activity on it’s soil. Now that terrorism has struck home we have reacted in such a disproportionate way which will only create more enmity and reasons for more terrorism. With intelligent, strong yet subtle policies, we can combat that threat with our allies instead of alienating what allies we do have as well. But the obvious outcome of this US Administration’s post 911 motives plainly show other underlying motives other than the protection of the American people.
It is unfortunate that we have relinquished our role of arbiter for that of empire.
“America can exercise power without arrogance and pressure it’s interests without hectoring and bluster. When it does so in concert with those who share it’s core values, the world becomes more prosperous, democratic, and peaceful. That has been America’s special role in the past, and it should be again as we enter the next century.”
Condoleeza Rice, Promoting the National Interest (Foreign Affairs-January/February 2000), p.62.
“A warning against following this path came from none other than Gen. Anthony Zinni, commander of the US Central Command, whose writ covered the Gulf region. ‘I know of no viable opposition to Saddam in Iraq,’ he said. ‘Under such conditions any attempt to remove the Iraqi leader by force, could dangerously fragment Iraq and destabilize the entire region.’ He added, ‘A weakened, fragmented, chaotic Iraq, which could happen if this isn’t done carefully, is more dangerous in the long run than a contained Saddam now.'”
Washington Post, October 22, 1998; Observer (London), November 15, 1998; New York Times, November 16, 1998, in Dilip Hiro, Iraq: In the Eye of the Storm, (New York: Thunder Mouth Press/Nation Books, 2002), p.90.
March 21, 2003
© 2003. www.beamcorp.com. All Rights Reserved