April 1, 2002
American Foreign Policy and the Middle East Powder Keg
The situation in the Israeli-occupied West Bank territories deteriorated into virtually all-out war in the past week, with both sides escalating the rhetoric and the violence. The continued leadership of PLO Chairman Arafat seems doomed. The administration now finds itself in an uncomfortable but familiar role as peacemaker for the Middle East conflict; Presidents from Carter to Clinton have tried and failed to create lasting peace. Yet while our diplomatic efforts are well-intentioned and needed, we must resist efforts by the UN and some in the administration to go beyond diplomacy and impose our political will in the Middle East.
Remember that American tax dollars have been instrumental in the incredible militarization of the entire region. We give Israel about $3 billion each year, but we also give Egypt $2 billion. Most other Middle East countries get money too, some of which ends up in Palestinian hands. Both sides have far more military weapons as a result. Talk about adding fuel to the fire! Our foolish and unconstitutional foreign aid, though debatably well-intentioned, only intensifies the conflict.
Congress and each successive administration pledge their political, financial, and military support for Israel. Yet while we call ourselves a strong ally of the Israeli people, we send billions in foreign aid every year to some Muslim states that many Israelis regard as enemies. From the Israeli point of view, many of the same Islamic nations we fund with our tax dollars want to destroy the Jewish state. So while Israeli Prime Minister Sharon understandably touts his close alliance with the U.S., many average Jews see America as hypocritically hedging its bets.
This illustrates perfectly the inherent problem with foreign aid: once we give money to one country, we have to give it to all the rest or risk making enemies. This is especially true in the Middle East and other strife-torn regions, where our financial support for one side is seen as an act of aggression by the other.
Just as our money never satisfies Israel, it doesn’t buy us any true friends elsewhere in the region. Foreign aid or not, the Islamic world sees America as a constant aggressor in the Middle East. Muslims resent our role in bringing the Shah of Iran to power, and they resent our permanent military bases in Saudi Arabia. They view our ongoing bombing and sanctions campaign in Iraq as wholly unjustified, believing it harms innocent Iraqis but not Saddam Hussein. They especially resent our tremendous financial support for Israel. In the eyes of many Muslims, to be at war with Israel is to be at war with America.
It is time to challenge the notion that it is our job to broker peace in the Middle East and every other troubled region across the globe. America can and should use every diplomatic means at our disposal to end the violence in the West Bank, but we should draw the line at any further entanglement in this deadly and ancient dispute. We cannot impose political solutions in Palestine or anywhere else. Peace can be achieved only when self-determination operates freely in all nations. "Solutions" imposed by outsiders or the UN cause resentment and seldom produce lasting peace.
Respect for self-determination really is the cornerstone of a sensible foreign policy, yet many Americans who strongly support U.S. sovereignty advocate interventionist policies that deny other nations that same right. The interventionist approach that has dominated American foreign policy since World War I has produced an unmitigated series of disasters. From Korea to Vietnam to Kosovo to the Middle East, American military and economic meddling has made numerous conflicts worse, not better. Washington and Jefferson had it right when they warned against entangling alliances, and the history of the 20th century proves their point. The simple truth is that we cannot resolve every human conflict across the globe, and there will always be violence somewhere on earth. If we care about the self-determination of the Israeli and Palestinian people, and if we care about the Constitution, we must adopt a neutral, diplomatic role in the conflict and stop funding both sides.