Sabers are again being rattled by the Clinton Administration, with thousands of troops dispatched to a remote corner of the world to implement a United Nations policy which very few of the "Nations" support, and none are willing to bankroll. Who is the bad guy of the week?
That trusty villain Saddam Hussein. Remember him? Trained by our government, supported with our tax dollars, encouraged by our leaders. He became the global miscreant after he -- a thug, no doubt -- invaded another country of thuggish status. But the country he invaded was run by thugs with whom we had a closer relationship than he, so Saddam's Iraq became the new target of hatred and scorn -- and misuse of American military might.
Our relationship with the Republic of Iraq over the last two decades is a case study in all that is wrong with our national foreign policy. We prop-up immoral dictators, making them our friends and allies at the whim of one administration in keeping with the political correctness of the day, only to completely reverse our course a few years later for no logical reasons. When an individual behaves that way, clinicians refer to it as schizophrenia.
We must either be engaged in a purely schizophrenic foreign policy, or we must admit to there being such a thing as "good thugs versus bad thugs." Or, we have to say our policies are driven by the commercial interests of big business (to "protect" the availability of foreign oil, in the case of Iraq). It is hard to decide which of the three could be worse.
In the end, though, it is our soldiers who bear the brunt of the policy, for they are used to clean up of the messes our vacillating positions create. The United States created Saddam Hussein in the 1980s, so when he became what he was created to become, we destroy him, but in the process put at risk the lives of soldiers and Americans abroad.
But the use of the military is a great way to divert attention from our foreign policy failures. For when our kids go off to battle, no one dare oppose the action, for that is seen as opposing them. The blood of our nation's youth, all too often, is spilt as if it can wipe away the policy sins of the Congress and the President.
Of course, the decision to send troops out to mope up our mistakes is never presented in such a fashion. Instead we talk about needing to make the world safe. Exactly how and from what is obscured. For since we are often then ones who create these villians (such as Hussein) in the first place, perhaps the best way to make the world safe for the US to re-examine its basic foreign policy. In medicine, a doctor can either treat the symptom or the cause.
Hussein and his ilk are in so many ways the symptoms of the disease of 20th Century imperialism.
The only constitutional -- and therefore legal -- use of our military is in the direct protection of US sovereignty. While we expend billions of dollars and countless lives to (unsuccessfully) oust third-rate dictators who have absolutely no ability to threaten our nation on the basis that they might attain "weapons to mass destruction," we all but ignore real threats (such as the Chinese, North Koreans, military renegades in Russia, Syria, Pakistan, and others).
We must make radical changes in our approach to foreign policy. (1) Trade and engagement encourage not only peace, but allows individuals currently living under despots to have intimate contact with free peoples, showing them a better way exists. (2) Understanding the history of a region prevents us from trying to step in and determine "winners" and "losers" by settling "peace" among peoples who have been waging war since before Columbus sailed the seas. And, (3) ending the give-away of tax dollars to various countries is not only more responsible for our people, but less likely to antagonize nations as they compare who is and is not on the American dole for how much. George Washington encouraged our nation to be friends with all and enemies with none.
While we cannot control what attitudes of nations have toward the United States and her people, we can mitigate hostilities by not giving those nations more reasons to despise us.
Sadly, though, until we engage in a more constructive foreign policy, we can expect the hear the rattling of sabers each time a president needs to divert attention from whatever problems, or the United States wants to wipe under the rug the interventionist mess created by our schizophrenia.