Many Americans believe President Clinton's bombing of Sudan and Afghanistan was nothing more than a scene from the recent movie "Wag the Dog." I have been asked by the media if I agreed. My answer has been simple: I really don't know.
But then, I'm not sure if even Bill Clinton himself knows. I'm certain it would be easy for him to subconsciously rationalize anything that distracts us from the Monica Lewinsky affair.
However, there is a much more important issue at stake, and that is an inconsistent and dangerous foreign policy that we have for years followed in the Middle East.
The natural tendency for all Americans is to want to quickly retaliate against anyone who would dare try to kill American citizens. And that is, of course, understandable. But if this in reality makes things much worse and doesn't come close to punishing those responsible, then it may well be a serious mistake on our part.
A few facts to remember:
First, prior to the terrorist attacks on Tanzania and Kenya, two prominent Arabic newspapers, printed in London, reported that an extremist Islamic Jihad vowed revenge against the United States for capturing three Islamic fundamentalists who were promoting Albanian separatism in Kosovo. Why we did this should prompt a serious discussion regarding our policy in that region.
Next, Osama bin Laden and his Afghan religious supporters were American allies throughout the 1980s and received our money and training and were heralded as the Afghan "Freedom Fighters." Even then, bin Laden let it be known that his people resented all imperialism, whether from the Soviets or the United States.
Finally, the region's Muslims see America as the imperialist invader. They have deeply held religious beliefs, and in their desire for national sovereignty many see America as a threatening menace. America's presence in the Middle East, most flagrantly demonstrated with troops and bases in Saudi Arabia, is something many Muslims see as defiling their holy land. Many Muslims --and this is what makes an extremist like bin Laden so popular -- see American policy as identical to Israel's policy; an affront to them that is rarely understood by most Americans.
Far too often, the bombing of declared (or concocted) enemies, whether it's the North Vietnamese, the Iraqis, the Libyans, the Sudanese, the Albanians, or the Afghans, produces precisely the opposite effect to what is sought. It kills innocent people, creates more hatred toward America, unifies and stimulates the growth of the extremist Islamic movement and makes them more determined than ever to strike back with their weapon of choice -- terror.
The excuse for the U.S. to strike back, given by the President, was to "protect U.S. sovereignty" and to "spread democracy" throughout the world. Prior to last week, though, how many Americans were lying awake at night worrying about an attack by the Sudanese, let alone from our old friends the Freedom Fighters of Afghanistan? Until last week, not one American in 10 million had ever heard of this week's "Hitler"-- Osama bin Laden.
Our current policy in the Middle East is indeed a threat to our security, for it puts more Americans in increased danger. Protecting our so-called interests, i.e., controlling Arab oil, is not worth the danger of giving the Islamic extremist the ammunition and the incentive to unite an entire region -- a region which quite possibly has access to nuclear weapons -- against all American citizens around the world.
"Wag the Dog" or not, "wagging" a foreign policy flawed from the start is indeed a great danger to our national security, and we should soon start talking seriously about a policy designed for truly preserving American interests -- freedom and prosperity here at home. Let us soon end the on-going Persian Gulf War. It is not winnable.
Let us hear no more of our "obligation" to spread democracy around the world in the name of preserving our national security. We're not doing a very good job of respecting individual liberty or the Rule of Law here at home, and it is unlikely we can simply bully others into our mode of thinking.
When liberty is perfectly protected here at home,
others throughout the world will emulate us and our message will
spread without the need for imperialism, the threat of terrorism
or the dangers of retaliatory bombing.