Future terrorism should not vindicate Bush’s foreign policy.
Published on Global Beat Syndicate.
NEW YORK—Over the past several weeks, the country lived under “high” terror alert for only the second time since the attacks of September 11. The apprehension created by this state of increased risk threatened to obscure a crucial point: Another terrorist attack should not vindicate the Bush administration’s foreign policy.
This may seem like common sense, but in reality, many people tend to rally behind the president in times of crisis. And this administration has shown itself all too willing to use public trust to advance a highly politicized agenda at home and abroad. President Bush will no doubt view another terrorist attack here at home as a license to further curtail civil liberties and to promote even more aggressive military strategies.
This creates a vicious cycle. Current White House policies are already working to create a more dangerous world.
Last fall, Jimmy Carter argued that “a core group of conservatives [is] trying to realize long pent-up ambitions under the cover of the proclaimed war against terrorism.” We might well put the Bush family feud with Saddam Hussein at the top of the list. A prominent sign at peace rallies reads, “This War Isn’t Making Me Feel Safer.”
Even conservatives like Congressman Ron Paul, R-Tex., have warned that Osama Bin Laden’s “recruiting operation is going to get a real boost” from war in Iraq. “We are going to prove to many Muslims around the world exactly what he has been telling them all along,” Paul says, “that we are over there to dominate, to control, and to get the oil.”
Despite the administration’s efforts to connect the Iraqi government with al-Qaeda, it is far more likely that terrorist cells would celebrate the ouster of Hussein’s Baathist regime, which stands as an obstacle to fundamentalist control of the region.
Interestingly, Saddam Hussein looms so large in President George W. Bush’s mind that Osama Bin Laden did note even rate a mention in his most recent State of the Union address.
The Bush administration’s willingness to go it alone militarily has alienated many of our allies and dampened prospects for the very international cooperation that is so essential to any effective battle against terrorism. Current disputes with France and Germany over arms inspections in Iraq are only the most recent examples. The White House has pulled out of, or otherwise endangered a long list of multilateral initiatives, treaties, arms control agreements and international conventions. These include the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, the Biological Weapons Convention, the Landmines Convention, the International Criminal Court, and the Kyoto Treaty on climate control.
These scorned international agreements could go far in laying the foundations for a safer and more humane world. And these are just a beginning. Other proposals for crafting more responsible foreign policy abound.
In January, a group of defense and arms control experts working with the National Priorities Project released a report entitled, A Safer America? That report documents the Bush administration’s strong preference for “preemptive” military solutions to international problems, and it argues for more promising and cost effective “preventive” alternatives.
For example, instead of “preempting” the remote possibility that Saddam Hussein may some day acquire and distribute nuclear weaponry, widely respected defense analyst William Hartung stresses the “preventive” need to safeguard and neutralize the vast nuclear stockpile that already exists in Russia. Other experts argue that our puny expenditures on international assistance show that this administration has too often overlooked the economic tools of foreign policy.
Moreover, by shifting our spending priorities from “wrongly preparing” the military to wage the type of large-scale engagements envisioned during the Cold War, these military and budget experts say we could address economic issues that create insecurity for Americans on daily basis, such as health care and stable employment.
It is not a lack of proposals that is preventing President Bush from crafting better policies. It is ideology. The next attack should show that this administration’s Cold War militarism and its unilateralist posturing are the wrong approach.
But we should not wait for terrorists to prove that point. By standing against war in Iraq, and pushing for preventive solutions to dangers abroad, we can work to stop future attacks from ever happening.
Photo credit: Carol M. Highsmith / Wikipedia Commons.