George Washington, in his Farewell Address, wisely warned our young country to “beware of foreign entanglements.” And entangled is a nice word that comes to mind to describe U.S. policy toward Baghdad.
Webster’s dictionary defines entangled as “involved in difficulties, embarrassments, and contradictions.” Before anyone spends more money or risks more lives, we should heed both Washington and Webster.
It has been difficult for the Administration to sort out where moral indignation ends and direct intervention begins when judging Saddam Hussein’s bizarre behavior. However, it should not be difficult to understand that years of investing taxpayer’s hard-earned dollars in military aid to the Persian Gulf area demonstrates how our foreign-aid standards are just too low as well as too generous.
Webster’s definition includes the words contradiction and embarrassment. On the one hand, the U.S. has embarrassingly underwritten a dictatorial regime that has been consistently cruel and volatile in domestic and foreign relations. On the other hand, U.S. politicians are are now breast-thumping in response to Saddam’s latest crazy machinations. Sadly, some politicians and pundits are willing to sacrifice American troops before policy contradictions are defined as a specific threat to U.S. interests in that faraway part of the world.
The adage of teaching a hungry man how to fish being better than giving that man a fish is apropos when it comes to U.S. willingness to fight someone else’s battles. In the quagmire called Iraq, the Arab states would be better off handling the regional and internal affairs themselves. Through such empowerment, the U.S. would not have to gamble lives on its role of as the world’s policeman or on the dictates of bungling U.N. bureaucrats.
This piece originally appeared as an op/ed in USA Today on January 12, 1993