By: Jon Basil Utley*
It’s great news that Washington is finally getting serious about civil defense against terrorism. It's well time to be stocking up antibiotics against anthrax attacks and putting in place quick response teams to analyze sudden unexplained outbreaks of sickness. These and stolen nuclear tactical bombs, small enough to fit in a car trunk, are the real threats to America. Indeed our military budget should be reallocated to put billions into these defenses instead of new high-tech offenseive weapons. Why do we need more of those when what we already have rules the world's battlefields? Instead, what we need are sentries at reservoirs and bridges, crash programs to study antidotes, fast city evacuation plans, hardened (against readioactivity) computer communications sites, and so on.
However, the other side of the defense coin involves giving foreigners, particularly Arabs and other Moslems, (and now Serbs, Sudanese, Afghans, and even Kurds (US intelligence helped the Turks kidnap their leader) less reason to hate and fear us. After all it is we who bomb and attack them and or have a fleet off their shores, threatening their cities and, in Iraq’s case, contributing to the starvation of millions of Arabs. Half a million children in Iraq have died, according to United Nations Children’s Fund statistics, since our blockade and 8 years of sanctions originally designed to force Iraqis to overthrow their dictatorship. Only England and Israel support Washington’s efforts to isolate and economically blockade Iran, Iraq, Libya and the Sudan. Radicals everywhere see America as the bulwark against change and reform in the Arab world, as the "mainstay of conservative Arab regimes and the source of a cultural assault on Islam," according to Richard Betts, Director of National Security Studies at the Council of Foreign Relations (Foreign Affairs, Feb., l998)
When President Clinton felt constrained in his speech, to declare that the bombing was not "aimed at Islam," it showed how close Washington is to that perception in many foreign eyes.
Peace in the Middle East is the most vital necessity for diffusing the foreign threats against our cities.
Another self-created threat comes from the U.S. military trainers in dozens and dozens of nations all over the world. Everywhere that we are providing super training to local militaries we are, in effect, choosing sides and creating potential new blood enemies, if those troops then kill or commit atrocities. This has already happened in Zaire, invaded by American trained Rwandans, and in Indonesia where the American trained "Special Forces" are now feared and hated by civilian populations, accused of much torturing and killing the students who demonstrated against Suharto. In Uganda, next door to Kenya, where one of the Embassy bombings took place, we are supplying military aid to forces fighting to overthrow the neighboring government in the Sudan. Elsewhere, U.S. troops have been sent on exercises to the Crimea, Kazakhstan, and Lithuania.
The Washington Post (7/14/98) reported upon the trainers (in 31 of 54 African nations) as holdovers from the Cold War, justified by the Pentagon for generating close personal contacts with assorted foreign officers. However, neither White House officials nor key Congressmen seemed to know, according to the Post, even in which nations they operate. They are unsupervised by local US embassies and there is little following analysis about the consequences of the training.
It’s surely time for Congress to review and approve all the commitments of U.S. military forces in nearly a hundred nations, according to military columnist Col. Harry Summers. There should then be a total reappraisal of what America’s vital foreign military interests really are. For more info see Charlie Reece (US Foreign Policy Contributes to Acts of Terrorism) and CATO in depth study, Does US Intervention Overseas Breed Terrorism.
*Mr. Utley is the Robert A. Taft Fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute (www.vonmises.org )