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America the Bully

Guest Column
Vivek Rao

It is easy to get carried away by George W. Bush’s speeches about America’s new war, and to believe that the current attacks on Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda network will provide a permanent solution to the threat of terrorist attacks. Yet this brainwashing propaganda, along with the national media’s disturbingly biased coverage of the current crisis, cannot mask the fact that the one and only way for the United States to protect itself from future disasters is to dramatically reform its foreign policy.

No matter what the president would like you to believe, and regardless of how major television networks present the facts, the terrorists who committed the atrocious acts of September 11 were not principally motivated by some bizarre desire to destroy human life on a mass scale. They were not like your typical serial killer, who kills for the pure thrill of killing.

Instead, they acted primarily on a political impetus, hoping to disrupt a country that has dominated world affairs ever since the end of the Cold War. Bringing Osama bin Laden and his co-conspirators to justice is a worthy cause, to be sure, but to believe it will dissuade future terrorist attacks is overly optimistic, for as long as people in other nations feel oppressed by American foreign policy, animosity against the United States will almost surely remain strong.

In the current balance of power, there is no doubt that the United States stands at the top. With a strong economy, a potent military, and highly favorable alliances with a majority of the world’s powers, this nation has gained an overseer’s role in nearly all pressing overseas affairs. This even includes the volatile situation in the Middle East, where Israel and Palestine grapple for highly contested lands. To be fair, it is not unreasonable for America to desire such a role, since a stable world climate helps us to maintain our current power.

At the same time, however, it is unreasonable to believe that a global order maintained by a single country can be maintained indefinitely. There are simply too many interest groups throughout the world, and in particular, the various hot spots where current tensions are running high -- the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, and eastern Europe to name a few. Whether or not Bush and his predecessors care to admit it, the United States is not the unbiased keeper of justice and peace that it claims to be. Like any other country, we look out for our interests above all. We like our oil cheap, our trade smooth, and our power unquestioned, and when we do not get what we want, we bully other nations into accepting our terms.

The result, of course, is backlash against the United States. In the Middle East, where we tend to side with Israel before Palestine, many Muslims were overjoyed to hear of the World Trade Center attacks; not because they like the sight of death and destruction, but because they regard America as an evil power that uses unfair means to makes it wishes come true. If you want a better example, look no further than the current situation in Pakistan. Ironically, the American decision to use Pakistan as an intermediary in attacking the Taliban is ripping apart the Muslim nation, creating a whole new faction of vehemently anti-American agitators, who could be just as capable of pulling of a terrorist attack as bin Laden.

So while this new war that has just begun in Afghanistan may indeed prove successful in eliminating bin Laden, and many, if not all, of his Al Qaeda associates, President Bush, if he truly means what he says when he describes the need to free the world from the threat of terrorism, will have to do something far more significant than attacking a few Taliban military targets or killing a few Islamic militants. Above all, he will have to engage a new foreign policy, one in which the United States plays a less involved role in world affairs. We must respect all of the world’s interest groups, and not just the ones that are helpful to America’s short-term power. Though such a move would initially seem to reduce the United States’ role in the world, it would in fact strengthen our nation in the long run, for we would be an embodiment of democracy, freedom, and justice; not only on paper and in words, but in action, as well. This would pave the way for a world climate based not on one nation’s nearly dictatorial power, but instead on a more universally accepted decision-making process. Imagine the respect America would then command.

Vivek Rao is a member of the Class of 2005.