The Middle East Quagmire
November 15, 2004
The death of PLO chairman Yasser Arafat last week once again brings the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the international forefront. The Bush administration finds itself in an uncomfortable but familiar role as peacemaker for yet another intractable, ancient, and deadly Middle East conflict. The popular press and political world both accept without question the notion that the United States is somehow responsible for resolving any and all conflicts around the globe, but especially in Palestine.
We conveniently forget, however, that American tax dollars militarized the entire region in the first place. We give Israel about $3 billion each year, but we also give Egypt $2 billion. Most other Middle East countries get money too, some of which ends up in the hands of Palestinian terrorists. Both sides have far more military weapons as a result. Talk about adding fuel to the fire! Our foolish and unconstitutional foreign aid has produced more violence, not less.
Congress and each successive administration pledge their political, financial, and military support for Israel. Yet while we call ourselves a strong ally of the Israeli people, we send billions in foreign aid every year to some Muslim states that many Israelis regard as enemies. From the Israeli point of view, many of the same Islamic nations we fund with our tax dollars want to destroy the Jewish state. Many average Israelis and American Jews see America as hypocritically hedging its bets.
This illustrates perfectly the inherent problem with foreign aid: once we give money to one country, we have to give it to all the rest or risk making enemies. This is especially true in the Middle East and other strife-torn regions, where our financial support for one side is seen as an act of aggression by the other. Just as our money never makes Israel secure, it doesn’t buy us any true friends elsewhere in the region. On the contrary, many Muslims hate the United States despite the billions we give to their governments.
It is time to challenge the notion that it is our job to broker peace in the Middle East and every other troubled region across the globe. America can and should use every diplomatic means at our disposal to end the violence in the West Bank, but we should draw the line at any further entanglement. Third-party outsiders cannot impose political solutions in Palestine or anywhere else. Peace can be achieved only when self-determination operates freely in all nations. “Peace plans” imposed by outsiders or the UN cause resentment and seldom produce lasting peace.
Respect for self-determination really is the cornerstone of a sensible foreign policy, yet many Americans who strongly support U.S. sovereignty advocate interventionist policies that deny other nations that same right. The interventionist approach that has dominated American foreign policy since World War I has produced an unmitigated series of disasters. From Korea to Vietnam to Kosovo to the Middle East, American military and economic meddling has made numerous conflicts worse, not better. Washington and Jefferson had it right when they warned against entangling alliances, and the history of the 20th century proves their point. The simple truth is that we cannot resolve every human conflict across the globe, and there will always be violence somewhere on earth. The fatal conceit lies in believing America can impose geopolitical solutions wherever it chooses