As somebody who went to Europe during the break, I can tell you that the United States is not regarded very highly over there right now. While efforts are being made to get rid of one enemy, entire nations that were its best allies only a few months ago have been alienated.
Europeans have learned the hard way that war does not solve a problem because you have to live with the people you fought afterward. WWI was to be “the war to end all wars,” but in the end caused deep-rooted problems that spawned only more conflicts. If the leader of a nation like France, (which was overrun by enemies and took years to recuperate) or the UK (which has had terrorism for ages) speaks out against war, maybe we should at least listen to what they have to say. We cannot afford to just yell “Traitor!” and then go ahead with what we planned without them. Cowboy diplomacy like this should be a thing of the past.
But then, it is considered to be unpatriotic to disagree. To be “truly American” you have to be a “united we stand”-sticker-bedecked-SUV-driving- (the oil comes from Texas, right?) tax-paying citizen, who shuts his/her mouth and follows the leader. Not in lockstep, of course, but quietly and without speaking up.
Democracy only works if people or parties representing them express different views. Doesn’t that make people who speak out and suggest different courses of actions more democratic and, therefore, more what the founding fathers of this country aimed for? I think it does. If that makes me unpatriotic in the eyes of some people, so be it, but I believe that a country like the United States, which is way up on the political food chain, should be a better role model than it has been in the past.
What kind of message do we send to other countries when we attack or topple governments because we do not agree with their policies or actions? Doesn’t it suggest a course of action that we would never accept if another nation would commit them?
Of course, there are instances when such actions are a last resort, but in the current example with Iraq, the situation in the Middle East will not improve, even if we can take out the Iraqi government in a mission of surgical precision. Something like this is impossible. The civilian population will be affected no matter how hard troops try not to. The image that the United States has in the Middle East is bad as it is. Wait until Al Jazeera shows footage of civilian targets being bombed by U.S. troops. All the explaining that it was a mistake will not change the fact that civilians have been killed by a nation with far more superior technology that costs billions while they are starving.
It would be cheaper and also more effective to give humanitarian aid to such countries so people do not need to start wars over resources. It might take longer and would definitely not get as good TV ratings for Fox News as Operation Enduring Freedom did. But at least we would not end up fighting somebody like bin Laden, a person we trained ourselves, once the dust settles.
Sebastian Meyer is a junior majoring in environmental firstname.lastname@example.org