The Problem with a Golden Rule Foreign Policy

They hate us for our freedom.  If they get nuclear weapons, they will use them against us.  I won’t wait for an American city to be leveled before I do something.  If you are not with us, you are with the enemy.

Not so fast…

They don’t hate us because of our freedom and prosperity.  Consider this quote, coming from Osama bin Laden himself:

“Why are we fighting and opposing you? The answer is very simple:

Because you attacked us and continue to attack us.” (emphasis added, read bin Laden’s full speech here).

Bin Laden then provides 7 specific reasons for the terror attacks, all having to do with flawed US foreign policy.  What was missing from his reasons?  “You are free” and “you are prosperous.”  His main reasons for his opposition to the US were the US occupation of the Middle East and the support of certain tyrannical governments.  He made it perfectly clear why we were attacked, yet many people seemed to ignore him.

Food for thought.  In the 18th century, the American colonists fought the occupation and unjust rule of Great Britain. Now, we are fighting people in the Middle East who are fighting against our occupation.  We call them insurgents and terrorists.  In the American Revolution, we were fighting for freedom.  What do you think they are fighting for?

Now we have a president who has exacerbated the problem in the Middle East.  We have Republican candidates who want to dive into another “preventive war” with Iran (Pope John Paul II condemned our last preventive war as “immoral” because it failed to meet the requirements of Aquinas’ Just War Theory).  We accept torture as a necessary preventive measure to fight terrorism, even though evidence has come forward showing the death of dozens because of torture (the CIA had previously told us that it was suicide).  President Obama said that those responsible for these wrongful deaths will not be prosecuted.

So what should we do?  Well, many people still believe that we are at war with people who hate us for being free.  These same people would have us continue to occupy the Middle East, continue to nation-build, continue preventive war, continue torture.  They would call me (and many others) unpatriotic for saying that 9/11 was a response to flawed United States foreign policy.  So their solution to fighting a revolution against United States occupation?  More occupation.  More war.  More torture.  Sounds like a great plan.

In a conversation with my grandfather the other night, he asked me an extremely thought-provoking question.  What would I have done in response to 9/11 if I were the president?  I’m glad he asked me.  I have been deliberating ever since.

What should have happened: We should have reformed our intelligence agencies.  We should have taken a long hard look at our foreign policy to see what could have led to the  these attacks.  We should have worked hard toward energy independence to reduce our need for foreign oil. And, Ian Lustick said it best, we should have “exploited the tidal wave of international sympathy and identification with the United States to address and eliminate the root causes of discontent and desperation within the Muslim world via ambitious, multilateral but U.S.-led programs of diplomacy (related to the Arab-Israeli conflict, for example) and toward democratic reform.”

None of these solutions would have involved preventive war.  None involved ballooning the police state (good article here) in the form of the USA PATRIOT Act, a direct and immoral attack on the freedom and liberty of every American.  9/11 should have been a wake-up call to the American people to demand of their government the same thing we demand of anyone we encounter on a day to day basis: to do unto others what we would have them do unto us.

What exactly would a “golden rule” foreign policy entail?

  • No torture.  It is immoral, and it doesn’t work (read about it here)
  • No preventive wars.  They are immoral.  Follow St. Thomas Aquinas’ Just War Theory.  And when we have no other option but to go to war, do it constitutionally, through Congress.  No one man should ever decide when a nation goes to war.
  • No empowering or propping up despotic regimes.  The US has done this time and time again, and continues to do this. (Iranian coup of 1953, Chilean coup of 1973, support of King Abdullah and countless other dictators)
  • Respect the sovereignty of all nations.

What exactly is the problem with a Golden Rule Foreign Policy?


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