Foreign policy demands decisive responses

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld has always compared ending relationships to removing a Band-Aid. You don’t do it slowly; you tear it off quickly – one pull, right off. Sometimes it just seems more intelligent to end a relationship as efficiently as possible.

Currently, our country finds itself in a similar position: How will we handle the relationship in this current Middle East situation? We have a choice: Wait and remove the Band-Aid slowly or take the quick, all-encompassing approach and pull it right off. The United States has been in this position before; during the Gulf War in the early 1990s.

We went into the Gulf War with the right idea in mind. Removing the Band-Aid quickly, we intended to liberate Kuwait and destroy Saddam Hussein’s regime. But we got cold feet with the idea of staying in for the long haul, and we backed away. We didn’t finish what we started and we didn’t take care of Hussein.

Instead, we continue to rely on economic sanctions, hoping Hussein or the Iraqi people will remove the Band-Aid themselves by allowing U.N. inspections of its weapon sites. Yet, 10 years later, Hussein remains and it
doesn’t look like he’s going away anytime soon.

Economic sanctions are trivial when a leader such as Hussein doesn’t give a damn about the people he presides over. Hussein has numerous palaces, yet his people wallow in poverty. He is always on the move and each day, each of these palaces prepares three lavish meals for him. If he graces the abode with his appearance, he eats; if not, the food is wasted. Regardless, his people starve. He lives a life of luxury while his people die in the streets. Any internal opposition that once existed, Hussein has crushed and killed. He rules Iraq with an iron fist, and he will continue to do so because the United States didn’t find an adequate solution when it had the chance.

And now the United States is in Afghanistan, hunting the Taliban as well as Osama bin Laden, an individual who is seen as even more evil than Hussein by most Americans. Much like the war in Iraq, the definition of victory in Afghanistan is not explicitly defined. Support from the people of the United States is essential. For now, our country is taking a strong, expeditious approach to handling the situation and is receiving overwhelming support from the general populace for doing so.

The acts of Sept. 11 are still very much alive in the hearts and minds of most Americans, and they continually show it with overwhelming support for the war effort. President Bush’s approval rating is astronomical, only conceding to presidents such as his father and Harry Truman – both wartime Presidents during their own tenures. The nations of the civilized world have pledged their support with armed forces, economic assistance or the use of strategic military locations.

But this support, both at home and across the globe, is to be expected so soon after the events of Sept. 11. The fear is still alive and the anger is still smoldering. But how long will it take before this unified national support begins to falter?

During this eventual decline in support, America’s leaders will have to remain steadfast to keep the country on the right path, because chances are the drop in national popularity for the war effort will come before bin Laden is found. After all, there is no foolproof plan for digging giant rats out of deep holes. And as time wears on, the percentage of Americans who want to see the Band-Aid removed slowly will increase. For the United States, it is critical bin Laden be accounted for in some manner – one can’t place economic sanctions on a terrorist, and we don’t need a second situation of that nature anyway.

Most important, the United States can ill-afford to travel to the land of another one of its enemies, slap them on the wrist and return home, while the figureheads of the problem still remain there. If such individuals are allowed to exist, then they are allowed to create
problems and take American lives. This is no more true than of bin Laden.

Disciples of bin Laden were responsible for the embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya that killed more than 220 people. It was bin Laden who was linked to the initial bombing of the World Trade Center. That attack, which resulted in six dead and over 1,000 injured, was courtesy of a 1,500 pound bomb inside a van that was parked in an underground garage. Still, the United States refused to go after him seriously. How were we rewarded for our passive response?

Bin Laden’s terrorists hit the U.S.S. Cole, while docked outside the coast of Yemen. Again, the United States did little to respond, and bin Laden was free to hide in his hovel, dementedly working to devise his next attack. The result of his latest diabolical epiphany, Americans and the world know all too well. If bin Laden isn’t accounted for before the United States withdraws from the region, what can the United States – or the rest of the Western world for that matter – expect in the future from him, especially now we have taken military action against his network?

If the United States wants to stop bin Laden, then it must hunt him until he is detained or killed. The simple act of searching for him militarily is already a step forward in protecting our nation. After all, it is logically easier to plan a terrorist action when one has two years of free time than when one is constantly ducking bombs and listening for air strikes.

From the beginning, elected officials have said this war would be neither easy nor short. But this is a war the nation must be ready to pursue. The attack on civilian as well military as targets has shown that no American is entirely safe from terrorists such as Osama bin Laden.

This is the same man who in 1996 publicly announced it was every Muslim’s duty to kill Americans. This is the same individual who, after the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, wrote a lyrical verse in which he mused that flying body parts would fill one’s heart with joy. Osama bin Laden is a threat now; he has been one for a number of years and he will be in the future – unless his future is violently altered.

The country need not look any further than Iraq to see the problems that persist when our nation leaves a situation unresolved. At this moment, our country has two great enemies: Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. Continued national support will allow us to make an example of one of them.


Chris Schafer’s column appears alternate Wednesdays. He
welcomes comments at [email protected] Send letters to the editor to [email protected]