Profits Before Principles: US Foreign Policy

The prevention of the proliferation of nucleear weapons, especially in the Middle East, has been an important goal of US foreign policy for quite some time. This goal, as part of the rubric of “weapons of mass destruction” (WMD), was a major element of the Bush administrations justification for the invasion of Iraq. Currently, it is the core of the administration’s anti-Iran rhetoric (cf. Iran ‘withholds nuclear details’ . However, there is one country in the Middle East whose WMD and nuclear capabilities US foreign policy tends to ignore, as former President Jimmy Carter pointed out during a press conference the other day (cf. Israel ‘has 150 nuclear weapons’. That nation is, of course, Israel.

What I am going to say in this article may offend some people, but I feel they need to be made to put a number of things I have said into the proper context. I have no issue with the general moral principles behind American foreign policy; what I do object to is the selective manner in which those principles are applied. As I will explain below, we use one moral standard to condemn Iraq and Iran, but refuse to use that same moral standard to evaluate the actions of Israel, whose actions often are very similar to those of Iran and Iraq.

We condemned Iraq under Saddam Hussein for its treatment of its Kurdish populatiom, yet, as the article about Jimmy Carter’s press conference points out, Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is no better. Yet, very few American politicians publicly condemn Israel for its nuclear arsenal or its mistreatment of the Palestinians, and those issues are largely ignored by the American media.

Why is that?

The argument could be made, and it has been used, that US favoritism toward Israel has its roots in a sense of national guilt over the Holocaust. The US should, as should many other countries, feel some guilt over the Holocaust. Much of the world, the US included, turned a deaf ear and a blind eye to what was happening in Nazi Germany and the countries occupied by the Nazis. This refusal to pay attention to the horrid whispers coming out of places like Auschwitz more than likely resulted from the long tradition of anti-Semitism that has flourished in Christendom since the Dark Ages, spread by the ever increasing influence of orthodox Christianity, which held the Jews responsibile for the Crucifixion. In some ways, it can be argued that most Christians felt, deep in the darkest pats of their souls, that the Holocaust was God’s judgment being visited upon the Jews for their role in the death of Jesus. This is just one more chapter in the history of Christian bigotry that reflects the dark side of the development of Christian orthodoxy that I will discuss in my Heresiology series. Early Christian anti-Semitism had a major role in determining what was orthodoxy and what was heresy with far-reaching consequences.

But there is a more pragmatic and less sinister motive for US politicians to strongly support Israel: Jewish-American voters. This is a strong and outspoken voting block in the US that has historically provied a great deal of financial support for both parties. In traditional politics-as-usual, the support of such blocks/interest groups/funders has been essential. And the way to guarantee their support is to champion issues and causes that are important to these groups. US support for Israel is important to Jewish-American voters.

But the United States, at least in prinicple, is a pluralistic country, comprised of people of many different ethic backgrounds and many different causes to support. One of the main problems with our whole political process is that it is geared toward catering to the highest bidder rather than following the basic principles on which it was founded. This is the reason for our skewed Middle Eastern policies and why we are so hated by the Arab nations. This is why Revered Wright said that the US brought the 9/11 attacks on itself. We have put profits before principles one more time.

My comments today must be seen as a mere scratching of the surface on the whole issue of profits before principles in foreign policy. They are, by no means, exhaustive of the issue. They are intended, as I believe Jimmy Carter’s remarks are, to bring into the light of day, the darkest secrets of what motivates and shapes the political proces, of which foreign policy is only a part, in this country.

Americans have always believed in fairness and justice for all. As both Reverend Wright and Jimmy Carter have pointed out, there is little fairness in politics, especially our foeign policy, these days. The war in Iraq is the second time in my adult life that the US soldiers have given their lives in a so-called war that was based on profits before principles and justification by misiniformation.

This is a Presidential election year and Americans seem to be primed for some serious changes in the politics-as-usual. We have already seen some serious changes in the political fundraising realm with Barack Obama’s unprecedented success in small-donor fundraising via the Internet. Hopefully, he will, should he be the Democratic nominee in the general election, be able to continue that trend, thereby freeing himself from a lot of the obligations to special interest groups, and that other candidates for other offices have the same grassroots fundraising success. Perhaps then we will see a return to principles over profits in American politics and American foreign policy.


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