After 50 years of policies that have turned the Middle East against us — supporting dictators, aiding terrorist groups, bombing innocent civilians and giving unfaltering support to the nation of Israel — we somehow still don’t get it. Even in our response to 9/11, in which we’ve lost thousands of soldiers in pointless wars and become economically unstable along the way — we’ve refused to read the writing on the wall. Instead, we cover our ears, shut our eyes and shout, “I’m not listening!” at the top of our lungs.
Over the past two weeks, we’ve witnessed the first filibuster against Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel. At the same time John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s pick for head of the CIA, continues skirting questions surrounding the legality of killing civilians without due process, brought on by drone strikes in the region.
Hagel has been criticized for his views on Israel as well as his willingness to directly negotiate with Hamas and Iran. Though Hagel’s suggestion to reach out diplomatically and discontinue unquestioning worship of Israel is a fresh take on failed foreign policy, Republicans refuse to support him.
The GOP is not alone in continuing America’s failed foreign policy. The Obama administration has carried out countless assassinations in the past four years — some on American citizens. John Brennan, chief counterterrorism advisor to the president, refuses to answer whether or not United States citizens can be targeted by drone strikes. Perhaps even more troubling is the fact that rather than engaging in a meaningful debate about the possible negative repercussions of drones, such as their propensity for collateral damage, we’re instead discussing the president’s authority to decide an individual’s fate.
Our foreign policy has repeatedly led to our demise as a nation. After 9/11, Osama bin Laden released videos directly citing the actions of the U.S. — supporting Israel, bombing Iraq and stationing troops in Saudi Arabia — as motivation for the terrorist attacks. I won’t sit here and defend a terrorist who killed innocent civilians, but I certainly won’t pretend the United States hasn’t done the same thing.
Our foreign policy is broken. We wage endless wars, destroy the lives of countless innocent civilians and breed hatred for our country. Rather than taking steps to spread peace, we proliferate violence and death. Drone strikes and unwavering support for Israel are just a minor reason so many people want to destroy us. It isn’t our freedom, it isn’t our wealth — it’s our foreign policy.
Even a Democratic president — a man awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and who we believed would lead us to peace — has continued America’s trend as a war-hungry nation. During the Vietnam War, Martin Luther King Jr. once famously called America “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” If King were alive right now, he would probably say the same thing.
When I voted for president this year, I felt ashamed. I knew that voting for anyone other than Obama would essentially be a vote for Romney — a man running counter to the nation’s best interests. So instead I voted for Obama and have felt nothing but regret since. My vote was for a man who authorizes drone strikes that kill civilians, for a man who has expanded our military and, worst of all, for a man who now refuses to examine the legality of killing civilians on U.S. soil.
Republicans and Democrats are both to blame for countless acts of death and destruction throughout the world. Maybe one party is more at fault than the other, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is the present and what we can do about things now. We can stop ourselves from killing more people, and we can stop ourselves from inciting more violence. What we must keep in mind is that our goal is not victory — it’s peace.
James Brennan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.