Tonight's presidential debate will focus on foreign policy. As we listen to Democratic and Republican presidential candidates it is worth saying that a thoughtful foreign policy isn't about who can drop the most bombs.
Consider the case of Libya. In the midst of a civil war, Gaddafi made terrible threats against is own people. His regime was known for its prisons and its torture. Yet it is also known that he held America's enemies in those prisons and tortured them at behest of United States in a program called extraordinary rendition. In 2003, he voluntarily gave up his nuclear weapons program to the praise of President George W. Bush.
Now consider the Libyan "rebels,' some known to be associated with al Qaeda. According to Human Rights Watch, mass murders perpetuated by the rebels followed the extrajudicial killing of Gaddafi. Now the country is awash with guns, is a security nightmare and is a haven for terrorist groups like al Qaeda.
A similar situation is developing in Syria. Opposition groups, some of whom are known to be al Qaeda-affiliated groups, were not satisfied with the pace of reforms demanded by peaceful protesters and resorted to taking violent action. Some commentators have urged the United States to pick a side, but our intelligence community can't tell us which rebel groups to support and NO ONE -- not even the "experts" knows what could happen after. Could Syria turn into a slaughterhouse, marked by mass killings along ethnic lines? Could Syria suffer a decade of sectarian violence like what was witnessed in Iraq following the U.S. intervention there?
One prominent Washington pundit has suggested that we provide funds, ostensibly for communications equipment, to rebel groups to build closer ties with our intelligence community. The logic follows that we'd be able to learn who to support and then ensure that they become leaders of the rebellion and eventually lead the nation. Are we really the ones who should be picking the winners and losers and who will rule a foreign country? Forget for a moment the morality of the issue, is it even in our best interest? Remember we created, armed and trained al Qaeda in the 1980s.
Last Friday, The Washington Post reported that the Central Intelligence Agency wants to increase its arsenal of armed drones by nearly one third. One official said the request reflected concerns about unrest in the Middle East and North Africa. The article specifically mentions al Qaeda in Africa which has "gained weapons and territory following the collapse of the governments in Libya and Mali."
In August I asked, "Will we continue to spend tax dollars to create even more U.S. enemies which will then be used to justify the expenditure of more U.S. tax dollars?"
Let's have a real debate about what's important for America.