May 052010
 
Authors: Sarah Millard

On Sunday, a car bomb was found in Times Square. On Tuesday, a Pakistani man admitted to planting the bomb in an effort to cause a fireball in the popular New York attraction.

This incident hits close to home for American citizens, especially those who remember exactly where they were when they heard the United States was attacked on 9/11 and helps advance the popular belief that people from the Middle East are terrorists.

It’s been difficult to determine whether we’ve become “safer” as a society over the past eight and a half years. Airlines have beefed up security, but the famous “underwear bomber” and the aforementioned Pakistani man were allowed to board and fly on domestic bound flights.

The country is now involved in two separate wars, and with the looming threat of Iran on the horizon, the number could increase to three, although the likelihood of such an event would be arguable.

But the U.S. has a controversial presence in the Middle East, especially Iraq.

If the U.S. wants to promote the safety of its citizens, the Obama administration needs to seriously rethink its foreign policy, especially in the case of the occupation of Iraq.

Iraq was invaded in 2003, under the front of searching for weapons of mass destruction. When none were found, the reason for occupation was that of liberating the Iraqi people and helping bring about a new democratic state to the region.

Since the invasion, progress has been made. Elections were held, and an Iraqi government was set up, according to U.S. guidelines. Iraqi military officials have reported that in the past year, violence in the region is the lowest it has been since the 2003 invasion.

In 2008, the U.S. and Iraq signed an agreement, stating that U.S. forces would remain in the state until December 31, 2011. But it’s not clear what will happen after the agreement expires.

Both sides have expressed skepticism on whether or not U.S. troops will leave of the country in three years, affirming the Middle East’s distrust of the U.S.

In order to protect American soldiers, this administration needs to work directly with the elected Iraqi government to promote a version of democracy that is best suited toward Iraqi needs. To facilitate these actions, the Iraqi citizens should be allowed to vote, during their next election cycle, on whether or not they would like continued American activity in their state.

This could prove to be problematic in the area of voter fraud, but if the Obama administration works with the Iraqi government to insure fair elections take place, then the country could know exactly where the majority of Iraqi’s stand.

If the voters decide to allow U.S. occupation, then the continued presence of American soldiers is legitimized; if the voters decide to oppose the occupation, then the administration will know what the people of Iraq want, and can bring our soldiers home as quickly as possible. Either way, it is a win for the U.S.; we gain the trust of Iraqi citizens by keeping our word to either protect them, or let them be.

The U.S. spends more money on defense than Russia, China, the United Kingdom and France combined, while spending 44.4 percent of taxpayer money on our defense programs, according to http://globalissues.org.

If the U.S. acts more cautiously regarding international relations, then the amount of money spent on this sector can be dramatically decreased, freeing up money for social spending, or lowering taxes for citizens.

However way you see fit to use these funds, the truth is that more money is spent on these programs than any other, and if our country takes strides to actively pursue the withdrawal from Iraq, and succeeds, we will all reap from the benefits.

The U.S. has always had vested interests in the Middle East, and that shouldn’t change. But in order to gain the trust of Middle East citizens, and prevent them from wanting to attack us, we need to work in their favor, whether that means protection or just acknowledgment to them being people, and not just potential terrorists.

Sarah Millard is a junior political science major. Her column appears Thursdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 2:59 pm

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