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Jewish World Review March 11, 2002/ 27 Adar, 5762

Don Feder

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Human rights not a foreign policy concern | The State Department's 26th annual country report on human rights should have come with a caveat: The purpose of U.S. foreign policy is protecting the security of Americans, not crusading for goodness abroad.

Harsh? Perhaps.

But it's a cold world out there, filled with wolves snapping at our heels. To thwart them, at times we have to ally ourselves with unsavory characters. (Think of Stalin in World War II or Central American juntas in the '80s.) The way they treat their people should be the concern of ministers and moralists, not diplomats.

The State Department spent thousands of pages analyzing human rights in almost 190 countries. The net result of all this breast-beating will be zilch. America's foreign policy will continue to be guided by military necessity, trade or other considerations unrelated to secret police and torture cells.

On those occasions when human rights played a major role in shaping our foreign policy, the results were catastrophic.

In the '70s, President Jimmy Carter (whose administration could have doubled as a revival meeting) decided the Shah of Iran was being beastly to dissident Shiite clerics. The U.S. hedged on its support for a loyal ally. Iran ended up in the arms of lunatic theocrats who've destabilized the region and spread terror abroad. Give me a pro-American autocrat any time.

Under ex-president and human-rights poser Bill Clinton, we twice intervened in Yugoslavia, creating a nation in Bosnia and a Western protectorate in Kosovo, reportedly to end ethnic cleansing. Bosnia has been infected with Moslem fanaticism. Kosovo's Albanians engaged in ethnic cleansing themselves. Both have harbored terrorists.

Somalia, Haiti -- these are not high points in U.S. diplomacy.

Efforts like the State Department survey distract us from what should be the sole focus of our foreign policy -- protecting the human rights of Americans by guaranteeing their security.

The report devotes 103 pages to the People's Republic of China. But the problem with the PRC isn't its brutal suppression of dissent or toxic treatment of the Falun Gong meditators.

China is an aggressive power, hostile to the West, that's developing a deep-water navy and helping Third World thugs acquire weapons of mass destruction. It could end up starting World War III over its obsession with Taiwan. Beijing's human-rights abuses concern us as individuals. Its military/foreign policy concerns us as a nation.

The Foggy Bottom boys approvingly note improvements in Afghanistan following the end of Taliban rule. Again, the challenge Afghanistan posed for the civilized world was the fact that it had become bin Laden's boot camp -- a raging infection pumping its poison into the international bloodstream -- not its Neanderthal attitude toward women.

In its section on "Israel and the Occupied Territories," the report reads like a parody. The only democracy in the Middle East, a nation that has always respected minority rights, is condemned for not conducting its fight for survival strictly according to the Marquess of Queensberry's rules.

The reports cites "credible anecdotal evidence" that as many as several thousand Palestinians have encountered abusive treatment at Israeli checkpoints. Well, excuse me while I brush away the tears. Every few days, one of these blokes blows himself up on a busy street, slaughtering civilians in the process, or sprays bullets into a crowded restaurant.

When news of Sept.11 reached Ramallah, Palestinians did an end-zone victory dance in the streets -- thereby condoning the ultimate human rights abuse inflicted on 3,000 innocents.

The State Department's solicitude for a people that revels in mass murder makes as much sense as European whining because the Guantanamo vermin don't have POW status. Exterminators don't read roaches their rights before they start spraying.

As individuals, we can and should protest human-rights abuses wherever they occur. Washington should try to effect change in governments susceptible to our influence. But like our special forces fighting in Afghanistan, the first order of business is to assure our nation's survival. Human rights will not improve if America fails.

JWR contributing columnist Don Feder's latest books are Who is afraid of the Religious Right? ($15.95) and A Jewish conservative looks at pagan America ($9.95). To receive an autographed copy, send a check or money order to: Don Feder, The Boston Herald, 1 Herald Sq., Boston, Mass. 02106. Doing so will help fund JWR, if so noted. He is also available as a guest speaker. To comment on this column please click here.

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© 2002, Creators Syndicate