A close second is the sight of Palestinians celebrating as if their team had won the Super Bowl.

Those responsible for this appalling massacre should be relentlessly hunted down and prosecuted. No American should rest easy until this goal is achieved. Yet at the same time, a wise and prudent response should include an analysis of why this catastrophe occurred in the first place. This means reevaluating our strategic foreign policy objectives, including our one-sided approach to the Middle East.

The depth of hatred that drives a group to inflict such terror on unknown and innocent people is nearly unfathomable to us. In this country, we’re used to being civil to all and “agreeing to disagree” on even the most crucial and divisive questions facing us.

This is an American virtue, but a serious fault as well. In presuming everyone thinks as we do, we don’t really understand the far-reaching implications of our government’s actions, particularly those affecting other nations. We bomb other countries at will and take sides in long-standing, bitter disputes, expecting everyone to assume – as we do – that the good old U. S. always represents what’s right and what’s true.

Well, not everyone agrees – obviously.

In times of crisis, it’s always good to look to our country’s founders for wisdom. On international affairs, they frequently warned of the perils of “foreign entanglements,” recommending that we observe a strict neutrality on overseas matters. They saw then – as we should see now – how dangerous it is to meddle in other countries’ affairs. Perhaps we should heed the words of George Washington: “The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is in extending our commercial relations to have with them as little political connection as possible… Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humour, or caprice?”

As so often happens, we’ve ignored our Founding Fathers’ warnings, with ghastly consequences.

Our primary consideration in foreign affairs always should be what’s best for American citizens. Involvement in furthering another nation’s goals – no matter how close an ally – and taking sides in international quarrels not directly affecting our security is not in our national interest. Indeed, our serving as Israel’s primary benefactor is the probable cause of this week’s horror.

Clearly, this flies in the face of the current cant that the United States is “the leader of the free world” and should be the beacon of “freedom and democracy.” But the nearest thing we have to a statement of national purpose is the preamble to the Constitution, which talks about forming a more perfect union, insuring domestic tranquility, and securing the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity – tasks large enough for any country to achieve without taking on the problems of other nations. Not a single word here about leading the free world or serving as a beacon for anyone else.

In reevaluating our Middle Eastern policy, the questions we should ask ourselves are these: Are we ready to undertake, on behalf of another nation’s interest, actions that will almost assuredly earn us the undying enmity of an already aggrieved people, one that has proven they will spare no expense to inflict maximum punishment on its enemies? Are we ready to endure further restrictions on our liberties and sacrifice more American lives in terrorist attacks like those we’ve witnessed this week because we’ve abandoned neutrality to take one side in a vicious ethnic dispute unrelated to our vital national interest? Are we once again willing to ignore our Founding Fathers’ urgent warnings and instead substitute the judgment of today’s leaders, hot with passion and thirsty for revenge, putting our family, friends, and neighbors at increasing risk?

I’m not sure I am.

(Copyright 2001 Catholic Exchange)

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