Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review Feb. 5, 2002 / 23 Shevat, 5762

Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Succumbing to the terrorist temptation -- PRESIDENT George W. Bush was breathing fire against North Korea, Iran, and Iraq in his State of the Union speech. Having smashed the al-Qaeda network in Afghanistan, he now claims to have spotted it in the Philippines. But in the latter case the U.S. risks dissipating its efforts on local criminals and insurgents while transnational terrorists continue to target Americans.

Al-Qaeda operatives are said to have been active in 40 countries, including the Philippines. Officials are now pointing to the Abu Sayyaf gang, which abducted three Americans last year, killing one. It is "an international terrorist group that poses as much of a threat to the U.S. as to the Philippines," charges the Pentagon's Pacific Command spokesman, Lt. Commander Jeff Davis.

In fact, Abu Sayyaf's ties to al-Qaeda are quite limited.

Its members are kidnappers who use politics as their public cover.

The band has never targeted Americans. Most of its victims are Filipinos. Abu Sayyaf has neither the interest nor the capability to operate in the U.S.

Indeed, the bandits are now thought to number under 100.

Manila has so far failed to prevail because of the inhospitable terrain, a dense jungle, and the government's incompetence.

Indeed, Abu Sayyaf has armed itself with American-made weapons captured from the Filipino military.

Nevertheless, Washington has proffered $92 million in military aid and 660 military advisers. Although Manila rejected combat forces because the Philippine constitution prohibits operations by foreign troops on its soil, the Americans are conducting maneuvers with Filipino soldiers and will be armed and authorized to defend themselves in the field.

Washington's assistance might help, but only serious economic and political reform will enable Manila to deal effectively with Abu Sayyaf, as well as more serious Islamic insurgencies elsewhere. Corruption is rife, the economy remains statist and sclerotic, and the political system lacks legitimacy.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo took power in a soft coup d'etat last year. The temptation to intervene is obvious, given the plight of Martin and Gracia Burnham, the missionary couple who've spent months in Abu Sayyaf captivity.

Opines Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.), who represents the Burnhams: "After Afghanistan, this is the next priority because there are Americans at risk." Those advocating intervention emphasize empathy, not security. Victorino Matus argues in the Weekly Standard: "It is -- or should be -- absolutely imperative for the United States to do whatever it takes to free its own people." Similarly, Rep. Tiahrt told Matus, "If it were for me, and I'm sure if it were for you, as an American, you'd hope America would come to your rescue." Of course. What American wouldn't want the calvary to ride to the rescue if he or she was in trouble? Where a foreign government acts lawlessly, as did Iran when it held the American embassy staff hostage, Washington is automatically involved. But not so in more general human rights cases.

Last fall, President George W. Bush demanded that the Taliban not only surrender bin Laden, but also release two American Christians charged with proselytizing. Diplomatic and public pressure to encourage respect for human rights is assuredly a good thing, but not military action to enforce the same.

Intervention is usually least appropriate when the abuses are committed by unofficial forces, whether criminal or political. Only the local government is likely to be able to resolve the broader issues which almost always are present.

Unfortunately, even seemingly effective U.S. intervention risks entangling Washington in insoluble conflicts. For instance, joining the campaign against Abu Sayyaf means joining a bitter struggle with no relevance to American security.

Muslim dissatisfaction in this largely Catholic country goes back a century, to U.S. colonial rule. The resulting bloodshed, though tragic, has never threatened Manila's stability, let alone America's security.

Moreover, Washington's involvement inevitably internationalizes the issue. Abu Sayyaf spokesman Abu Sabaya explains: "One American equals 10 Europeans." In fact, some groups might desire U.S. intervention.

Grabbing American citizens will then cause Washington to play into their hands.

The Burnhams -- and others, like Clark Bowers, recently kidnapped by an Afghan warlord while attempting to deliver medical supplies -- are good people doing good work. But harsh as it may seem, those who venture overseas in a dangerous world must bear the risks of doing so.

A policy of rescue was carried to inanity in World War I.

President Woodrow Wilson demanded that Germany respect the right of U.S. citizens to travel on armed merchantmen of a belligerent power carrying munitions through a war zone. The fact that some Americans were stupid enough to book passage on British ships did not warrant going to war with Germany.

With terrorism likely to remain a serious threat for years to come, Washington must retain its focus on transnational groups that threaten America. The U.S. should not attempt to eradicate banditry the world over.

JWR contributor Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. Comment by clicking here.


01/29/02: Democrats for what?
01/22/02: The Iraqi question
01/14/02: Profiling frequent flyers
01/08/02: Trade, not aid
01/02/02: Treason by any other name
12/26/01: Preserving freedom in an unfree world
12/17/01: Dealing with terrorism's aftermath
12/10/01: Emerging friendships?
12/04/01: Uncle Sam: Insurer of last resort
11/28/01: Expanding the circle of trade
11/20/01: Free to be stupid
11/13/01: The meaning of compassion
11/07/01: Patriotic scoundrels
10/30/01: The coming postal raid
10/16/01: First, do no harm
10/12/01: Good news from a suffering land
10/04/01: Defending whom?
09/25/01: The wrong solution to the wrong problem
09/21/01: The price of terrorism
08/28/01: Uncle Sam's retirement scam
08/21/01: Canberra's quaint naivete
08/14/01: Uncle Sam's false fuel economy
08/08/01: The Clinton administration in drag
07/31/01: The high cost of government
07/24/01: Kill the campaign reform illusion
07/17/01: Do as I say, not as I do
07/11/01: Lawyers at play
07/05/01: Western blundering, Macedonian disaster
06/26/01: How best to honor Bill Clinton?
06/19/01: A maturing Europe?
06/15/01: Tell Beijing to mind its own business
06/06/01: Ukraine's boiling cauldron
05/31/01: Protecting privacy from Uncle Sam
05/22/01: America's Balkan quagmire
05/09/01: The Taiwanese flash point
05/01/01: Globalization serves the world's poor
04/24/01: Who's cheating whom?
04/10/01: The NCAA scam
04/03/01: Balkan stupidities
03/27/01: McCain doesn't want a 'risk for our country'
03/20/01: Dubious Korean alliances
03/06/01: Coercive patriotism
02/27/01: Bombing without end
02/20/01: A dose of misplaced outrage
02/13/01: Psst: Tax cuts for taxpayers. Pass-it-on
02/06/01: Bridging the unbridgeable gap
01/23/01: Left-wing demagoguery
01/16/01: The drug war problem
01/10/01: Politics and trade
01/03/01: Hope for liberty?
12/27/00: The debris of war
12/19/00: What's the rule of law for?
12/15/00: Ending silicone breast implant saga
12/05/00: Election may yield victor, but there are no winners
11/21/00: A Bush presidential mandate?
11/07/00: Exprienced Gore? Yeah, right
11/01/00: Interventionist follies
10/17/00: America's brightening prospects in Ukraine
10/11/00: GOP budget scandals
10/03/00: How a pharmaceutical 'crisis' was created
09/27/00: Clinton's empathy has helped nobody
09/13/00: AlGore's risky budget policies
09/05/00: Military readiness and Korean commitments
08/29/00: Let sleeping hypocrites lie
08/21/00: Targeting a journalistic pariah
08/15/00: European garrison for Kosovo?
08/08/00: Journalistic cleansing at the Boston Globe
08/04/00: Junk science on trial
06/22/00: Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty
06/15/00: The end of U.N. peacekeeping
06/07/00: The Clinton regulatory miasma
06/01/00: Administration stupidity, congressional cowardice
05/25/00: The silence of the international community
05/18/00: Protecting the next generation

05/11/00: Freer trade with China will advance human rights

05/04/00: How not to save the Constitution

04/28/00: American tripwire in Korea long ago disappeared: Why are we still involved?

04/18/00: Clinton administration believes the IRS is too gentle, wants more auditors

© 2002, Copley News Service