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Thursday, April 6, 2000
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 127

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U.S. foreign policy has flimsy history

Margaret Mitchell

Tonight at 7:00 p.m., I will turn in a paper that will comprise 25 percent of my final grade. The topic: America's foreign policy with Afghanistan.

I didn't know much about Afghanistan when I started this paper. In fact, I didn't even really know where in the world it is. I spent a long time reading books and surfing the Internet trying to find out enough information to write a semi-coherent paper. I got the paper written, but I got a good deal more in the process.

I, like the vast majority of you, have spent little time thinking about other countries except when the people "over there" do something that really pisses me off, or as a future vacation destination.

This class in American foreign policy has taught me that foreign relations are bigger than diplomacy, ambassadors, treaties and deals. By delving into the specifics of various international disputes and quagmires, I've gotten to see what, to me, is our biggest weakness as a nation: our wishy-washiness.

Before the Gulf War, the United States had been kowtowing to Iraq's Saddam Hussein. We'd ask for one thing and settle for something completely different, without even making a stink or saying a nasty word about it. Caving in for the sake of diplomacy alone is bad enough, but when it is done in favor of accomplishing some undefined goal, it's even worse.

My research about Afghanistan showed me that even after all the years and effort we put into expelling the invading Soviet troops, we still do not have a concrete policy toward that country.

Because of our failure to take a side, make a stand and step up to the plate, Afghanistan has become a virtual training ground for terrorists. But we still just wring our hands and wonder how it all happened.

"That's really too bad and all," I can hear you saying, "but what does this have to do with me?" I'm glad you asked that question. The point is, our government is not just failing in the international arena because it says one thing, says it means it and then does nothing to back it up -- it is repeating the same pattern at home. You don't need to look farther than Miami to see this.

It has now been five months since the beginning of the Elián González saga. In all that time, various governmental agencies, politicians and lawyers have jumped into the fray over the boy who has become a symbol of the ongoing U.S.-Cuba conflict. Whether the boy stays or goes is not even the issue anymore, but what our government has done -- or rather failed to do -- is.

The Attorney General and the Immigration and Naturalization Service say that González should be returned to his father and they will do what is necessary to reunite the two, yet González sits in Miami, surrounded by protesters and supporters. The government says it will deport Gonzalez, but he's still here. The government says it really means it, and everybody bursts out laughing.

On Tuesday night, the hordes of people outside the Miami residence broke through a police barricade and formed a human chain because they thought officials were coming to take the boy. They weren't, but what will happen when they really do?

Nobody knows exactly how this situation is going to end, but one thing is certain: It's going to end badly, and it's going to look worse on television. The resulting finger-pointing is going to last for months, or at least through elections in November.

Unless we say what we mean, mean what we say and do as we say, nobody is going to take us very seriously. And that is a very serious problem.

Mitchell, a junior political science major, 
can be reached at smeggie37@compuserve.com.

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