Aya Saed | Arming America


Seeds of Reason | The United States needs to change its weapon of choice


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Aya Saed
Seeds of Reason

Photo by Aya Saed


Attacking Pakistanis with drones. Turning a blind eye on Syrians. Calling the Chinese cheaters. Oh, and how could I forget, the United States’ impending marriage with Israel, following our long-distance relationship.

Here’s America’s bipartisan foreign policy in a nutshell.

During the final presidential debate on Monday, Gov. Romney was caught in the act:

“I felt the same as the president did” and “I support [his actions] entirely,” he said.

There’s something fundamentally wrong with a foreign policy debate in which both candidates seemingly agree on everything. The only major difference between Romney and President Obama’s strategy concerns the defense budget. Romney wants to increase military spending by $2 trillion over 10 years. That’s because a defense budget that exceeds that of China, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, Japan, Saudi Arabia, India, Germany, Brazil and Italy combined is simply not enough.

Although Romney prides himself on being a fiscal conservative who wants to limit the role of government, this mentality seems to apply only domestically.

When dealing with the rest of the world, it’s a free for all.

Under Obama, American foreign policy hasn’t changed from the Bush era. We’ve moved from an ostensible oppression of other nations to doing it in a more clandestine fashion. As voters focus on domestic issues, Obama and Romney have been given free rein to pursue foreign policy agendas that are discriminatory at best.

Case in point: Pakistan.

President Obama has increased the use of drones in Pakistan, increasing the number of casualties to four times that of the Bush administration. We killed civilians and somehow expected to garner allies.

Drones are anything but precise tools of “targeted killing,” according to a recent report by New York and Stanford universities. The United States’ decision to categorize all military-age men as combatants has done nothing but unleash hell on people from the North Waziristan region of Pakistan, which is adjacent to Afghanistan.

Between June 2004 and September this year, drone strikes have killed between 2,562 and 3,325 people in Pakistan, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. This grotesque killing machine has killed between 474 and 881 civilians, 176 of which were children. These figures do not include an additional 1,228 to 1,362 who were injured.

Our radical strategy has helped to mobilize radical Islamists. According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, 74 percent of Pakistanis call America an enemy. What a shocker.

In the words of my friend, College senior Quratul-Ann Malik, who is a Pakistani-American: “An orphan whose parents have been killed in drone attacks will grow up with a mentality aimed at revenge.”

“If American foreign policy’s purpose is to create a safer and more peaceful America and world, then this isn’t the way,” she said. “We’re creating a generation in Pakistan whose only purpose in life is revenge.”

Yet over 59 percent of Pakistanis wish to diminish the Taliban’s influence. An overwhelming majority wish to live in a democracy and over 60 percent see al Qaeda as threat, according to the United States Institute of Peace.

Perhaps our government should consider whether it wants to alienate the majority of Pakistanis or mobilize them toward a mutual goal of suppressing the Taliban.

These are challenging times that demand nuanced answers. We must start at home by partnering with experts on the Middle East and Muslim-Americans who can act as ambassadors. We need to expand exchange programs and encourage Pakistani-Americans to become integral members of our society.

In order for these efforts to be sustainable and effective, we must cooperate internationally.

Rather than killing Muslim civilians and children under a facade of liberation, we should empower these communities. Let us not isolate Muslim-Americans, or Pakistani-Americans — they are our greatest weapon.

Aya Saed is a College senior from Washington, D.C. Her email address is saed.aya@gmail.com. “Seeds of Reason” appears every other Friday. Follow her on Twitter @_AyaS

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