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June 16, 2008

Americans on the Homefront Pay for U.S. Mistakes Abroad


Here is a quick lesson in how interconnected things are: Last week’s surge in oil prices was caused, in part, by a Pakistani-based arms smuggling ring.


The impact of American foreign policy on domestic affairs isn’t always entirely appreciated.


Secured by two oceans, the idea that what happens in foreign places stays in foreign places is deeply embedded in American thinking. It is at the root of the idea that we must fight our enemies in their homes rather than on our own shores.


Last week, however, one of the things credited for causing the price of oil to spike was uneasiness in the market because Israel was rattling its saber especially loud over Iran’s nuclear weapons program.


Over last weekend came reports that, as late as 2003, Iran was working with an arms smuggling group headed by the man credited as the father of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. A hard drive discovered by investigators was very recently cracked, and among the information believed shared with the Iranians were the blueprints for a nuclear bomb small and compact enough that it could conceivably be loaded into a ballistic missile. This was happening, mind you, right about the time that American arms inspectors were learning that Iraq’s nuclear program consisted of some crude drawings and bits of junk buried in someone’s back yard.


The Iranians have just such a missile, a copy of the North Korean design. Although the missile doesn’t have the juice to reach the American mainland, it could easily hit Israel.


This could explain Israel’s saber-rattling, which in turn prompted oil prices to go up. Most everyone knows the impact of that in the lives of ordinary Americans already – higher gasoline prices are prompting people to choose between gasoline and food.


It could very well get worse. Over the weekend, Afghani president Hamid Karzai did some saber rattling of his own – toward Pakistan. He threatened to send Afghan soldiers into the Pakistani frontier to fight the elements of the Taliban that launch cross-border raids over the weekend.


The threat came as Pakistan is hoping to find peace with the militants, including those responsible for last year’s assassination of Benazir Bhutto.


This highlights the great danger of a nuclear-armed Pakistan, not that the state would use the weapons against its neighbor and chief nemesis India, but that it is a volatile nation. Considering that the chief architect of Pakistan’s nuclear program sold his secrets to dangerous regimes, it’s not hard to figure where disaster could result from political turmoil.


With American forces tied up in Iraq, despite the president’s warning, not all options are on the table. An American military strike, which would be made without adequate follow-up (i.e. invasion) forces, is unlikely to destroy Iran’s nuclear weapons program, which is dispersed around the country.


Sanctions are also unlikely to help a great deal, since the pain felt by those is almost universally felt by the governed rather those who govern.


That leaves diplomacy, although it would be a rare thing indeed to convince a nation that seeks regional influence to willingly abandon a program designed to achieve that.


Last week, the president said that it might take 40 years to discern whether the invasion was a success. From the standpoint of nuclear proliferation and Iran, the failure of our invasion is readily apparent right now. It’s tied our hands in regard to a critical issue involving a nation that helps slake the world’s thirst for oil.


For average Americans, that means a couple of rare treats. The first is being in a unique position to watch the knife get twisted in our bodies. That’s especially useful for knowing the extent of the damage.


The second is the realization that average Americans get to pay for our misadventure in Iraq twice – once through taxes and the second as the gas pump.


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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