I rise in opposition to this resolution, which I sincerely believe will do more harm than good. I do agree with the resolution’s condemnation of violence. But I am convinced that when we get involved in foreign conflicts and send strong messages, such as this resolution will, it ends up expanding the war rather than diminishing the conflict, and that ultimately comes back to haunt us.
Mr. Speaker, I follow a policy in foreign affairs called non-interventionism. I do not believe we are making the United States more secure when we involve ourselves in conflicts overseas. The Constitution really doesn’t authorize us to be the policemen of the world, much less to favor one side over another in foreign conflicts. It is very clear, reading this resolution objectively, that all the terrorists are on one side and all the victims and the innocents are on the other side. I find this unfair, particularly considering the significantly higher number of civilian casualties among Lebanese civilians. I would rather advocate neutrality rather than pick sides, which is what this resolution does.
Some would say that there is no room to talk about neutrality, as if neutrality were a crime. I would suggest there should be room for an open mind to consider another type of policy that may save American lives.
I was in Congress in the early 1980s when the U.S. Marines were sent in to Lebanon, and I came to the floor before they went, when they went, and before they were killed, arguing my case against getting involved in that conflict.
Ronald Reagan, when he sent the troops in, said he would never turn tail and run. Then, after the Marines were killed, he had a reassessment of the policy. When he wrote his autobiography a few years later after leaving the presidency, he wrote this:
“Perhaps we didn’t appreciate fully enough the depth of the hatred and the complexity of the problems that made the Middle East such a jungle. Perhaps the idea of a suicide car bomber committing mass murder to gain instant entry to Paradise was so foreign to our own values and consciousness that it did not create in us the concern for the Marines’ safety that it should have. In the weeks immediately after the bombing, I believed the last thing that we should do was turn tail and leave. Yet the irrationality of Middle Eastern politics forced us to rethink our policy there. If there would be some rethinking of policy before our men die, we would be a lot better off. If that policy had changed towards more of a neutral position and neutrality, those 241 Marines would be alive today.”
It is very easy to criticize the government of Lebanon for not doing more about Hezbollah. I object to terrorism committed by Hezbollah because I am a strong opponent of all violence on all sides. But I also object to the unreasonable accusations that the government of Lebanon has not done enough, when we realize that Israel occupied southern Lebanon for 18 years and was not able to neutralize Hezbollah.
There is nothing wrong with considering the fact that we don’t have to be involved in every single fight. That was the conclusion that Ronald Reagan came to, and he was not an enemy of Israel. He was a friend of Israel. But he concluded that that is a mess over there. Let me just repeat those words that he used. He said he came to the conclusion, “The irrationality of Middle Eastern politics forced us to rethink our policy there.” I believe these words are probably even more valid now than when they were written.