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Visionary change needed in U.S. foreign policy

It’s perplexing to hear President Obama, senior staff, military officials and members of Congress repeatedly say there is no military solution to the ISIS crisis at the same time the president initiates or escalates a major military operation against that entity in Iraq and Syria.

Limiting American engagement to airborne attacks does not change the character of what we are doing. Multiple aircraft, drones and missiles delivering tons of ordnance on people and physical targets are military actions designed to support non-American ground forces in a mission to drive ISIS from territory it occupies in Iraq and Syria.

Using Mr. Obama’s terms, this is a policy to “degrade” and “destroy” ISIS. That is a military solution to the crisis.

Military action, however, cannot defeat an idea, a belief, a philosophy. And the ISIS followers believe anyone or any nation who doesn’t accept its evil tenets is the unbeliever and a heathen to be destroyed. Among Westerners, the United States is the most hated and defiled, not just by ISIS but by all radical Muslims.

Without being apologists for extremists, Americans must accept at least some responsibility for the contempt in which we are held if we objectively examine our own governmental policies and actions and put ourselves in the shoes of those nations affected by them. Only a few examples, limited to the Middle East, need be cited.

Supported by the U. S. government and its influence with area rulers, some dictatorial and corrupt, American oil companies have largely controlled petroleum production in the Persian Gulf and made billions of dollars since the 1930s. Maintaining this position has been deemed a vital national interest.

In 1953, the United States and British intelligence agencies engineered a coup that returned Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, the unelected ruler of Iran from 1941-1979, to power. He was overthrown in 1979 by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the spiritual leader of the Islamic revolution. The Shah fled, and his later arrival in the United States led to the takeover of the American Embassy in Tehran.

The invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, undoubtedly, are the greatest source of Middle East antipathy toward the United States. The United States abolished the Iraqi institutions of government and disbanded the military. Muslims see us as leading a war on Islam, not as liberator of Iraqis from the tyranny of the Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein.

The continuation of such intrusions and destroying ISIS will only increase the contempt with which Americans are held. Another Islamic terrorist group will succeed ISIS, and so it will go. Instead, the United States must embark on a long-term commitment, a new paradigm of non-interference in the Middle East, to overcome and reverse the idea of America as the enemy. It will take decades, while maintaining military strength and its limited use, to affect such a monumental change, but it must begin.

In fact, non-interference but not withdrawal from international leadership, would be a good United States foreign policy worldwide.

Eliminating the underlying reasons for the dislike and hatred of our country would not be appeasement but a visionary change in America’s best interest. It would show strength, not weakness.

Bo Statham is a retired lawyer, congressional aide and businessman. He lives in Gardnerville and can be reached at bostatham@me.com.