If you recall last year, I criticized the United
States' humanitarian gesture to send troops
to restore peace in the Balkan region. I reiterate those admonitions here with regard to Rwanda. I say again, I do not claim to be an expert on foreign affairs, but I have strong opinions about domestic stability and security, and I believe we should not join the Canadian-led mission to Zaire. We have enough to do at home.
The New York Times reported almost two weeks ago that President Clinton approved a plan to deploy several thousand troops to Zaire to aid the international effort in helping Rwandan refugees get back to their home land. Almost a million Hutu fled Rwanda when the Tutsi won control of the government. The international effort may involve as many as 15,000 troops from several countries, all led by the Canadian government.
In many respects, this international undertaking is long overdue. The Hutu and Tutsi people have been fighting for almost three years and hundreds of thousands of people have been slaughtered. This international gesture of caring and concern is too late by several hundred thousand dead Africans.
The fact that the efforts come now after the ravages of civil war have spilled over into Zaire, a neighboring city involved in international trade, makes the endeavor seem suspicious. Notwithstanding those concerns, the United States should supply only encouragement to the mission, not troops.
As I have said many times, there are many concerns we need to "rally the troops" around. One of them is the so-called "war on crime." There are several fronts to fight that war on, including K-12 education, college financial aid, and vocational and job training. For example, what about investigating the transportation corridors of drug traffickers in an effort to stop not only the dealers, but the suppliers, whoever or wherever they might be.
About a week ago, The New York Times reported that the refugees began their return to Rwanda. In response, the Clinton administration decided to reduce the number of troops to less than a thousand. The international effort would still be led by Canada, but the focus would now be on coordinating the flow of humanitarian aid into Rwanda, instead of keeping the peace in Zaire.
The Clinton administration has reduced the deployment of troops to good news, but the fact still remains that resources and money are being spent to aid others when those at home are in need. I am not here to advocate any nationalistic stance at the expense of a truly less fortunate people. I am aware we are one of the richest countries in the world and we are not in a civil war. But, I am saying that the United States must make as much effort at home as it does all over the world.
Although I am pleased that some stability has returned to the region, and I support the idea that the United States should lend a helping hand when it's needed, I am concerned that we extend ourselves on the international front more readily than on the domestic side. Imagine if we sought congressional approval to improve the quality of education in this country to meet international standards as quickly as we sought a United Nations resolution to send troops.
Suppose the United States echoed its resolve to provide health care to all Americans, both employed and unemployed, with as much fanfare as it does when it commits to stability in the Middle East. Let's consider deploying resources into the inner cities and the poor neighborhoods.
If we can gather troops all over this country, pick them up and move them to the other side of the world to help another country, we should be able to do the same at home. And we should.
David H. Benton is a third-year law student, member of the ASUA President's Cabinet and Arizona Students' Association board member. His column, 'Another Perspective,' appears Tuesdays.
David H. Benton