In case the reports of massive ethnic cleansing in Kosovo were not enough to turn your stomach, seeing the bruised faces of captured American servicemen on Serbian TV ought to do the trick. In response to this outrage, President Clinton issued a stern warning to the government of Yugoslavia, declaring that “The United States takes care of its own.”

The brutal irony of this oft-quoted sound bite is that if the U.S. were renowned for “taking care of its own,” it would not have involved its fighting men in this conflict — and staff sergeants Ramirez and Stone, and specialist Gonzales would not have been captured in the first place.

For what kind of foreign policy is the United States renowned? Quite simply: refusing to protect its own interests and people and sacrificing these same interests and people for everything else. The bombing of Yugoslavia is just the latest example of a series of foreign policy actions dedicated to the proposition that America does not care for its own.

When the U.S. sent its troops to be butchered in the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia, it was not taking care of its own.

When the U.S. attempted to “moderate” relations with Iran — a country that openly supports anti-American terrorist groups and is suspected of orchestrating the recent bombing of U.S. barracks in Saudi Arabia — it was not taking care of its own.

When the U.S. capitulated time and time again to the Libyan government, and thus the terrorists who blew up Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, remained at large in Libya for more than a decade, it was not taking care of its own.

When the U.S. continually granted trade favors to China, a brutal dictatorship threatening U.S. interests, including suspected nuclear espionage at Los Alamos, it was not taking care of its own.

When the U.S. sent troops to “keep the peace” in Haiti, but then sent the Baltimore Orioles to play in Cuba in spite of protests by thousands of Cuban Americans, it was not taking care of its own.

When the U.S. sent a paltry few cruise missiles to blow up tents in Afghanistan as its only response to Osama bin Laden’s terrorist attacks at U.S embassies in Africa, it was not taking care of its own.

Though it now appears that the American POWs may be released, their unnecessary and unacceptable ordeal portends a grim future for Americans around the globe. In case there is a nation left on Earth that still thinks that the U.S. takes care of its own, the Yugoslav crisis will forever erase this impression. If anything, the crisis in Yugoslavia will only make them realize that there are plenty of Americans waiting to become victims of capture and terrorism.

The voices who favor bombing Yugoslavia — and who favor sending ground troops to “finish” the job — argue that it is necessary to avert a major humanitarian crisis. Others argue that full-scale intervention is necessary to preserve the credibility of U.S. foreign policy. Observe that both of these goals — the protection of the brutalized Kosovars or the preservation of the U.S. image in the eyes of other countries — are to be achieved at the cost of American money and lives, without benefiting any proper American interest in the least.

Contrary to the arguments by those pushing for U.S. intervention, to refrain from sending our troops is not to sanction the atrocities committed by the Serbs. On the contrary, to refrain from senselessly sacrificing the best of America’s men is to reassert a proper foreign policy — one dedicated to protecting the rights of American citizens. If only the American government were to make that principle its own consistent moral compass — in foreign and domestic policy — our example would stand as a beacon to a stormy world. And that is the best that we can and should ever hope to offer.

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Bob Baker

Bob Baker is a writer for Capitalism Magazine.

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