Kashmeri: Hippocratic Oath

Aug 1, 2013

Before beginning their medical practice doctors take the Hippocratic Oath which includes the famous injunction to first do no harm. I’m beginning to think it might not be a bad idea to add a version of the Hippocratic Oath to the swearing in of incoming politicians.

Something like: ...I solemnly swear that I will not support American intervention in a foreign country unless I am convinced it will first do no harm.”

United States involvement in Egypt is a good case in point.

Faced with rising hostility to its first ever elected President the Egyptian military gave him two days to work out a political arrangement with the opposition.

Parenthetically, isn’t it laughable to think political problems in a one year old democracy can be resolved in two days when in America’s 200 year old republic Democrats and Republicans haven’t been able to see eye to eye for a decade!

When Mr. Morsi, the duly elected Egyptian President, couldn’t meet the two day deadline the Generals threw him in jail and nixed Egypt’s nascent democracy.

The American reaction must have been ever so predictable to the Egyptians who have seen the United States support authoritarian regimes over democracy in the Middle East for decades.

The Obama Administration still can’t bring itself to call the overthrow of President Morsi a 'coup' even after last weekend’s killing by the military of scores of Egyptians protesting the overthrow of their elected government. Under U.S. laws a coup would force America to cut the $1.5 billion in aid to Egypt - aid that America believes is necessary to influence the outcome.

I believe this argument is flawed to begin with. The U.S. taxpayer shells out around 1.5 billion dollars in mostly military aid to the Egyptians. But that’s a small fraction of Egypt’s $230 billion Gross Domestic Product. If money alone could influence Egyptians that prize would go to Kuwait, Qatar, and Abu Dhabi who together sent $12 billion dollars to Egypt just a few days ago. Now that’s serious money.

The truth is there is little if anything U.S. involvement can do to influence events in Egypt. American aid didn’t prevent Egypt’s infant democracy from being squashed by its military and it won’t force the military to go back to its barracks and restore its elected leader.

Americans of all people should know creating a country is not easy and foreign involvement only makes matters worse.

Which is why I’m proposing a foreign policy version of the Hippocratic Oath for American politicians. It might just save our shaky foreign policy - and a lot of taxpayer dollars to boot.