I was perusing the news today while on a dinner break at work and stumbled upon this article about how India was poised to attack Pakistan over the recent terror attacks in Mumbai. I will link to it below. Apparently the US and Britain talked them off the ledge. But that got me thinking about the discussions that we have had on this blog about the United States constantly being involved in the affairs of other nations. Furthermore I was wondering how we can define the line that our country should not be allowed to cross….
So we have all heard the ramblings of the extremist muslims who hate that the US gets their hands into the affairs of the Middle East, and the rest of the world for that matter. All the anti-war folks are usually quick to point out the multitude of incidents where the US has put their nose where it doesn’t belong. Ron Paul, famous for his strict policy of nonintervention, has made clear that there should be no time when US troops are deployed to enforce US will.
But what I don’t hear much of is all of the things that the US does right with its foreign policy. Do we simply live in a country where we cannot acknowledge that deep down, however misguided, most of the time we are a country that tries to do the right thing. I understand that we also sometimes do not try to do the right thing. But you can bet we hear about that stuff all the time.
In the instance mentioned above we stopped two Nuclear powers from having a backyard brawl that may have erupted into World War III. Was it any of our business? Yes and No. No because if India and Pakistan want to blow themselves up what do we care? Yes because an escalation of tensions between two nuclear powers is bad for everyone. And this is not the first time we have stopped the fight rather than starting it.
How many times have we stopped Israel from unleashing on the middle eastern neighbors who constantly threaten and harass them? 30? 40? more? How about North Korea, who in desperation would love to roll south and re-join the peninsula? I could come up with literally dozens and dozens of instances such as these where the US has been the instrument for peace rather than war.
But we also find that the line starts to get muddled. In Bosnia, we saw genocide and stepped in to act militarily. In Panama and Grenada we stopped tyranny by flexing military muscle. In Somalia, we acted militarily to stop local warlords from stealing UN food shipments. In the Iraq/Iran war we provided military weaponry. You see where I am going here…. we don’t seem to know where to draw the line between helping the world and making it worse. In most of these instances we started out with a noble premise, only to overstep our bounds.
Let’s take, for example, Somalia. Corrupt warlords were stealing the food that the world sent to a starving nation. We sent the military to protect the food. Protection eventually became initiation of force when we began seeking out and capturing the warlords responsible. It was the only way we could see for the military to leave, eliminate the problem so the people could feed themselves after we leave. And it culminated in a giant battle on October 3, 1993 that was chaos epitomized. See our intention was good. And to all those who say we only fight for our benefit, I submit to you that there is nothing in Somalia that we were after. So where did we go wrong?
So there is the quandary. I do believe that the United States is right to intervene politically in order to broker peace. But we cannot be blind to the fact that we broker peace so well because we conduct war so well. When my dad said “knock it off you two” I knew implicitly that he meant “or I am going to come in and whip both of you”. So that threat of violence makes us a very powerful negotiator in world affairs. I am OK with our wielding that power. No country on earth attacks us because of the might we wield.
But where do we draw the line? Do we never, ever initiate violence? Do we ask Bosnia to stop the Genocide please and that is the extent of our involvement? When they tell us to go to hell, do we say “OK”, and then ignore what is happening, knowing we have the power to stop innocents from being wiped out?
Take the Somalia example. Many of you are thinking we went wrong when we started the initiating violence part of capturing warlords. But to simply not take that step would have meant literally having five times the number of troops there to ensure convoys weren’t attacked. And it would have meant that we had to stay there doing that job for eternity, because the warlords weren’t going to go away on their own. Others will say we should not have sent troops in the first place to guard food convoys, but that means we are choosing to let the people starve at the hands of the warlords.
So this is what I want to discuss with all of you. Where do we draw the line? Do we say that anything outside of our borders is not our right to physically intervene in? Do we set strict rules for when we can and cannot physically intervene? Or do we recognize our powerful position and attempt to use it in any way possible to make the world a better place? What should be our role in the world? And before you say none think about some of the things that can happen in the world if they aren’t nipped in the bud early. India and Pakistan starting World War III is just one example of how things can spin out of control and affect us directly.
So what say you all? Tell me my new foreign policy position. And be rational!