By: Joe Lazauskas
Ever since the Declaration of Independence was signed, Americans have been debating interventionist vs. isolationist principles. Should we be like G-Unit and band together with other powers to get involved in other people’s beef (interventionist), or go the route of pre-Beyonce Jay-Z and just look out for ourselves (isolationist)?
By the late 1930s, isolationist principles were all the rage. Memories of the 117,465 Americans killed during World War I burned bright in Americans’ minds, and the country was still feeling the colossal toll of the Great Depression. Many in Congress believed that arms manufacturers and bankers had lobbied for US involvement in World War I for business reasons, and following the war, Congress rejected an invitation to join the League of Nations, an early precursor to the UN.
That all changed on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and the United States entered World War II. The United States’ starring role in defeating Hitler and preserving liberty for countless nations made interventionist principles’ popularity skyrocket. As the Cold War began, interventionism became necessary to wrestle control of the globe away from the Soviet Union.
Following World War II, the United Nations was formed to ensure peace and security across the globe. In the UN, power is largely consolidated in The Security Council, which includes five permanent members–China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States—that hold the power to veto any significant plans of action that The Security Council comes up with. Most often, The Security Council deals with nations that threaten world security or commit humanitarian offenses through sanctions blocking aid and trade, in an effort to land serious economic blows.
In the nearly 70 years since World War II, interventionist principles haven’t gone out of style, and remain more popular in American politics than Carly Rae Jepsen and Taylor Swift’s love child.
+What kind of foreign intervention are we involved in?
The US spends nearly $45 billion in foreign aid each year, and currently finds itself in quite a few conflicts abroad. Most prominently, of course, are the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The way in Iraq has ended and the war in Afghanistan is winding down, bolstered by a bold call to authorize a Navy SEAL raid of a Pakistani compound to kill Osama Bin Laden. The raid was so spectacular that it inspired an upcoming Hollywood movie, which unfortunately does not star Samuel L. Jackson as President Obama.
The war in Afghanistan will not end until 2014 at the earliest, but things in Afghanistan are much rosier than three and a half years ago, when many felt that we were losing the war. In May, President Obama spoke to the American people from Afghanistan and declared the defeat of Al Qaeda “within our reach.” Overall, insurgent attacks in Afghanistan dropped last year for the first time in five years, and President Obama’s aggressive drone strikes against top Al Qaeda leaders have damaged the terrorist group’s chain of command. Still, the Defense Department warns that corruption remains rampant in the country, and violence in Afghanistan’s southern region of Kandahar has increased.
The 90,000 US troops and 40,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan are expected to end combat operations at the end of 2014, when the war turns 13 years old.
President Obama, for his part, has already pledged a generous gift of advisers, aid and security support to Afghanistan after the combat troops leave.
The Middle East. There’s more wild stuff going on in the Middle East than in the new season of Jersey Shore.
Last year, a massive revolution in Egypt ended the 30-year dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak. In June, Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood Party was elected President, which sparked American concern that the staunchly-Islamist party would turn confrontational towards the US and Israel. The Muslim Brotherhood’s slogan is “Islam is the solution,” and the party is pushing for Islamic Shariah law to be the basis for the country’s new constitution and legal system.
Much more worrisome for the US are developments in Iran. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for the collapse and destruction of Israel and has made similar threats against the US. The international community has tried to stop Iran’s nuclear program through diplomacy and sanctions for the past 15 years. Though nuclear experts don’t think that Iran is close to developing a nuclear weapon, Israel warns that Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon is imminent.
According to the New York Times, Israel is preparing a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities as early as this fall. US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that the United States would stand with Israel if Iran has developed a nuclear weapon, though he vowed to do everything to avoid a military confrontation.
Meanwhile, President Obama ordered waves of successful cyber-attacks against Iran’s nuclear facilities and is focusing on fortifying the US’s cyber-security to defend against retaliation.
+So has President Obama done a good job when it comes to Foreign Policy?
Most Americans seem to think so. It was considered his biggest weakness coming into the 2008 election, but it’s now his biggest strength. A recent poll found that nearly two-thirds of the country approves of his handling of terrorism. Others feel that the President hasn’t made good on a lot of his campaign promises though.
+And what does Governor Romney think about all this foreign policy stuff?
Governor Romney has criticized President Obama for “apologizing for America” and going soft on Iran. Governor Romney and other top Republicans have criticized President Obama for not understanding “American exceptionalism” and getting adequately involved in the conflicts with Iran and in Syria. Governor Romney’s white paper on foreign policy paints a picture of fast-growing, perilous threats from China and the Islamic world and calls on “America’s strength” to combat these threats. He has not, however, offered specific policies on how the country would fund and afford these increased, aggressive efforts to combat foreign threats.
+What can I do?
We’re not gonna lie- foreign policy is super complicated and always changing. Do your best to keep up with current events. To learn more about Governor Romney’s positions, give his white paper a read and visit his campaign page on National Defense. To learn more about President Obama’s plan, click here.