The current fiasco over Syria has highlighted the confusion and inconsistency of America’s foreign policy. Secretary of State John Kerry” attempts to explain each new twist and reversal in the failed policy of his President has made a laughing stock of this administration. Ironically, the general policy during the last six years has been a continuation of the George W. Bush policies that Obama campaigned against and promised to reverse. But today we are still enmeshed in the Middle East conflicts. The number of Americans killed in Afghanistan under Obama now exceed those killed under the Bush presidency. Camp Gitmo remains open, and the Muslim extremists are gradually taking over one more country after another. The subversion of relatively stable regimes in Libya and Egypt was supported by American force only to increase the influence of our enemies. The president’s recent threat to bomb Syrian government bases would have also helped the extremists take over one more nation. That such folly was avoided only by the intervention of Russia and Iran indicates the extent to which American leadership has fallen.
American liberals and most Democrats opposed the Iraq war because, among other things, they argued that nation building was not the responsibility of America. However, after WWII we did make decent and viable democracies out of Germany, Japan, and South Korea. Our resident generals were not limited by today’s politically correct “rules of engagement,” and working with industrious and educated populations, those three countries responded positively. However, we have discovered that the Muslim nations in the Middle East are a different kettle of fish–they are torn by religious fanaticism, divided by the mutual hatred of ancient tribal grievances, and segregated into diverse religious sects that are devoted to wiping out all other groups. And the populations are primarily uneducated and unemployed, living off the flow of oil money that can only be produced by the expertise and initiative of foreign companies and workers. If the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts did nothing, they at least showed that we cannot repeat the Japanese miracle in the Middle East. Unfortunately, the diplomats in Foggy Bottom, and the President, have not learned this fact. Why, when it is now so obvious, have they failed to see this point?
We are suffering from an excess of internationalism. This dates back to the defeat of isolationism during the last century when the original founding principle of America to avoid foreign entanglements was dominant. As with most “isms,” there seems to be no happy medium. The cure for today’s excessive foreign interventions is to seek such a happy medium, but the thousands of government employees in the State Department, and many of our political leaders, have nothing else to do and believe it necessary “to lead” by action and talk to justify their positions. The result is that America is always sticking its nose into the affairs of other nations. A recent egregious case was Obama’s lecturing Russia’s leader, Putin, about gay rights. So much for knowing how to win friends and influence people!
It is useful to recognize how the world has changed when devising foreign policy. The Cold War is over, world commerce is thriving and connecting more and more nations and their people, and we need not worry so much about so-called “strategic interests” in every corner of the globe. We do not have to “control” the Middle East to get oil because there are plenty of other sources and the nations there will want to sell it on the world market anyway. And, if China or Russia want to try their hand at controlling the Middle East, let them–after all that region is known as “the graveyard of civilizations.” Finally, if we were to disengage, there would be less reason for foreign people to hate us.
It is also useful to recognize that America’s multi-national corporations have been much more successful in “foreign affairs” than our government has been. You don’t read about it in the mainstream media, but Kellogg, Intel, Exxon, Microsoft, and hundreds of others have elaborate investments and manufacturing operations in virtually every country on earth, including some of the most unstable nations, and they are doing well. They build factories, employ local residents, follow their laws, pay taxes, and thrive. Why is it just our government that is always in trouble everywhere? Two reasons: 1.) Our government has no legitimate interest or reason to bother other nations, and 2.) Governments tend to do most things poorly, as overwhelminly proven by our recent efforts in the Middle East.
While it has been a noble idea for America to be a beacon of freedom, and to stand up for human rights, the best way to do that is by setting the example–not by preaching to others. Our objective should be to restore our own house to optimum financial order, eliminate corruption, fix our schools, and maintain our military might. The constant urge to intervene everywhere on earth has us overextended and earned the ill-will of many nations. The best medicine for our foreign policy would be to stop all foreign aid payments, return all our troops to America, completely close every endangered embassy, and let the State Department rolls be cut in half through attrition–then they could only do half the mischief they currently inflict on us.