Student Life | The independent newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis since 1878

Thanks for the help, Europe

For the past two decades, American foreign policy has reflected Cold War-era thinking. From the 1950s through the 1980s, much of what America did abroad was based on the notion of containing Communism: Korea, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Chile and several other countries, for better or for worse, were all on the receiving end of America’s policy of containment.

This policy had notable successes and failures, but it had the unfortunate side effect of ingraining the idea in many Americans that we are meant to police the world. It may have been a good notion when we thought the Soviet Union was threatening to turn the world into a totalitarian radioactive wasteland, but in 1991 that excuse became untenable. Since then, however, America has intervened in Iraq twice, Afghanistan (again!), Kosovo and Libya, to name a few. Many of these interventions have been unnecessary, and the primary American conflict of the 21st century, the one in Iraq, has contributed to our current financial meltdown.

An equally ruinous practice has developed alongside this one; European nations have, as a general rule, taken a backseat to American-instigated conflicts. This probably has roots in the post-World War II era, when much of their continent was smoldering ash. These days, though, I feel there is no need for the United States to continue taking the leading role in ill-guided foreign affairs.

That’s why it’s a relief that now, after decades of following in American footsteps, European countries are finally taking the initiative. In Libya, the United States made it clear from the beginning that it would hand over command to an international body, NATO, and on April 4, all American forces were removed from active duty and placed on reserve. Now, it is Britain and France who are the driving forces behind NATO operations in Libya. Even when America was attacking Gadhafi’s strongholds with Tomahawk missiles and F-15s—the British, incidentally, fired several rockets of their own—both Europeans and Americans were pushing for the ousting of Gadhafi. France has recognized the Opposition as the legal government of Libya and declared that its mission was to remove Gadhafi from power.

And recently, France responded to calls to aid the people of the Ivory Coast against the president, who, after losing the most recent election, refused to give up power and began killing citizens opposing him. It was French peacekeeping troops who fired on the Ivory Coast’s presidential palace. Europe, it seems, is taking over some of what many Americans regarded as our role in the world.

These recent actions are radically different from what has seemed to be the norm. For the past 70 years, America has been leading the international charge against Communists and dictators, sometimes unilaterally. We are tired of intervening.

I think this should be the beginning of a new trend. If polls are remotely indicative of American political views, our actions in Libya are opposed by most of the country. Those views need to continue. After two incredibly costly wars, (one of which many Americans are convinced began under false pretense) Americans are drained. If we no longer support interminable campaigns that result in no tangible benefits and only leave the nation broke, we should be pleased that Europe is now stepping in as a global police force. After decades of an expensive Cold War, and the continuation of interventionist policies in subsequent years, we’re ready to take a break.

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  • royhobbs says:

    Agree with your sentiment, but Libya is not a new trend. In fact, the only new trend coming out of this new war is that the United States can now pre-emptively go to war with any country that might be a threat to some other group of people without receiving permission from the American people. The reasoning behind the Libyan war is a$$ backwards, worse than justification for invasion of Iraq (which was at least labeled as a threat to the U.S.), and has grossly expanded the President’s powers beyond anything W. did.

    There’s no reason to be optimistic about this war.

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Student Life | The independent newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis since 1878