America’s greatest threat is its own foreign policy
While many Americans were enjoying time with family over the past week, the U.S. military was still heavily engaged in conflicts around the globe. That didn’t stop most Americans from having a good time. In fact, the idea that American soldiers are stationed in more than 100 countries has done little to deter daily life here at home. The past election cycle saw little mention of the ongoing wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and along the Pakistani border. Democrats, afraid to oppose Obama, were largely silent on troop withdrawals. Republicans, still supporting the unpopular wars, avoided discussing them. Both sides in Washington have shown over the past decade their desire to continue a failed policy of foreign intervention.
The empire is unsustainable, as the record deficits under the Bush and Obama administrations clearly show. Our greatest threat lies not in a cave thousands of miles away, but rather in the flaws of our foreign policy over the past century. The role of America as the world’s policeman has involved our country in nations on every inhabited continent. Rather than respect the sovereignty of foreign countries and provide defense here at home, the United States has adopted an aggressive stance that creates more enemies than it defeats. A simple history of U.S. policy in the Middle East reveals the insanity.
In 1953, the newly created CIA led an overthrow of Iran’s democratically elected leader and installed an American-friendly dictator. Naturally, this bred anti-American sentiment in Iran, which allowed for the Iranian Revolution in 1979. American hostages were taken in retaliation.
Fearing backlash from Iran’s new government, the CIA quickly acted to install a pro-American leader in the neighborhood. In 1979, Saddam Hussein became leader of Iraq and was quickly given support from the United States to begin the Iran-Iraq war. The war lasted nearly a decade and left Iraq more impoverished than before. Hussein soon attempted to invade Kuwait to restore Iraqi power, but was defeated handily by American forces. Our friend had quickly become an enemy. Sanctions and bombings against Iraq came during the Bush administration, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians and further strengthening Saddam’s rule in Iraq. President Bush’s invasion in 2003 finally saw the end of Saddam Hussein, but not of U.S. involvement.
Following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the CIA responded by arming Afghan fighters. The mujahideen were financed and armed during the Carter and Reagan Administrations, and the weapons they received are still in use today. Islamic radicalism was encouraged along with suicide bombings. After the Soviet withdrawal, the United States’ involvement in the region disappeared as well. The stage was set for Osama bin Laden and the Taliban to take control. Presently, the United States is back in Afghanistan, this time with 100,000 American men and women. Decades after helping “pro-American” friends, we are still paying to clean up the mess.
The United States’ history in the Third World, from Latin America to the Middle East, gives little reason to continue our flawed foreign policy. While our Congress has failed to formally declare war since the 1940s, the Executive Branch has enjoyed a massive expansion of power and no longer needs Congressional approval to send American men and women around the globe.
A side effect of war is that it leads to ever-growing powers in the hands of a few people. In the hands of self-interested leaders, this can lead to tyranny. Following 9/11, the Patriot Act expanded the powers of the Executive Branch in direct violation of the Constitution. The TSA protests last week were a result of the government’s expansion under the pretense of security.
Our foreign policy doesn’t make us safer; instead, it creates new enemies abroad and leads to blowback on Americans. Disrespecting the sovereignty of other nations leads to hatred of our country. Killing civilians leads to lifelong anti-American sentiment among their family members.
Our country’s debt continues to grow with little consideration for the billions wasted in overseas expenditures. As our government looks to expand wars into Pakistan and Iran and begin new conflicts in the Koreas, we need to stand up in opposition. Before more Americans come home in body bags from unnecessary conflicts, we need to demand accountability from our elected officials. Our country has shed too much blood and treasure on foreign adventures. It’s time to end the empire.