Foreign intervention strays from core beliefs
In Our Opinion
When in the last 50 years has the intervention of the United States done a country good?
It’s a difficult question to answer. After all, foreign policy should be about developing and maintaining relations through diplomacy, not through the barrel of a gun or a cruise missile.
Since 1964, the U.S. has been involved militarily in a number of areas. We’ve had boots on the ground in Vietnam, Grenada, Lebanon, Iraq (twice) and Afghanistan. We’ve bombed targets in Laos, Cambodia, Libya and Serbia.
Maybe there are a couple success stories in there. Lebanon and the Balkans have been relatively stable, especially the latter since the U.S. intervened in the 1990s. And we did preserve Grenada for tourism.
But the other areas have been dismal failures, areas where we’ve sacrificed our blood and our treasure for results that fell short of stated goals, especially the Middle and Near East.
According to Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies’ project “Cost of War,” the price tag for our interventions into Iraq and Afghanistan will likely range from $3.7 trillion to $4.4 trillion, once costs such as veterans’ care are taken into account. There will be an even larger cost for the country to pay with regards to financing these two wars, which weren’t done as past conflicts through increased taxes and the selling of war bonds but through borrowing money and the admonition by former President George W. Bush to go out and spend.
There’s also the other side of the cost coin to consider — the price paid by the citizens of the countries where we intervened with tens of thousands of lives lost, billions and billions of dollars in damage. How this will be calculated remains to be seen.
And what have we gained? The weapons of mass destruction alleged to be possessed by former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein — the premise for invading — turned out to be non-existent.
Granted, the reasons for going into Afghanistan were valid after the attacks of Sept. 11, and we pushed Al-Qaeda and the Taliban out of Afghanistan, but into Pakistan and other neighboring countries. Al-Qaeda was weakened on one front, but religious extremism is coming back in even more deadly forms, such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) that is now consuming large swaths of both countries.
Do we really know what we’re doing in this region? We declared Shiite-dominated Iran a terrorist nation after they deposed U.S.-backed dictator Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in 1979, but now support the Shiite government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki.
We support Sunni Muslim influenced monarchs in Saudi Arabia and other Arabian Peninsula countries, but are negotiating with Iran for their help in opposing the Sunni-influencesd ISIS. In Egypt, we supported the uprising of 2012, but opposed the government that the grassroots rebellion produced.
Often we proclaim that a main goal is to bring democracy to these countries. But democracy requires a number of things that many of these countries lack: a literate public, a diverse and tolerant religious population and a lack of familial blood feuds for starters.
Foreign policy is about developing and maintaining relations. Ours has been too much focused on controlling relations.
In doing that, we lose focus on the core beliefs leading to the founding of our own country — that we have the right to self-determination in our affairs.
That is why we chose a republican form of democracy. If we truly believe in these values, we will acknowledge that other people have the same right, even if they impose a system with which we disagree.
It’s time to take the military might out of our foreign policy. We and the rest of the world can’t afford it.