Nothing is more interesting than listening to two people discuss the multiplicity of conundrums facing international politics today. Whether it is Iran’s intransigence regarding its testing of nuclear power or the explosive turmoil continually ravaging much of Africa, we inevitably find ourselves reflecting on the role of the United States in relation to the rest of the world. Ultimately however, it seems America is ready, to some extent, to turn inward and let the world police itself. Nonetheless, that decision merits reflection.
Consider that the United States has now spent the better part of a decade in Iraq. Recently, President Obama announced America’s involvement in that country will be ending. As the Oct. 21, 2011 Huffington Post article reports, “Obama said the end of U.S. involvement in Iraq reflects a larger transition away from ‘the tide of war.’”
He referenced the fact that troops are beginning to return home from Afghanistan and said the trend will only continue as the U.S. refocuses on its needs at home.
“After a decade of war, the nation we need to build and the nation we will build is our own,” he said in the article.
Let us overlook the political ramifications and military efficacy of this decision. Instead, we should reflect on the implication of this decision; the tremendous shift in opinion of America’s role in the world.
After all, I can remember very recently, and even still, people touting the U.S. as the supreme defender of democracy and liberty. Now that view seems to be dismissed as, at best, an image of the United States as “the World’s Police,” and at worst, flagrant imperialism. It seems that idealistic trumpeting has been drowned out by the symphonies of realism: most conspicuously, talks about budgets and the economic repercussions of war.
Perhaps even more pressing, we as Americans need to question when and how we use our unmatched military force. Given the recent mayhem in the Middle East, colloquially referred to as the “Arab Spring,” our own ability to use military intervention was considered and yet still not used.
Uncle Ben, Spiderman’s loving guardian, once beautifully admonished, “With great power comes great responsibility.” With that in mind, it seems that regardless of our own fundamental beliefs, America believes its responsibility is to step away to a great extent and let the world be.
The New York Times of Feb. 18, 2012 opines, “The foreign policy debate has often felt like an ideological cockfight. And now, although we have not yet realized it, that era has come to an end.”
For proof, you need to look no further than the Pentagon’s new ‘strategic guidance’ document, issued last month in the wake of Obama’s pledge to cut $485 billion from the defense budget over the coming decade.
It states, “In the aftermath of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States will emphasize nonmilitary means and military-to-military cooperation to address instability and reduce the demand for significant U.S. force commitments to
Undoubtedly the United States will continue to serve as a model for the rest of the world. However, most are war weary and ready to solve our own domestic problems, collapsing infrastructure, an ailing economy, a flawed healthcare system, inadequate education policies and so on and so forth.
While we have our own problems, we absolutely have an obligation to reflect on our influence in the world because whatever our decision, it has the capacity to end Iran’s nuclear testing facilities or ease the troubles of an entire continent.