Sunday, January 27, 2013

Push or Pull

NPR's On Point recently had an interview with Barry Posen and William C. Wohlforth titled Outlining A New Foreign Policy. The discussion centered on whether America should continue its interventionist policies, specifically in the Middle East, or should it "pull back", investing more at home. I find the non-interventionist policies very appealing for some of the same reasons mentioned in the discussion:

The United States has incurred very large costs while intervening in the world over the past decades, many times with questionable benefits to the United States itself (19:09 in the program). Ron Paul's quote in the Washington Post in 2007 may not be entirely accurate but I think it makes a good point:

"There's nobody in this world that could possibly attack us today. I mean, we could defend this country with a few good submarines. If anybody dared touch us we could wipe any country off of the face of the earth within hours."

However, no matter how appealing pulling back behind our oceans becomes, the United States remains a powerful player in an unstable world with the ability to have a positive impact. Furthermore, we have the reality that we have 68,000 troops in Afghanistan, Iran continues towards a nuclear weapon, conflicts in Mali have erupted, there is no Israel-Palestinian peace and unrest continues in Syria

In America and the World, a discussion between Zbigniew Brezezinski and Brent Scowcroft, both Brezezinski and Scowcroft seem to hold the idea that America has a very important role to play.  Scowcroft says, with Brezezinski in agreement, "... in the world as it is now, only the United States can exercise enlightened leadership.Not direct people what to do. But says, 'Gather round. This is the way the community needs to go.'... We're the only ones who can be the guiding light" (See also the caller at 36:40.) The sound clips in the On Point program from Hillary Clinton and President Obama also indicate that many of America's leaders, both Democrat and Republican, favor a strong foreign presence.

My view is that there seems to be a lot of irrational decisions on what poses as a threat to the United States, especially when it comes to "terrorism". (My opinion of our need for more rational thinking has be reinforced by books such as Liars And Outliers by Bruce Schneier, Top Secret America by Dana Priest and William Arkin, and Outliers by Malcom Gladwell - all books I recommend.) As Posen points out (7:08), I think we need to consider both the positive and negative consequences from our intervention policies; consequences both abroad and at home.

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