Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Foreign Policy

Earlier today, several presidential candidates met with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) at their annual policy conference. The gist of their speeches amounted to this: we are there for Israel, no matter what.

This got me thinking about my own foreign policy. Foreign relations is an important part of being president, perhaps even the most important part. I've been studying our involvement with other countries for a long time now, and I'm not sure my approach would be the most popular.

Take Israel, for instance, since it's the topic of the day. I certainly don't have any problem with Israel, but I think people tend to oversimplify their conflict with the Palestinians. Sure, we're allies of Israel, but does that mean we have to necessarily be anti-Palestine? I'm personally very sympathetic to the Palestinian people. I don't condone terrorism, of course, but that doesn't mean Palestine doesn't have a legitimate grievance with Israel. I don't pretend to have a solution to the conflict, as I'm also sympathetic to the Israeli side, but I don't think the solution is to pick a side and stick to it. It's a complicated situation and, frankly, I don't even know if the United States should be involved in its resolution. It's a conflict that will only be resolved through time and effort, and as long as race relations in the United States continue to be a problem, I don't think we're really in a position to offer solutions.

Which really gets at the heart of my foreign policy: why in the world is it our job to maintain world peace? Do we really need to get involved with every conflict? Is it our job to look at each conflict, decide who we thing "the good guys" are, and threaten the other side with annihilation? Do other countries actually appreciate our involvement in that way? What gives us the right to do this?

I actually know what gives us that right, of course. Simply put, we're the most powerful country. Our military is our greatest resource, and it's through military might that we maintain our dominance in the world.

I hate the idea that might makes right, though. Generally, within our own borders, it does not. However, outside of our borders, we operate with a very "might makes right" mindset, especially since in many places that is absolutely the case. Throughout the Middle East, for instance, the mightiest set the rules. And, through military intervention, we play into that.

I have several problems with this doctrine of military interventionism:

The first is that, simply put, it's unsustainable. Though we have the biggest and most powerful military the world has ever seen, we still can't actually police the world. It's ineffective. Continuing to feed the military machine will bleed our country dry, and spreading our forces too thin will leave us vulnerable. At least, that's the case if history is to be believed, with several empires available to serve as examples.

On that note, it's all just de facto colonialism. As much as I would love to fight for human rights around the world, I'm not sure we have the authority to judge what constitutes human rights on a global scale. I mean, we can barely agree on what constitutes human rights in our own country, so who are we to tell other countries what they should believe? And honestly, enforcing such rights aren't likely to end with acceptance or understanding the purpose of these rights; it's more likely to end in resentment for telling everyone else what to do. I think it's dangerous to assume that our way is the one true way to live. If people from other countries like the way we think I believe it would be best for them to fight to see those changes in their own country. Or, if that's impossible, we should be welcoming to people seeking rights that better align with their values. Let them make that decision on their own instead of forcing our values down their throats.

Finally, it's just strange to me that we feel comfortable sending our own people overseas to fight and die in wars that barely concern us. Granted, from what I understand the United States generally tries to keep to supply and advisory roles when participating in most foreign wars, leaving the heavy fighting to the locals when possible. I'd like to hope that we do everything we can to keep American casualties to a minimum. That said, every American soldier's life lost overseas makes me wonder if these interventionist tactics are worth it, and if we wouldn't be better off letting people fight their own wars.

The view may look very different from the situation room, and for military matters especially I'm interested in the experience and opinions of the people who have been dealing with these conflicts the longest. At the moment, though, I'm much more interested in cutting back on military spending and redirecting those funds to veteran benefits and care, as well as scientific research and development to not only make our military even more efficient and save lives, but also to develop practical new technologies to improve the lives of civilians as well.

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