Engage or Withdraw? That is the American Question

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Nations have long engaged in political maneuvering and diplomatic endeavors and even waged wars in order to reap the rewards of international trade and the acquisition of resources. This has been going on well before there was ever a United States of America. Countries that excel with this active engagement in world trade have happier citizens because of the abundance and variety of goods made available to them, often at excellent prices. For more than a century, perhaps even longer, America has done exceptionally well for its populace in this regard. The past few decades have been particularly successful and Americans have become accustomed to cheap prices and many product choices. Granted, trade policies and diplomacy are not the only factors that are in play, but they are major players.

We may be at a crossroads now where all of that could change. Many Americans are fed up with the amount of financial aid given to foreign governments. Others call for our country’s leaders to reign in our military, bring them home from overseas and let the rest of the world fend for themselves. Shifting economic and military powers are also becoming obvious, especially throughout Asia. Americans better choose which road they will follow, soon, or the choice will be made for them.

We spend more than 21 billion taxpayer dollars every year in non-military aid propping up foreign governments, many of whom are actively opposing us and are clearly more foe than friend. Billions more are given to their armed forces, some being hostile to the U.S. Although I am strongly in favor of reducing and re-prioritizing foreign aid, I am not for the outright elimination of it. In the real world, our leaders need tools in their kits to influence world events in a way that favors America’s national interest. American dollars are a powerful tool in that kit; however, its use should be greatly reduced and limited to areas where it will, indeed, benefit America.

For example, why on earth are we paying Pakistan $1.6 billion a year so that they can actively undermine our efforts in Afghanistan and the region? Pakistan knowingly harbored Osama bin Laden for years. When Navy SEALS snuck in and killed him, Pakistan was outraged and even imprisoned the doctor who helped identify the world’s formerly most wanted terrorist. Pakistan repeatedly “outs” the name of the American station chief in Pakistan, revealing his identity and hampering CIA and U.S. State Department efforts. Is it because of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal that we pay them the annual ransom? Do we really believe that Pakistan’s intelligence agency (ISI), military, or any other radical Islamist agency is going to keep America’s interest in mind concerning its nukes, whether we send money or not? Probably there are many state department officials that would disagree with me, confident that they have paid off the right contacts in the ISI or Pakistan military who will then clue us in when something bad is about to happen. I don’t share that confidence. We appear to be withdrawing from Afghanistan in 2014, so when the last troop leaves and supply routes in Pakistan are no longer needed, not a dollar more should go to Pakistan. Give India free reign to handle their terrorist neighbor.

Speaking of a withdrawing American military, there are some that call for us to bring all American troops home from overseas. They call for closing bases in South Korea, Japan, Europe and elsewhere. After all, it is a tall argument that American troops still need to prevent North Korea from attacking the south some 60 years after the armistice was signed. It has been even longer since the end of WWII, when many of the American bases in Europe and Asia were built. That argument must be made, though, or every American’s life is going to drastically change for the worse! U.S. Military power overseas enhances and secures international trade AND prevents catastrophe here at home. The security reasons for these American bases are still there and very real. Imagine an Asia without the stabilizing presence of U.S. warships and troops all of these years. More than one war would have broken out, perhaps several. The balance of power would not favor America or our allies. The U.S. Navy would not be patrolling the sea lanes and maintaining safe trade routes. China, perhaps our old foe the Soviet Union, and possibly even a rebuilt Japanese empire would be warring and crushing smaller, weaker nations. Trade with the Americas would be non-existent. And then — remember Pearl Harbor?

Look at recent developments in China. The communist nation has just announced that they own and control space that Japan and South Korea also claim, and has ordered all commercial aircraft to honor that claim, or else. What does the Obama administration do in light of China’s bold move? They immediately acquiesce and tell American airlines to comply with Chinese demands. Although, at this hour there are some indications Obama might be changing his stance on that issue after his first knee-jerk appeasement reaction; I hope so. Japan was outraged, and rightly so, concerning Obama’s initial answer to China’s geopolitical move. One wonders if President Obama’s national security team and state department put any thought at all into the blatant power-grabbing moves of other nations.

The United States military standing down overseas would create an enormous danger to our security. Long before that happened, though, American’s wallets would see the impact of such a move. With trade at a standstill, products would be limited and expensive, similar to what our grandparents and great grandparents had for choices. Yes, American manufacturing and mom and pop stores would probably see a rebirth, but not enough to make up for what the past couple of generations have been used to. Perhaps we have been spoiled with the Walmarts and Best Buys. If Americans want to maintain their 21st century lifestyles with innovative, inexpensive products available for purchase, and have the best chance at preventing war on their own homeland, then they should tell their congressional delegations NOW that we might be able to tweak our foreign policy to better represent America’s citizens, but we should not withdraw from the world. America needs to stay engaged and secure the future for the next generation.

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