Ever since the inauguration of President Donald Trump, U.S. foreign policy has trended in a significantly negative direction. Our international standing and approval rating across the globe is at all-time lows, and various unilateral decisions by this administration have led to widespread, near-unanimous condemnation by both traditional allies and adversaries alike. Additionally, with burgeoning and quickly unsustainable levels of national debt growing at an unprecedented rate, it is only logical for the United States to scale back its current involvement in a whole host of global conflicts. Trump correctly ran on the theme of semi-isolationism and was handed a broad mandate of 306 electoral votes and 30 states in 2016. Unfortunately, once in office, the president has pursued policies that are at complete odds with his original promise to “put America first” and to refocus on domestic priorities over foreign ones. If Trump wants to win reelection in 2020, it is time for him to reassess his original promise — one that he is still capable of keeping if he is serious about it.
After World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union jockeyed for the position of dominant world superpower. Through a series of violent proxy wars over the next five decades, the U.S. and the Soviets played the game to a draw — with communist revolutions taking place in East Asia and Eastern Europe and right-wing autocratic dictatorships rising in Southeast Asia and Latin America. While the Soviet Union eventually dissolved in 1991, this didn’t stop the neoconservative, pro-war voices within Washington from continuing to push for more endless interventionist wars. Despite the claim that the U.S. fights to defend “democracy” and “human rights,” their actual track record betrays far darker incentives for these wasteful and inhumane invasions. Under the Johnson and Nixon administrations, the U.S. propped up the genocidal Diem regime of South Vietnam, which was responsible for the mass murder and imprisonment of millions of Buddhists. Nixon himself authorized the carpet bombing of Laos and Cambodia, costing tens of thousands of innocent lives in the process — all under the guise of “combating communism.” Under Reagan, the United States unilaterally invaded Grenada and Panama, and they propped up bloodthirsty, fascist autocracies in Nicaragua, Guatemala, Brazil, Colombia, Argentina and Chile. Democracy remains unimplemented in all of these host nations, and human rights continue to be disrespected. The United States military brought misery and destruction to the common people — while simultaneously plundering the respective nations of their valuable natural resources such as oil, natural gas and rare earth minerals.
The endless interventionist mindset remains ever so relevant even today. The Trump administration unilaterally bombed Syria twice — once in April 2017 and once in April 2018 — both under the guise of attempting to stop the use of chemical weapons. It seems that there is always an ironic hypocrisy for every act of “paternalistic humanitarianism” — and to juxtapose in this case is the Reagan administration’s open supplying of chemical weapons to Saddam Hussein’s regime of Iraq 30 years ago during the Iran-Iraq War. It doesn’t end in Syria. Trump has also authorized the selling of military aircraft to Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest state-sponsor of terrorism, which also happens to have plenty of oil resources, as it engages in an indiscriminate bombing campaign in Yemen, which has already created the world’s most extensive famine of the 21st century.
Additionally, the most maniacally hawkish voices within the Trump administration — National Security Advisor John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence — none of whom have actually served in live combat — are aggressively pushing for more regime change in Iran and Venezuela, as if the devastation wrought from Syria and Yemen isn’t enough. Over 1,600 civilians were murdered by the U.S. war machine in Syria alone — and it appears that that still isn’t enough to satisfy the bloodlust of these neoconservative warmongers.
The greatest irony of modern American foreign policy is the absurd claim that we invade these countries to help alleviate the suffering of the local populace and to introduce democracy into these nations. Interestingly enough, every nation that we’ve invaded in the past always happened to have something of economic value to the United States — economic value that just happened to vanish after the regime change was implemented. Notably, there remains no such example of successful regime change in the 21st century — Iraq is still riddled with sectarian violence and a government plagued by massive corruption, while Libya currently operates slave-markets as four warlord factions continuously wage violence against one another — pitting six million Libyans in the middle of endless conflict. Coupled with the hypocrisy of American support for some of the worst offenders of human rights, namely Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE in the Middle East, hardly anyone takes the state-sponsored propaganda coming out of Washington seriously anymore.
Many interventionists will immediately point to Russia and China as threatening rivals that we need to “contain” — which somehow is used to justify our bloated foreign aid budget and our endless attempts to spark and provoke conflict in Eastern Europe and the South China Sea. This line of thinking is arrogant and fallacious. Russia and China are nuclear-armed states that sit on the Security Council. Containment simply won’t work — it isn’t justified and, considering our own dark history of moral blind spots, we don’t have the credibility to do so anyway. In fact, our aggressive action towards Russia and China recently have only hardened the leadership within Moscow and Beijing, who have reciprocated with equally uncompromising stances towards the United States. Hawks in our government are pushing us towards a potential nuclear war if these disputes are not solved in a diplomatic manner — something that actually endangers our national security unlike what Russia does in Crimea or when China defends its sovereign rights in the South China Sea.
Given America’s relatively awful track record when it comes to international leadership, it is time to accept the inevitable — sharing the stage with ascendant rising powers and world leaders like Russia and China is a good thing, not a bad thing. It will alleviate some much-overused responsibility from our shoulders — a responsibility that we were never qualified to carry alone anyway. Most importantly, we need to recognize that having alternative political worldviews is actually a better way of mediating and solving international conflicts — because the world doesn’t revolve around the United States. We need to be willing and mature enough to share the marketplace of ideas and policymaking with the other 195 countries that also call our planet home.
Additionally, given the $22 trillion-and-counting size of our national debt, it is a gross miscalculation of priorities for us to be spending over $42 billion annually to be propping up useless allies in a grand geopolitical game. Real life is not “Game of Thrones,” and it is time for politicians in Congress to realize that in the multipolar new world order of the 21st century, America simply isn’t and will never be the sole superpower anymore — and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We have crumbling infrastructure, severely underfunded schools and colleges and an inefficient and horribly managed healthcare system — all areas that actually affect citizens and taxpayers like myself far more than what Iran does in the Persian Gulf. Before we want to play policeman abroad, America needs to clean up our mess at home.