Position Discussion: Foreign Relations
Someone on Twitter asked me about my foreign policy position, which is a pretty big subject. I mean, gosh, where to begin? We can do a lot to change the world via our diplomatic and trade relations of course; in fact, if you study history, that tends to be the avenue for the most lasting cultural changes. And, of course, our efforts at humanitarian aid are… largely beneficial, though admittedly somewhat misguided on occasion.
Of course, when we talk about foreign relations in the United States, what we’re really talking about is America’s #1 contribution to world politics: its massive, well-funded, highly-trained military. Given that the military receives upwards of 10 times the funding of all other foreign relations programs combined, it is, in many ways, our primary method of foreign relations.
In my opinion, our military is primarily meant for the defense of our country and its citizens. This is supported by the fact that we call the military branch of the government the “Department of Defense.” I assume the title of that department was not intended to be named ironically.
Unfortunately, often our military is instead used to impose peace on other nations… to varying degrees of success. And, frankly, I don’t think we have any business spending years and years occupying foreign countries.
In short, the world is not ours to police, mold, and shape as we see fit, and it’s simply not feasible for us to participate in every foreign conflict. And, oddly enough, bombing people into submission rarely results in lasting peace and goodwill.
Here’s my rubric for justifying military action:
1) If a country is fighting within itself, affecting nobody around it, then we should probably stay out of it. Sovereign countries need to work out their cultural differences on their own sometimes. It’s almost always messy and deadly, and the problems of other countries shouldn’t be ignored, but getting involved and imposing our own views rarely helps and often makes things worse.
Instead, we should make ourselves available as negotiators (if requested) and offer aid and refuge to those hurt or displaced by the conflict. If we are generous to those who need help, I believe they will be appreciative when they eventually return to their homes once the conflict is over.
2) If a conflict begins to affect the surrounding countries, we may need to get involved depending on the severity. Are innocent civilians of other countries being killed? Is an entire region’s economy about to collapse? Is our aid being requested? If so, we should consider getting involved long enough to stabilize the area, then begin tactical withdrawal of military presence once we’ve taken care of the immediate threat.
3) If a conflict ever threatens or harms American citizens, we must respond with force. Protecting our citizens is the primary job of the U.S. military, and a swift, decisive response serves to deter future attacks and sends a clear message that we will not tolerate attacks on our people.
That said, this isn’t a cut-and-dry rubric. Foreign relations are complicated, and as a citizen I admit that there are circumstances I might not understand about our presence abroad. However, generally speaking, I don’t think our meddling is always appreciated or actually beneficial to our country or the world in the long term. We need strong reasons to justify continued occupation, and even stronger reasons to justify drone strikes and other military action that puts soldiers and civilians at risk. And if we have reasons to do so, we need to justify those actions to the American people.
I would prefer our military budget be focused on keeping our defensive bases strong and operational. And, if our military budget can naturally shrink as we withdraw from foreign conflicts, then those funds can be redirected toward veterans benefits as well as our diplomatic corps in order to reduce the likelihood of further conflict.
Investing in diplomacy and aid is, I believe, more cost-effective than military spending. And, in the long term, I think it’s more effective overall.
Thoughts? Opinions? Disagreements? I’m open to a discussion on this matter.
Also, if there’s anything else you’d like to ask me about, by all means get in touch. Email is best (firstname.lastname@example.org), but I’m accessible in many other ways as well. (Again, this topic came up on Twitter.)