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Reclaiming our international presence

| Monday, March 3, 2014

Is President Obama the next Jimmy Carter? In light of recent international events, this alarming question must be asked. The United States has battled the decline into the background of world affairs before in the 1970s, when nothing seemed to be going our way. Oil prices spiked out of control, Russia gained ground both internationally and domestically and the Carter administration did not help these problems in any feasible way. Now, in the wake of this most recent crisis in the Ukraine, the stunning similarities between the United States then and the United States today warrant a further look into our international affluence.

Even if you are not completely abreast with the state of the world, you have probably heard a bit about the situation in the Ukraine. A quick recap: the Russians under Vladimir Putin have invaded the semi-sovereign Crimea region of the Ukraine after a unanimous vote from the Russian parliament gave Putin the power to do so. The international community has called the Russians out for this action and has been taking steps on the international level to condemn these events. Canada has recalled its ambassador to Russia, the G-8 has suspended preparations for a conference in Russia this summer and President Obama has had a 90-minute phone call with Putin to discuss the situation. Now, the Russians have given the Ukrainians a deadline to surrender their troops or face a “real assault.” In totality, in the words of Joe Biden, “It’s a really frickin’ big deal.”

With all this disparity between the East and the West, one cannot help but recall images of the Cold War, with the United States and the USSR constantly battling back and forth for superiority in everything from nuclear armament to the space race. In the end, the United States emerged victorious and as the world’s sole superpower … or so it seemed for a while. When the Cold War ended, if the United States told a country not to do something, the country generally followed orders in fear of the repercussions that could be brought upon them. The vast majority of the world wanted to be the United States’ allies, because no other nation offered better military and economic prospects. To embrace American culture and politics was “cool.”

Now things seem to be changing. Rogue countries like North Korea and Iran do not react to America’s threats against them, even on issues as dire as nuclear armament. Instead of countries flocking to become our allies, it has become increasing difficult to keep countries as allies. Instead of being the beacon of democratic hope in a hostile world, the world sees America as a fading and gridlocked power stuck in its traditional past, while the rest of the world has moved forward without it. And all the while, Russia has been testing the waters to see how far we will give, carrying out invasions in countries like Georgia and Afghanistan.

So this crisis in Ukraine is about so much more than just this isolated incident; it is about the future of the United States on the world sphere. If our president tells Putin that what he is doing is wrong and will not be tolerated, we must not let it be tolerated. Instead of drawing an invisible line in the sand that Putin can cross without repercussions, which this president and the presidents before him have often done, he must speak with words that the whole world knows carry the entire American system on its back. While pulling out of the G-8 summit was a good start, sometimes one must fight fire with fire. If, hypothetically, the president tells the world that there will be a certain action taken if Russia steps one more foot into the Ukraine, and they do so, we must follow through with our promise. Tanks and guns can be bought; respect on the international level must be earned.

All this being said, the United States still has the golden opportunity to not let its international presence slip away. We came back from Carter and we emerged even stronger than before. This reversal of direction, from an America on the decline to an America on the upswing, was catalyzed in no small part by Ronald Reagan. The question that must now be asked is this: will Obama lead the United States back to its full glory and lead us into the future stronger than ever before, or will we have to wait on the next Reagan? If this is the case, a more important question must be asked: who is the next Ronald Reagan?

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