American involvement abroad: a necessary reality
Eddie Damstra | Wednesday, April 19, 2017
In the past, I have written about the need for Donald Trump to alter his rhetoric and policy positions as he transitions from candidacy to presidency. I, along with many other Americans, desired to see a drastic difference between “candidate Donald Trump” and “President Donald Trump.” And while I am not so sure his rhetoric has significantly changed, his policy stances certainly seem to be shifting.
Most prominently, Trump’s foreign policy has seemed to dramatically change. Candidate Donald Trump was as isolationist as they come. He vowed to remove the United States from foreign affairs, labeling NATO obsolete and often mocking previous presidents for being over-involved in the world.
President Trump, however, has rejected this philosophy of isolationism. President Trump seems to have embraced the notion of reasonable and necessary involvement in global affairs. Trump initiated the launch of missiles against President Assad in Syria and authorized the bombing against the Islamic State (IS) in Afghanistan. He has also indicated willingness to use conventional military power against North Korea if deemed necessary. While this shift is disheartening and frustrating to many of his core supporters, I welcome such a transformation with gratitude and relief.
It is possible Trump simply lied during his campaign when he ran as an isolationist, and it certainly would not be the first time a politician has done so. However, I think it is perhaps even more likely that, upon arriving in the Oval Office, President Trump finally understood the impossibility of isolationism.
It is very easy to say the United States should remove itself from the world and lessen its influence abroad. In practice, however, such propositions are infeasible and dangerous. The United States, given its supreme power, has an an immensely broad set of interests abroad. The interests of the United States are not constrained within the domestic sphere or even within the continent of North America. We are engaged economically with countries all over the world, perhaps most prominently Asian countries such as China and Japan. This interaction in a global economy is largely what sustains our economic superiority.
The United States also maintains a diplomatic presence all around the world. This is essential in order to attempt to maintain a sustainable global power structure, in which the United States — as a global hegemony — is not significantly threatened. A complex international network and consistent global presence is absolutely necessary to maintain global superpower status. It is dangerously unwise for the United States to significantly lessen its influence abroad.
Additionally, and perhaps even more importantly, I would venture as far as to label American isolationism as immoral. At the risk of sounding sanctimonious, I would argue that the United States has a moral obligation to, at the very least, intervene when basic human rights abuses are being systematically carried out. Assad’s regime using sarin gas against the Syrian people is a prime example of such a case of systematic human rights violations.
We should not succumb to the fallacy that we are the ultimate moral arbiters of the world. However, we should also not fail to realize that we as the United States — a rich and powerful nation — should do its best to reasonably fight against colossal global injustices.
With all this said, I wholeheartedly understand and recognize the failures of recent American foreign policy. I believe entering the Iraq War was a grave mistake. This article is not meant to support the practice of full-throttle regime change or nation-building. Rather, I am simply attempting to argue for the necessity of reasonable American involvement in the world.
Simply put, there are many scenarios in which intervention is the most pragmatic and moral solution. I realize we should ensure the safety and prosperity of our own people before delving into areas of the world which bear less direct influence on American citizens. However, we are not Switzerland. We are not Luxembourg. We are the United States, the most powerful nation in the history of human civilization. We have immense economic, military and human resources at our disposal. To say that a nation with such significant capabilities should remove itself from a world riddled with violence and conflict is pragmatically unwise and morally deficient. American involvement abroad is an absolutely necessary reality.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.