American involvement around the world has been a controversial topic domestically and abroad. There are constantly new conflicts and threats (large and small) emerging around the globe, leaving the United States to decide whether to intervene or not. Some argue that it is in the United States’ interest to respond to these threats, to lead the world to brighter pastures. However, history has shown us that intervention usually ends in futility.
Former Senators Joe Lieberman and Jon Kyl have called for increased U.S. intervention around the world. They argue that when we retreat to an isolationist perspective we usually experience more danger and greater threats. Some examples they note are the Pearl Harbor, the Korean War, and the 9/11 attacks. Conversely, they state that when the United States does decide to lead, the entire world benefits. Not only is the world under a safer regime with responsible global leadership, but the United States also benefits through better economic flow.
This phenomenon is evident by examining the effect of the Marshall Plan after World War II. Those nations we decided to help ended up becoming some of our greatest trading partners (France, Germany, and Japan). Lieberman and Kyl argue that if we retreat our naval presence around the world we lose the guarantee on the free flow of goods due to the threat of piracy, which will result in higher prices for goods. All in all, their argument rests upon the assumption that proposed cuts and resulting American Isolationism will affect our ability to protect ourselves economically, politically, and militarily.
Although their vision seems accurate, one cannot fall victim to the slippery slope that the two senators have laid out. Foreign engagements begin with calls for greater democracy and end in exhaustive sighs of retreat. This belief is held by two leaders in current American foreign policy, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry. Their argument addresses some issues that Lieberman and Kyl failed to mention. Firstly, one must address the ignorance harbored by the United States about the inner workings of these distant regimes. Whether we are discussing Iran, Iraq, the Korean War, or Afghanistan, our knowledge is limited, sometimes leading us to do more harm than good (Iraq, Vietnam, and Korean War). Moreover, our lack of knowledge in regards to the inner workings of these conflicts also lends our current administration to disagree with Lieberman’s call for increased intervention.
A current example one can use to depict this absence of knowledge is the Civil War in Syria. Without knowing the consequences of intervention, who will replace the Assad Regime, and what society will be built, it would be irresponsible for us to meddle as meddling in the past has led to undesirable results (Afghanistan 1980s). Just as history has shown us that isolationism leads to increased danger, increased intervention leads to horrible consequences as well.
Recent U.S. interventions like the War in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown us the horrible effects of intervention. The reputation of the U.S. has fallen out of favor globally, more enemies and attacks have transpired since these wars have erupted, and we are no safer than we were before the attacks; one might argue we are in greater danger. Therefore, before we listen to the enchanting words of Joe Lieberman, we must examine the situation before us and read the facts on the ground. Instead of sticking our nose in EVERY conflict we find remotely threatening, we should follow the prescription set forth by the Obama Administration; a couple doses of caution and certainty.