Is America too involved in the world?


Art by Dzung Nguyen

Brett Stover

[imagemap id=”267489″] As one of the world’s most influential countries, the United States of America has a great deal of power in the sphere of international relations. One of the nation’s representatives sits on the United Nations Security Council. ranks the U.S. No. 1 in terms of overall military strength, ahead of Russia and China.
However, with the near-constant state of terroristic conflict abroad, some wonder whether or not the United States has the responsibility to help.
Dr. Paul Wallace, who has a Ph.D. from the University of California-Berkeley, and is a Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Missouri, is an expert on terrorism and foreign affairs. Among many other accomplishments, Wallace was an expert witness in the 2003 Air India trial and has edited many pieces regarding terrorism. Dr. Wallace thinks in recent history, the nation as a whole has favored increased U.S. military intervention.
“The overall trend line clearly has been [pro-]foreign intervention for the past few decades whether clearly justified, questionable or clearly wrong,” Wallace said. “The first Gulf War under George [H. W.] Bush—Bush I—clearly is justified as a response to Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait and [the threat he posed] to other key oil states in the Middle East. So is the invasion of Afghanistan after 9/11 and the refusal of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan to turn over Osama Bin Laden.”
While he believes many interventions like those are justified because of the obvious threats to U.S. interests, Wallace disapproves of other conflicts. For example, he thinks that the other half of the War on Terror, the invasion of Iraq, was more misguided.
“After deposing of the Taliban, the U.S. invasion of Iraq [was] based on false conclusions about [weapons of mass destruction] clearly was wrong and poorly implemented,” Wallace said. “It left a [power] vacuum in Iraq leading to Al Qaeda terrorism and [the current issue of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s] domination of almost a third of [Iraq] and part of Syria. The Iraq debacle also left an unsettled situation in Afghanistan. In clear language, we didn’t finish the Taliban nor did we engage sufficiently so as to help provide a stable Afghan regime.”
Wallace thinks that although there are external threats like Islamic extremism which threaten the United States in the Middle East, the biggest issue facing the nation’s foreign interests is internal gridlock, which prevents the government from governing effectively.
“Nonetheless, the biggest foreign threat to the U.S., in my opinion, is the stubborn refusal of the Tea Party Republicans to cooperate with the President,” Wallace said. “At this point in time, neither the Congressional Republicans, including those in the Senate, nor the White House are communicating effectively with each other. Political gridlock weakens the U.S. so that it is difficult to deal with a range of foreign threats.”
All these internal struggles, Wallace conjectures, have handicapped the United States when it comes to dealing with ISIS, the terrorist organization that he thinks is the most pressing foreign issue the country faces.
In order to face the various non-governmental threats the United States faces in the 21st century, the military has devised various new — and old — strategies to achieve the upper hand. New drone technology has revolutionized warfare, but it has also caused a fervent debate. As of last year, more than 2,200 people have been killed by drone strikes, according to the Huffington Post.
“Realistically, [a drone] is another weapon that has entered military arsenals,” Wallace said. “International agreements will have to be reached in the manner of Geneva Agreements as to its proper use. Big questions remain as to its use in a country where you ostensibly are in peaceful, even supportive relations like Pakistan and Yemen. It carries all the questions related to missiles, barrel bombs and depleted uranium in terms of indiscriminate destructive potential. It also has the advantages of pin-point accuracy and close intelligence gathering without threatening a pilot.”
Another similarly controversial method of intervention is arms distribution. For decades, the United States has armed those in conflict with nations or other groups that it views as threats. Examples of arms deals gone wrong include the Iran-Contra scandal under President Reagan and, more recently, arms intended for Libyan rebels in 2012 falling into the wrong hands, according to the New York Times. Earlier this month, the Times discovered that even some of ISIS’ weapons and ammunition were of U.S. origin. Wallace views arms dealing as a potentially helpful strategy that could easily backfire.
“The enemy of my enemy is my friend…except when that friend also is my enemy,” Wallace said. “So, we cooperate with Iran in Iraq against ISIS, but oppose Iran in Syria as it support our enemy Bashar Assad. Similarly, with Russia we cooperate with Russia and vice versa in nuclear talks with Iran, but oppose Russia in the Ukrainian conflict. So, the complications regarding friends and foes as well as providing arms is situational and has to be done cautiously. Sides can change, and so can ours arms be sold to our enemies as in Iraq and probably Afghanistan.”
Overall, Dr. Wallace believes the best way to prepare for any foreign threats is to have internal stability.
“A strong U.S., economically, militarily and politically is essential,” Wallace said. “Without these three pillars, the U.S. will continue to lurch from crisis to crisis without being capable of marshalling international support so as to deal with root problems before they blow up to ISIS proportions.”
By Brett Stover