At the time the September 11th terrorist attacks occurred, the United States was turning inward as part of a trend toward disengagement from the global community that appeared both stable and safe, i.e. America no longer wanted, and needed, to be the world police. A year ago, Americans were welcoming the end of the very costly, largely disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as we rejected a call to arms in Syria over the use of chemical weapons, experienced a short-lived government shutdown, and struggled with the Edward Snowden NSA revelations. Today, the United States, once again, finds itself intervening in the Middle East to combat a very serious terrorist threat thanks to the Islamic State.
Truthfully, the 9/11 terrorist attacks happened, because the United States failed to address the very real threat of globalized terrorist while the same can be said of all other terrorist attacks that have happened throughout the world. Factoring in the Great Recession, dysfunctional political systems across the world, the Arab Spring revolution, the Ukraine Crisis, and so many other issues, it becomes clear that these crises have arisen, because national leaders have failed to recognize and address critical faults in public policies. By neglecting either our own broad interests or the interests of others, these crises are very much the consequences of failed governance and leadership over decades. No longer able to compensate for bad policies, the world has been experiencing a catastrophic recalibration of neglected interests. Having “cleared the air,” the governments and Peoples of the world may now be able to address their grievances instead of suppressing the need to deal with neglected interests.
In many respects, renewed engagement on behalf of the United States is the type of intervention that should have been undertaken by George W. Bush Administration following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Instead of using American might to impose regime change and nation-building in order to “create” allies, the United States is returning to a foreign policy mission based on “making the world safe for democracy.” If Middle Eastern governments are ever going to address and properly balance the interests of their Peoples, if the Peoples of the Middle East are ever going to realize the dream of the Arab Springs, the US needs to help strengthen the International Community it built to foster stability, peace, and freedom for all. That said, the rest of the world must do the same by disarming threats and rebuilding weak partnerships.
Ensuring international security will require strategic military interventions when destabilizing forces pose serious threats while success hinges on the unwillingness of the International Community and individual nations to see the value in protecting their homeland from the threat of terrorism as well as serving their Peoples as all modern governments must. As such, we need to start questioning if those willing to go after the Islamic State are also willing to pursue other terrorist organizations as well as state-sponsors of terrorism in general. After all, the Islamic State is only the most pressing terrorist threat at the moment. We must also revive the debate over addressing critical domestic issues and other ways in which allies can engage in constructive cooperation.
Unfortunately, the Middle East is in shambles, the global economy is weak, Soviet-era thinking threatens to polarize the world once again, and our International Community of nation-states is facing multiple terrorists that can only be undermined to the point terrorist groups are no longer viable entities. In spite of this seemingly terrible news, our globalized world is awakening to the need to address its global interests instead of largely depending on the United States to eventually take action. A few years ago, the exercise of US power and a Russia seeking military supremacy would create a major conflict of interests; however, the exercise of America power, especially to support our partners and their Peoples, can help strengthen America as cooperation is what the United States has always derived its strength from.
Although President Obama had envisioned a different direction for US engagement, the United States must play the hand we have been dealt. If the world can use cooperation to address globalized terrorism as we needed to years ago, we should be in a better position to cooperate on other global issues, such as economic development. Moreover, the world faces great uncertainty in a time when the United States and the International Community are facing major threats to peace and stability, yet the reality that there appears to be greater support for America’s top international priorities, which are also largely top concerns of the International Community, demonstrates the Peoples and governments of the world may well finally see the need to support their own national security and international security interests as America learned 13years ago.
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