Retooling the Grand Strategy of the International Community
Foreign policy is a subject that the American People often neglect until some catastrophic event blankets the news coverage while our Country as a whole has a tendency of confounding foreign policy matters with economic and security issues. The results have been harmful miscalculations on all three fronts and costly policy reversals. American failures in Iraq and Afghanistan, coupled with widespread civil unrest in the Middle East and North Africa, demand we usher in a new era of foreign policy engagement. Beyond the US, the same is true of the International Community. The future demands greater leadership by other global and regional powers, which must be willing to act more effectively to address developing situations throughout the world.
The International Community, especially individual European countries and other power players like China, must move to more profoundly engage the entire world with their foreign affairs and military policies instead of over promoting their economic interests and international institutes that lack true power. Part of this transition will come from necessity as the US takes on a slightly reserved approach to world affairs. Additionally, world leaders will find their interests can only be fulfilled, in our ever democratizing, multipolar International Community, through their own actions instead of attempts to constraint then channel US power. In fact, pursuing the latter option will only encourage US citizens to support unilateral uses of force, just as in Iraq.
Thanks to American generosity in terms of world security during and after the Cold War, Europe has largely enjoyed a peace bubble that is only now weakening. Along with the fact that Europe is a battleground region for global strife, this bubble and the disproportional expansion of US military might has forced European nations to largely rely on international institutes. This reality has helped suppress dominance issues of countries like France and Germany while disabling the cultural underpinnings that allowed for the abhorrent and inhuman practices of European colonization. The overall result has been this once contentious expanse maintaining inter-country peace and regional stability since the end of World War Two.
Unfortunately, change must come as the United States takes on a more equitable leadership role. American is often criticized by other Western nations for its predisposition toward the use of coercive and forceful tactics over subtle diplomatic strategies. There is a fair amount of truth in this view, but the US has largely developed its unique approach to global affairs, which also includes a healthy dose of soft power, because it has had to use its strongman policies to guard the European peace bubble, among other global responsibilities. As Europe must eventually rely on more forceful means of ensuring global stability in violent, unfriendly places, it will either have to take on a more American approach or revert back to the tactics of colonization. The US and Americanized Europeans cannot tolerate the latter.
Following the mainly unilateral invasion of Iraq in 2003, much of the world moved to restrain US power out of fear. The West showed its disapproval of America by distancing itself diplomatically while other quarters of the International Community used the situation to justify attempts to undermine US economic power. Looking at the exception of Great Britain and a few smaller countries, the Coalition tried to instead support and shape American efforts for the greater good. Candidly speaking, what actually works to restrain US power is the American People. Regrettably, the response of the International Community to constraint American power, as well as the failures during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, has only undermined constructive US intervention while narrowing the options for an American response in future crises.
Like many Middle Easterners and Africans, US citizens are growing angry over fewer economic opportunities and a lack of responsiveness on behalf of government. Part of this unrest comes from economic policies that have helped transfer wealth from our rich country to poorer ones at the real and perceived expense of Middle Class Americans. The problem is the bulk of US citizens have lost wealth in terms of jobs, compensation, asset value, and the need for higher taxes; whereas, wealthier Americans and businesses have seen huge profits from outsourcing and trade. The redistribution of wealth away from the general population creates civil unrest while encouraging policymakers to weigh the interests of the wealthy more heavily, thus democracy is undermined and the use of US power becomes more dependent on the will of special interests.
The actual lesson to be learned from Iraq and Afghanistan is not that America lacks the ability to unilaterally strike targets, including other countries. It is that our nation building capacities, without allied support, are seriously hindered when counter-insurgency efforts are required. Mass unrest in the Middle East has lead to some rather violent responses by regimes like those in Iran and Libya. A lack of adequate response by Western, Arab, and other powers could eventually lead to unilateral action by the US that does not involve peacekeeping and nation building. The long-term consequences of such a path might lead to a preference toward relying on selective uses of military might as already seen with drone strikes along the Afghanistan-Pakistan boarder.
The less influence the general US population has over its government, the more likely American power will be wielded for the benefit of the few in a far more careless fashion. A failure of the International Community to shoulder more responsibilities and support the United States will only drive America to behave counter to the interests of other nations. This means the West and other powers have to engage the world in a more meaningful way as the US once again refines its foreign, economic, and military policies. Mass uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa are only a new phase in an era of change. The International Community is democratizing and this means the US cannot take on a hegemonic leadership role. Moreover, other nations must step up to take on many of the global commitments shouldered by the United States.