Sundberg: U.S. needs a more involved foreign policy

By Mateo Sundberg

Peace, stability and prosperity. Those are words that describe the ideal world that we the people, people of every nation, strive to achieve. The difficult question is how we achieve, sustain and spread these ideals to every corner of the earth.

Multiple attempts have been made to accomplish this goal within the past century. The first and most notable failed attempt was President Woodrow Wilson’s League of Nations. The League of Nations had a similar structure to today’s modern United Nations: it served as an international governing body that was supposed resolve disputes through diplomatic negotiations between feuding nations.

Although the League of Nation’s goals and ideals were admirable, in practice it fell short of its goal to bring order and stability to the world as it failed to prevent multiple crises from ballooning out of control, such as the Manchuria crisis and the Abyssinia crisis in the 1930s, which were instigated by future World War II axis powers Japan and Italy, respectively.

Another more recent example of failure to uphold peace, stability and prosperity in times of crisis was the UN peacekeeping forces of the 1990s. Notable stumbles during this decade include its failure to intervene swiftly during the slaughter of 800,000 Tutsi in Rwanda, and the failure to protect Muslim safe zones in Srebrenica during the Bosnian crisis, which led to the systematic slaughter of the town’s men and boys.

What is notably missing from these two examples is strong leadership from the United States.

The United States declined to join the League of Nations after World War I, and the UN peacekeeping forces were under command of a multinational command structure which diluted influence from the United States. In turn, decisions from leaders in these situations were often under the influence of many different international interests which would complicate decision making and quick action. This foreign policy strategy by multinational bodies represents a time in which global order was at times sporadic and lacked uniform policy and implementation.

The alternative can be, and has been, affectionately referred to as Pax-Americana: strong leadership from the United States on the global stage. American leadership in foreign affairs conjures up images and failures from the invasion of Iraq in 2003 to the Vietnam War; however, United States foreign policy is not given credit for its successes in the First Gulf War of 1990 and even the war in Afghanistan, the former representing the success of accomplishing a large strategic goal without deviation, and the latter displaying tepid success in nation building.

The United States is far and beyond the strongest military power in the world, the hard power that it yields is unprecedented in human history, and with the United States at the helm of global influence, this has been arguably the most peaceful time in human history. Why would we want to transition away from global stability and prosperity demonstrated under United States leadership to a more uncertain future under multinational organizations, or even other emerging powers such as Russia?

Often, the counterargument is that the United States has no right to meddle in foreign affairs of other sovereign nations, and that our value system, or lack thereof, is incompatible to other countries. This point is important to keep the United States’ reach and influence in check, but it should not prevent or deter the United States from intervening in foreign conflicts where human rights violations are being perpetuated, or where war is raging on without an advocate and protector for the defenseless.

A strategy for foreign policy that works for the world and the United States can be a form of the “Broken Windows” theory. As outlined by Pulitzer Winner Bret Stephens, the appearance of disorder in foreign affairs, in the form of civil war, illegal annexations or the use of brutal tactics by autocratic regimes on their citizens, encourages more belligerents to act out and wreck havoc in the world. To combat disorder on the world stage, the United States should be proactive in its foreign policy, stopping and combating dissidence and evil when they arise by force, and before they balloon into larger and multiplying problems. Creating a precedence of having swift military action in response to a violation to the United States’ commitments to peace abroad will give future dissidents pause.

The United States cannot shrink away from the world stage, as often suggested by Donald Trump. The world needs the United States to guarantee peace and prosperity in the world, and the United States can do this without overly burdensome measures through the “Broken Window” theory.

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