Sunday, January 30, 2011

"Foreign Entanglements"

As President Obama struggles to find a balance in America's foreign policy approach to Egypt I'm reminded of the difficulties America has had with that approach.  On the one hand America wants to encourage greater democratic practices in Egypt.  However, in following this approach, we face the very real possibility that the chaos ensuing from this could result in a radical muslim authority in control of the largest and, culturally, the most important nation in the Middle East.  And, truly, America has realized many failures in attempting to support "stability" in lieu of "democracy".  One only needs to recall Iran, Vietnam, the Marcos Regime in the Philippines, to realize that support for an autocrat is not always in America's best long term interest.

In President George Washington's farewell address he warned his countrymen to beware of "foreign entanglements".  Washington was concerned that America would suffer should we become involved in the constant warring in Europe during that period.  And, for about 140 years, with few exceptions, America indeed steered a neutral course and, being relatively free of the cares of war, we thrived and became the greatest industrial power in the world.   Not until the latter stages of World War I did America enter the "world fray".  And, of necessity, America entered World War II only after a direct attack on the American homeland.  The end of that war left a mighty U.S. presence in all corners of the world.  Our military and industrial success plunged us full bore into a "leader of nations".  Finally, the post-war communist threat entangled us even deeper into active involvement in world affairs.

The  post WWII years has seen America invest hundreds of billions of dollars in  targeted foreign aid and massive defense expenditures.  It is not coincidental that our national budget deficits began with waging an expensive war in Vietnam and this trend has continued with our budget crippling wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  It is indeed ironic that China, for years characterized as a threatening bully, is thriving economically.  Perhaps China's success is at least partly attributable to the fact that she allows others to pursue costly wars, while investing national interest and wealth into building a thriving industrial base.

So, as our President struggles to maintain a balance between fostering democracy elsewhere and maintaining "stability" in troubled nations, it might be wise to re-visit Washington's warnings.  Is it time for America to pull back and begin to concentrate more intensely on our own nation's economic interest?  It is certainly a central question that we must all re-consider.

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