You can’t save everyone. That’s a familiar refrain heard by anyone in education or any other field of endeavor in which one works with others. By nature, some people don’t wish to be saved, preferring to wallow in whatever circumstances they’ve either created or found themselves in. One does their best to show them the way out, but even then, those efforts can be futile, making the problem worse, or even engendering resentment.
The same can be said for the art of statecraft. Foreign affairs can be a sticky wicket as diplomats attempt to navigate the treacherous waters of foreign affairs. The winds change so often they are hard to predict, unlike the monsoon winds of the Indian Ocean that so many seafaring voyages depended upon in ages past. Modern diplomacy demands one possess the ability to read minds and see into the future, a quality most humans don’t have. This leaves the modern diplomat to rely on his/her own devices and intuition, a gamble at best.
President Washington, in his farewell address warned his progeny “to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world.” This directive was to guide American foreign policy until World War I, only to be reimposed and abandoned again with the Japanese bombing Pearl Harbor. Since that time, we’ve not withdrawn from the world stage, and in fact, increased our presence until recently with the deliberate removal of American troops in Afghanistan and Syria (although some generals didn’t tell the truth about the numbers they removed in Syria, disobeying a direct order from the Commander-in-Chief).
As the policy of isolationism dissipated, the expense of maintaining our presence became greater. Money was/is required to maintain our troop presence in Germany (currently at 34,000 but expected to be cut by 9,500 per orders by the C in C.), Japan (39,000 of which 13,000+ are U.S. Marines), Afghanistan (4,000 with NATO troops outnumbering ours for the first time), and some 80,000 total in the Middle East alone. Examine the chart from January’s addition of U.S. News and World Report below:
“How Many U.S. Troops Are in the Middle East?,” U.S. News & World Report (U.S. News & World Report), accessed December 22, 2020, https://www.usnews.com/news/elections/articles/2020-01-09/after-recent-deployments-how-many-us-troops-are-in-the-middle-east.
The outgoing administration has attempted to reduce our footprint worldwide, but with little success. Foreign entanglements have not only become greater, but the difficulty in withdrawing from them has also increased, as has the expense. Nations, whether they wish to admit it or not have become dependent on American involvement be money or a physical presence. We have truly become the policeman of the world, although that position is being challenged mightily by the Chinese, a nation who would love little more than taking our place on the grand world stage and dole out their influence to an even greater extent than they are doing now.
It is precisely the above comment that keeps our nations leaders, and those in the D.C. Press Corps active and insistent that we must remain engaged with the world. We must continue to dole out foreign aid to nations that might fall under the influence of China and to a lesser degree, Russia. We cannot withdraw for to do so will allow both nations carte blanche to spread their influence as butter on toast, diminishing the United States not only in terms of influence but also trust. Chinese communism would become the rule rather than the exception, and we, little more than an afterthought.
Funny, but the same argument was said of the Soviet Union, and was the basic premise of not only the Cold War, but our involvement in such far away locations as the Korean Peninsula and Vietnam, both unpopular wars, with Vietnam’s influence changing the way Americans view war forever.
There are two predominant thoughts, among many, to consider whether the United States should withdraw unto its own borders ala pre-World War I. The first is if we can afford it. The second, if it is in our best interests to splay the rest of the world open to what Think31 believes is our most dangerous opponent – the Chinese.
If we are to take the first question here, a basic understanding of exactly what the cost is now is in order. Here is a complete breakdown of where United States money goes regarding foreign aid:
In total, the United States spent over 47 billion dollars in foreign aid. While there are a number of reasons for this aid, the fact is that this money is, in one sense or other, bribery and money spent for influence peddling. Yes, there is humanitarian aid included.m Yes, the United States gives more internationally than the rest of the world combined. Yes, we created the problem in Iraq with the ill-conceived Iraq war as well as our further involvement in Afghanistan, but after over 15 years in both locations, at what point will they be able to stand on their own? At what point will they throw away the crutches and walk?
Kenya, Nigeria, South Sudan? Ethiopia? India, Vietnam, Mexico? One look at the extensive list and it appears as though we are little more than the world’s bank, a repository of free money in exchange for influence, information, or maybe nothing but keeping us in the good graces of those nations.
Think31 is not naive. Of course there are greater considerations than what’s been listed above. However, when one considers the money we spend as a nation on other nations, yet have the domestic shortages we have at home, the numbers don’t make a lot of sense. At what point do other nations move out of our basement and live on their own? The American taxpayer is not the funds provider for the rest of the planet, yet our government leaders, with little skin in the game and knowing they will not be held accountable by and large by the American voter simply dole out money and clamor to raise our taxes. Not what President Washington envisioned when he issued that dire warning. We even provide money for Saudi Arabia…think on that for a moment.
The time has come for Americans to stand united and demand of their lawmakers a withdrawal, at least in part, to not only American troops abroad, but reigning in the massive amount of foreign aid we provide the rest of the world. We must demand that money be used for Americans, not stashed in some congressional locker only to be used someplace else. Further, we must demand the rest of the world pay their fair share. Pony up and put their skin in the game too. You rail against Chinese expansion? Then do something about it. Concerned about Russian encroachment? Fund NATO as you are required to, not simply rely on American generosity.
For far too long Europe has adopted a pacifist ideology based on their experience in World War II, leaving the United States via NATO to shoulder the burden of their defense. Now is the time for the Europeans to re-grow their spines, find their footing once again, and stand up for themselves without United States assistance, as should the rest of the world. Simply stated…we can no longer afford it.
**There will be more forthcoming on this theme of re-isolation. Please subscribe to think31.com to follow the series.