At this point in the life of our nation, there is a question we should be asking and a direction we should be considering:
Should we use our military power to intervene in the affairs of other nations?
Quite clearly we are neither physically nor financially able to use military force to make all other nations do what is in our national interest. Consequently, we have only done that in some situations and failed to do so in others. But the effect is for the U.S. to seem inconsistent and hypocritical. For instance, we intervened in Libya to protect the Libyan people from Muammar Gaddafi, who certainly is a ruthless dictator, but why, then do we not intervene in North Korea to protect its people from Kim Jong-il, another ruthless leader? Why did we invade Somalia where there was a humanitarian crisis, then reverse our action and leave? Why did we not intervene in Rwanda to stop the millions of deaths there?
One may answer that, in the case of Libya, the people themselves sought our intervention. It is true that some rebels there requested air cover, but do they represent the majority of the Libyan people? How many people, then, must ask for our intervention for us to be willing to go to war?
What will happen now as political upheaval spreads throughout the Middle East, if some call for U.S. intervention, and others warn against such action? The easy answer is that we will do what is necessary to protect the flow of oil from the region, and that is our real reason for any intervention. But if we look back to Vietnam, that was not the reason for that war.
The question of whether we should ever intervene should have been asked and answered in the negative many years ago. Non-involvement and non-intervention in the affairs of other peoples should have been our abiding foreign policy from the beginning. George Washington warned against a foreign policy that since his administration has entangled the U.S. in conflicts around the world, to the end that it is inconceivable to most Americans that we should not become involved in the internal affairs of other nations, or be willing to invade sovereign nations to force a desired outcome.
That posture must change. Our foreign policy should lead us in the direction of a non-interventionist posture, with the guiding principle that of acknowledging the sovereignty of other nations. At a time when our nation is over $13 trillion in debt and piling on more debt every day, using our military to affect foreign policy not only is financially unsustainable, but in most cases it is counter-productive. We cannot afford to right the wrongs of the governments of other nations. Our own national government constantly abrogates the Constitutional rights of Americans. By what moral authority, then, do we tell other governments how to act toward their people? We must recognize our limitations and act accordingly.
I am not a pacifist. Our government exists to protect our rights and our lives. If we are attacked, then our government must respond to protect us. But there is no justification for our government’s military intervention in the affairs of other sovereign nations otherwise. Doing so escalates the need for continued intervention, as we create enemies throughout the world. It has been said that war is the failure of diplomacy. It will be much easier to carry on diplomatic relations with other nations if those governments know that our foreign-policy platform is neutral, that we will argue for our own interests with the tools available to us–short of military intervention in their affairs, and that our policy is applied consistently among nations.
In short, we can no longer afford–physically, morally, or financially–military intervention in other nations. While we must make it clear that military and terrorist attacks against the U.S. will not be tolerated, we can defuse much of the hostility toward us by conducting a consistent and neutral foreign policy without the we-will-invade-you attitude.