ABOUT THE QUICK TAKE
At the last presidential debate, President Barack Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney sparred over foreign policy. With many AU students passionate about our foreign policy, the Quick Take columnists give their take on what the role the U.S. should have overseas.
By Ethan McLeod
We all remember that fateful day last May when President Barack Obama announced on national television that one of the world’s most wanted terrorists, Osama Bin Laden, had been killed by a U.S. Army Special Forces unit in Pakistan.
An ability to act with caution is one fundamental responsibility our government has learned to adopt gradually over the past few years. It is easy to tread a fine line between pursuing conflict and allowing international conflict to arise before taking a role. That day, one had a distinct feeling of pride and responsibility for our country, knowing that the United States had finally carried out its retribution for events that transpired 10 years earlier.
This feeling is what the U.S. should strive to instill in its citizens regularly through a passive approach to war and overseas strife. The popular alternative view for many is that our country must unfailingly aim to exert its military dominance across the world given any chance to rid ourselves of yet another threat to freedom. Indeed, the U.S. must fight for individuals’ freedoms and against unstable governments around the world in order to establish the overseas presence that we want. This is what we have attempted to do in Libya and Syria, assisting rebels in overthrowing abusive governments and defending individuals’ free speech.
Beneath this attitude to approach conflict aggressively is a disregard for the animosity we generate from the international community. We cannot forget the 2003 invasion of Iraq that spawned almost a decade of international criticism, heavy spending by the U.S., thousands of civilian casualties and a world consensus of disdain for the American presence in Iraq. A 2007 poll conducted by the BBC World Service that comprised the opinions of people in 75 different countries showed that 73 percent of the international community disapproved of the U.S.’s involvement in Iraq.
We have a history of being labeled as the instigator, dating back to the Cold War and Vietnam. Many are indifferent toward this reputation because we remain a military powerhouse all over the world. But to actively foster a negative international view of our country is unfair to our citizens, our military deployed in overseas operations and our national dignity.
The U.S. must assume a “lead from behind” stance so as not carry on the negative reputation that the country has acquired in past years from remaining perpetually involved in overseas conflicts. Taking a reactionary role to world conflicts ensures that our country exerts its power as a dominant military force and a supporter of individual freedoms while still retaining a positive reputation as a country.
Ethan McLeod is a junior in the School of Communication.
By Scott Weathers
Although recent experience would tell us otherwise, the U.S. has a responsibility to protect innocent life when threatened by acts of extreme violence, such as genocide.
Reckless military excursions in Iraq and Afghanistan have taught the American public that uses of force should be avoided, and we should be glad for this. The U.S. has little place in overthrowing dictators or occupying nations for decades.
However, the past 20 years have also taught us that without intervention, millions can die of genocide and the costs of conflict, such as hunger and disease. As the strongest military and economic power, the U.S. has a compelling moral reason to expand its foreign aid to prevent deaths where possible and intervene militarily where we have a reliable chance of halting injustices.
Although the Republican Party’s budget ideas indicate otherwise, U.S. foreign aid should be one of the most uncontroversial spending items. Four million lives will be saved over the next five years directly because of U.S. investments in vaccines, according to a recent article in Politico. A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine reports that former President George W. Bush’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has prevented 1.2 million AIDS-related deaths since its creation.
These are just the most prominent victories of U.S. foreign aid, certainly worth celebrating. Although our political leaders spend their time arguing over the merits of “Obamacare” or Social Security, neither of these programs are likely to save as many lives as our foreign aid.
In my mind, politicians and voters who seek to eliminate these essential programs misunderstand the successes of foreign aid. This is a tragedy. If our public perception of foreign aid improves, we could certainly save millions of lives.
However, a more understandable aversion to foreign intervention also exists, and it’s led us to accept the deaths of millions as an inevitable part of our anarchic world.
During the genocide in Rwanda, which killed almost 800,000, then-President Bill Clinton did not take action. He eventually came to call this the biggest regret of his presidency, saying, “I believe if I had moved we might have saved at least a third of those lives.”
Although the U.S. should not rush to intervene, there are certainly instances where our military can save lives. Recent genocides in Darfur and Rwanda and humanitarian disasters in Somalia and Kenya are the most clear-cut examples of where we could have had an impact.
Though military and humanitarian intervention is costly and full of doubt, allowing millions to perish is undoubtedly a massive moral price to pay.
Scott Weathers is a freshman in College of Arts and Sciences.