Editorial: Foreign involvement necessary

Editorial Board

It’s common during times of economic turmoil for countries to look inwardly at their own affairs, rather than continue to play or strive to play a role in international politics. At our beginning, George Washington warned against foreign entanglements, and we heeded his advice for nearly a century, with the exception of the Manifest Destiny, and at times took that advice to the point of isolationism, such as with the Monroe Doctrine in 1823.

Over time, however, that stance changed. After morphing into one country following the Civil War and experiencing huge population growth, an industrial revolution and the discovery of natural resources such as oil and gold, we began to throw our weight around.

We made the Caribbean an American lake with our involvement in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Panama Canal. We annexed Hawaii. We sent warships to Japan to negotiate trade treaties, and we gained control of the Philippines. Then in 1917, after three years of growing hostility against the German navy, we threw in our lot with the Allied Powers in the First World War. Once we paired our industrial and military might with our financial backing, the war quickly ended.

After two decades of isolationism we did it again, and that involvement in places as far-flung as Berlin, Vietnam, Greece and Korea continued until the end of the Cold War and, in many places, even to the present day.

So how did we forget that we have international obligations?

Other countries have their own interests, and often they are at odds with ours. Maybe certain countries, such as Iran and North Korea, should not possess nuclear weapons. Maybe others, such as China, should not peg their currency’s value to ours to give their economy an advantage.

What happens outside the United States affects us. The Republican candidates for president got around to debating foreign policy and national security last week. The debate surrounding our future role on the international stage is an important one to have and remember. If we don’t lead by example and by working with other countries, others will. Other countries potentially hostile to our interests as well as peace will lead the way.

What will we do about new Egyptian protests over former President Mubarak’s replacement? What will we do to make sure the Pakistani closure of supply lines into Afghanistan has a minimal impact on our mission there and the safety and effectiveness of our troops? Will we act to address Russian deployment of missiles in Eastern Europe, a deployment that counters one of our own?

Americans are bright. They’re talented. Our solutions should be directed at shaping the whole world we live in, not just our own corner of it.