Foreign policy in America – unlike many domestic issues – is generally ignored by the public except following “acts of war” such as the mass taking of American hostages (Iran) or a domestic attack (Pearl Harbor and 9-11). As a result of this general indifference, there don’t tend to be many radical ideas in mainstream policy debates – even between Republicans and Democrats – such as the one we witnessed last night.
The world is still a big place but we can still break down things into three sections- a Multipolar, an America-centric, and an Isolationist view of the world.
Since JKF and the end of the Vietnam war, Democrats have tended to stay in the Multipolar view using international institutions like the UN to de-emphasize the role – and influence – of America in the world. This approach figures into the Liberal world view which says we can only arrive at the truth via consensus.
Conservatives traditionally were of the Isolationist worldview but since WWII have slowly – and steadily – embraced the America-centric view of the world. Ron Paul and Pat Buchanan can be said to be two of the dinosaurs of the GOP in that they want use to mostly fold up our tent and go home. The Neocon exemplifies the Conservative who takes a much more aggressive – and Interventionist – view of foreign policy.
Working from these basic tenets, most of America’s foreign policy can be explained. Thus whenever Democrats veer from a Multipolar foreign policy such as Clinton’s cruise missile strikes in the former Yugoslavia or Obama’s drone killings along the Pakistani-Afghanistan border they must be done very rapidly, even if they are ineffective.
Obama has departed from the traditional Democratic approach to foreign policy in Afghanistan where he sent as many as 30,000 troops in a “surge” back in 2010. Though those extra troops are gone now they did cause the death toll there among U.S. forces to shoot up to their (as of this writing) current total of 2,141 since 2001.
Though the death total for U.S. troops has averaged 1 soldier per every 2 days you’d never know if by looking at the news.
Why did Obama go so deeply in Afghanistan?
Conservatives have succeeded in moving the needle to the right in the sense of forcing Democratic presidents to be more willing to use military force – and a post-Soviet Union world has become more unstable – but Obama is also “cleaning up Bush’s mess.”
I think Obama – and his party – felt they had to withdraw from Iraq as soon as possible but couldn’t get away with doing the same thing in Afghanistan since the 9-11 attacks originated from that country.
So Obama had hoped a surge would quickly stabilize Afghanistan long enough to let him triumphantly withdraw U.S. troops before than paint dried and the house there fell apart.
What I feel America needs to do is to continue an orderly withdrawn from Iraq – as conditions allow – and remove our troops from Saudi Arabia, too while committing to a multi-generational presence in Afghanistan which is conveniently located between Pakistan and Iran and will go right back to hosting terrorist groups as soon as we leave.
If we are able to leave Iraq a stable democracy that is friendly to the West while removing a big sore point from the Islamic world – occupation of their holy lands – while having a strong presence in Afghanistan to keep an eye on Pakistan and Iran while stabilizing that nation I feel the United States will go a long way towards strengthening its security.
Neither candidate will discuss leaving Saudi Arabia (we need their oil, they need our security) and neither candidate will commit to staying in Afghanistan any longer than possible. And Democrats seem hellbent on having Iraq fail because they initially supported G.W. Bush on it.
And this is the frustrating thing about American foreign policy… you’ll never get any honest answers and the American pubic mostly won’t care.