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United States Foreign Policy: Failure of Intervention

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    Intervention in the affairs of other countries is not a new development on the international stage, and the United States is guilty of this action. Virtually all powerful states have intervened abroad for various reasons, and the question to be asked is whether there is a place for external intervention in the modern world. This sample research paper seeks to understand how to achieve peace through external intervention and is one of the many subjects covered by our talented writers. 

    Achieving peace through external intervention

    Throughout human history, there have been very few empires or nations with the political and military power to impose lasting peace on other, sovereign entities. Going back to antiquity, it was far more common to attempt militaristic expansion and annexation, than to put effort into diplomatic relations. In the modern world, however, the threat of world war and mutually assured destruction by nuclear means is prevalent; international relations and policy are more important now than ever. With this in mind, it is unfortunate that stable, durable peace remains a secondary or even tertiary goal, to the self-interests of nations with the ability to achieve said peace. 

    Enter the United States 

    The United States is currently the only modern superpower, boasting:

    • The most powerful political and military force in human history.
    • A gross domestic product several orders of magnitude above any empire in history. 
    • A military funded more than the next thirteen nations combined (Plumer, Brad 2013). 

    The United States has the ability to go to war with any country, depose any dictator, enforce any treaties and control the world’s trade routes. However, external intervention by the United States in foreign affairs has often resulted in dire consequences for all parties involved. Even so, the sheer political and military might of the U.S. hegemony cannot be ignored, and if applied appropriately, durable peace can be imposed by external intervention.

    Ascension to world power

    The ascension of the United States to a world superpower largely began after the war of 1812 with Britain; once it no longer had any enemies to fear from abroad, the U.S. was free to turn its eyes inward and begin a period of rapid expansion and economic growth. Because of this, during the bulk of the 19th century and the first quarter of the 20th century, the foreign policy of the United States was, officially, governed by non-interventionism. 

    Foreign conflict amidst non-interventionism

    Despite the doctrine of non-interventionism, the late 19th century saw the United States enter into several foreign conflicts, not all of which were reactive or defensive in nature. 

    1. The Spanish-American War was fought in 1898 because of fervor over yellow-journalism, which had insisted that Spain was somehow involved in the destruction of an American battleship that had exploded due to mechanical failures (Library of Congress). 
    2. Following the victory over Spain, which established the United States as a world, rather than regional power, a brief war with the Philippines erupted.  In an attempt to put down insurrectionists such as Emilio Aguinaldo who sought Filipino independence from the U.S. (which had won control of the Philippines from Spain), the United States sent forces for a brief period in 1907 (Office of the Historian). 
    3. The establishment of various “Banana Republics” in the Caribbean, under the “Roosevelt Corollary” to the Monroe Doctrine, which stated:

    Any country whose people conduct themselves well can count upon our hearty friendship. If a nation shows that it knows how to act with reasonable efficiency and decency in social and political matters, if it keeps order and pays its obligations, it need fear no interference from the United States. Chronic wrongdoing, or an impotence which results in a general loosening of the ties of civilized society, may in America, as elsewhere, ultimately require intervention by some civilized nation, and in the Western Hemisphere the adherence of the United States to the Monroe Doctrine may force the United States, however reluctantly, in flagrant cases of such wrongdoing or impotence, to the exercise of an international police power (Roosevelt Corollary).

    European interventionism

    This policy of “what’s okay for me is not okay for you” with regards to European interventionism in the Western hemisphere, remained the official position of the United States following Roosevelt’s presidency. This was only compromised on a large scale in the face of World War I. In 1915, Germany sank the RMS Lusitania, an American merchant ship. This resulted in the deaths of 128 American civilians (PBS). American merchant ships traded with either side during the war as per the United States’ official policy of neutrality. After the repeated sinking of these ships by German U-boats, President Woodrow Wilson asked for and obtained from Congress, a declaration of war (Office of the Historian). This marked a departure from the largely “non-interventionist” doctrine the United States had practiced practically since its inception. 

    Isolationism

    Following the First World War, the United States again began a policy of isolationism, such as the “Good Neighbor Policy” of 1933, established by President Franklin Roosevelt, which maintained a focus on trade and business affairs rather than reverting to the interventionist policies of his forebears (Office of the Historian). This would also allow the rise of brutal dictators in the Caribbean and see the U.S. maintain neutrality in world affairs. 

    America would be called back to conflict on December 7th, 1941, entering WWII as one of the numerous consequences of the Japanese bombing Pearl Harbor (Office of the Historian). 

    The Cold War between the United States and The Soviet Union

    After the end of the WWII in 1945, the United States began a “cold war” with the Soviet Union, based largely upon espionage and arms build-up. This would be the primary factor to consider in American foreign policy for the next 50 years, as the United States would be drawn into a series of armed conflicts and proxy wars around the globe, including:

    Last country standing 

    Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in December of 1991 (The Cold War Museum), the United States experienced a period of unprecedented economic and militaristic expansion, as it no longer had an equal. Unfortunately, this was not to last, as the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001 would plunge the United States into a war with Islamic fundamentalists, primarily in Iraq and Afghanistan. The ensuing decade would see exponentially increased levels of United States foreign intervention, with some resulting in the deposition of brutal dictators (Muammar Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein) and other resulting in widespread revolution and military coups, such as the Arab Spring of 2011 (Blight, Pullham, Torpey).

    Consequences of direct action

    Intervention from the United States: World police

    There are many issues involved with foreign intervention, and the United States stands as a prime case study when considering monumental failures. Unfortunately, the direst consequences of geopolitical relations are often the unseen consequences. United States foreign policy has always been written in an effort to preserve and protect the interests of the United States. This is not uncommon, as many other nations conduct themselves on the world stage in much the same manner. The difference between the United States and the rest of the world, however, is that the United States has a tendency to play “world policeman,” in accordance with the Roosevelt Corollary. In addition to this, the installation of many puppet dictators in the interest of American acquisition of resources or strategic military installations across the globe, has resulted in the ire of many nations, particularly those who were once (or still are) housed under these regimes. 

    Unforeseen consequences

    The United States has frequently intervened in world affairs without foreseeing the results of this meddling. Examples include:

    1. The Iran Hostage Crisis of 1979, in which the Shah of Iran was deposed in favor of the militant Islamic Ayatollah Khomeini, whose doctrine of Islamic Theocracy over that of the corrupt, secular and American backed Shah caused a rift between Iran and the U.S. that continues to this day. 
    2. The Vietnam War, in which the United States intervened simply to stem the flow of Communism from the borders of the Soviet Union. This resulted in the needless deaths of many thousands of American and Vietnamese, and ultimately resulted in zero tangible gains for the United States. 
    3. The Afghan revolution during the late 1970’s and early 80’s, when the United States gave arms and aid to the Mujahedeen fighters (of which Osama Bin Laden was a member) who wished to repel the Soviet forces. 

    Unseen consequences continue to abound, as the decision to arm Islamic radicals simply to cause difficulty for then-enemy forces gave Islamic radicals the means and the motivations for future attacks against the United States. 

    Slave to self-interest

    The United States has the power to change the world and ensure durable and lasting peace through foreign intervention. However, the ways in which the U.S. conducts itself abroad preclude one disaster after another. This is due to the immense level of focus attributed to American interests, regardless of whether they’re strategic or resource based. This policy of “America first” is, essentially, international relations with blinders. The other side of the road is in view, but the resulting conflict seems to be is just out of our line of sight. 

    Necessary adjustments

    In adjusting our goals, taking a more preventative and proactive approach to foreign policy and intervention, rather than the reactive and defensive approach should be the goal. The latter is responsible for conflicts such as the Syrian chemical weapons crisis and the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. By changing this approach, we can begin to lay the groundwork for a future where foreign intervention is not only a viable option for lasting peace, it is the preferred and regularly expected option. The U.S. has begun to turn the tide in this regard over the last decade under the Bush and Obama administrations. Despite the unpopular and catastrophic occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States has begun offering aid in the form of:

    • Helping to rebuild broken cities, 
    • Dig wells for impoverished villages 
    • Provide protection for civilians wherever and whenever possible. 

    This is the type of foreign intervention that needs to be championed in order to create sustained, durable peace. 

    Conclusion

    As the U.S. begins its trek towards energy independence and globalization takes hold, the need to acquire foreign resources by force will dwindle, and the establishment of puppet dictators to further American interests has largely been abandoned. In order to ensure that this generation of anti-American fervor in the Middle East and elsewhere can be replaced with a generation of people grateful for American aid, the United States must aggressively pursue preventative humanitarian efforts. The goal of a humanitarian doctrine governing United States foreign policy must be a mission to bring aid to impoverished nations, protect those under attack from forces foreign and domestic, and above all, broker peace. If this can be realized, then it can be reasonably inferred that future, durable peace can and will be imposed through external intervention. 

    Works Cited

    "American Entry into World War I, 1917 - 1914–1920 - Milestones - Office of the Historian." American Entry into World War I, 1917 - 1914–1920 - Milestones - Office of the Historian. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2013. <http://history.state.gov/milestones/1914-1920/wwi>.

    Blight, Gary, Sheila Pullham, and Paul Torpey. "Arab spring: an interactive timeline of Middle East protests." the Guardian. N.p., 5 Jan. 2012. Web. 30 Nov. 2013. <http://www.theguardian.com/world/interactive/2011/mar/22/middle-east-protest-interactive-timeline>.

    "Good Neighbor Policy, 1933 - 1921–1936 - Milestones - Office of the Historian." Good Neighbor Policy, 1933 - 1921–1936 - Milestones - Office of the Historian. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Dec. 2013. <http://history.state.gov/milestones/1921-1936/good-neighbor>.

    "Introduction." - The World of 1898: The Spanish-American War (Hispanic Division, Library of Congress). N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Dec. 2013. <http://www.loc.gov/rr/hispanic/1898/intro.html>.

    "Lusitania." PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 1 Dec. 2013. <http://www.pbs.org/lostliners/lusitania.html>.

    Plumer, Brad. "America's Staggering Defense Budget, In Charts." The Washington Post. N.p., 7 Jan. 2013. Web. 1 Dec. 2013. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/01/07/everything-chuck-hagel-needs-to-know-about-the-defense-budget-in-charts/>.

    "Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, 1904 - 1899–1913 - Milestones - Office of the Historian." Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, 1904 - 1899–1913 - Milestones - Office of the Historian. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Dec. 2013. <http://history.state.gov/milestones/1899-1913/roosevelt-and-monroe-doctrine>.

    "The Cold War Museum." Cold War Museum. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2013. <http://www.coldwar.org/articles/90s/fall_of_the_soviet_union.asp> 

    "The Pearl Harbor Attack, 7 December 1941." The Pearl Harbor Attack, 7 December 1941. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2013. <http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq66-1.htm>.

    "The Philippine-American War, 1899–1902 - 1899–1913 - Milestones - Office of the Historian." The Philippine-American War, 1899–1902 - 1899–1913 - Milestones - Office of the Historian. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2013. <http://history.state.gov/milestones/1899-1913/war>.

    "US History Timeline: Cold War." US History Timeline: Cold War. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Dec. 2013. <http://faculty.washington.edu/qtaylor/a_us_history/cold_war_timeline.htm >

     
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