Just a Thought
Monday, May 23, 2016
“International engagement has never been a business deal. International engagement is not a transaction in which we give something tangible and receive something tangible in return. America has something more to give than the nations we’re helping, and that’s one of the reasons we have a responsibility to lead. As is written in the Bible, ‘From everyone who has been given much, much will be required.’ But our leadership ends up paying dividends for the entire world, but especially for the American people.’” – Marco Rubio, Senate floor, May 19, 2016
In his Senate floor speech this past Thursday, Marco Rubio addressed an erroneous argument that has gained popularity regarding foreign policy. It is the argument that the United States contributes too much and our allies contribute too little and are somehow indebted to us. Marco Rubio eloquently refuted this claim. Contrary to popular belief, America cannot simply abdicate its leadership role with regard to foreign affairs. Since WWII, America has sat atop the global balance of power, and both America and the world have been better for it. Who better to be at the helm of world affairs than a benevolent nation, seeking not to control people, but rather to free them from the bonds of slavery, poverty, and oppression? Doing so benefits twofold, a point which is the main focus of this article.
After WWII, we forged new alliances and gained numerous strategic positions throughout the world. Together with our allies, we spearheaded a global effort to promote peace and democracy. We have been blessed with being the foremost successful and prosperous nation. And due to that disproportionate success, we are thus disproportionately obliged in terms of our commitment abroad.
The reality is, we have been richly benefited by our endeavors in that regard. Our expenditures and leadership has reaped great rewards, just as much, if not more, than the targets of our outreach. As Marco stated, “ International engagement is not a business deal…”; we are not mercenaries; a paid-for-hire enterprise that charges a fee in exchange for our protection or services. We are part of an international coalition, one in which we are the leader. We are the leader in part because of our disproportionately large achievements and presence. That presence serves not only to spread our message of peace and democracy, but to reinforce our position, and ensure that our views and wishes are strengthened and represented. Our spheres of influence around the world provide many benefits.
They allow us to simultaneously protect our interests and those of our allies, promote peace, and gain more allies and business partners at the same time. By being readily and widely available, we are able to open up lines of communication and connect with millions of people, and make valuable – and profitable – alliances.
But just how do Americans benefit just as much, if not more, by disproportionately expanding its resources abroad? The first benefit is financial. Globalization is real, and it is here to stay. Those countries in which we occupy and help financially and militarily? They, in turn, become free and prosperous as well. That means more customers for American businesses. If you were down-and-out, and someone more successful came along and helped you, would you not have a favorable opinion of them? And with your new found freedom and enterprise, would you not be the first one in line to do business with them? Take South Korea, for example. We helped defend them against the communist North Koreans (supported by the Chinese and Russians) in the Korean War. By helping them obtain their freedom, we now have three things: a stable outpost of democracy in an unsettled area; a loyal and strategic ally in that unsettled area; and a prosperous country full of loyal customers for our products and services. Priceless.
Isolationism does not work, especially in today’s globalized society. As we observed with Pearl Harbor and 9-11, our adversaries have proven that an ocean is by no means a deterrent to inflicting harm upon us and our way of life. And America will always be a prime target. The practice of isolationism is only one-sided. That a country practices it does not itself ensure sequestration from global society. A country can practice isolationism, but that does not mean they are indeed truly isolated. Just because one chooses to ignore something does not negate it occurrence. In this day and age, such a practice is akin to sticking one’s head in the sand. Events continue to unfold, regardless of one’s inability to see or acknowledge them. Globalization is a way of life; we are more interconnected now than ever. As Marco said in his Senate speech, “International affairs have a bigger impact on the financial well-being of our people today than ever before. In our global economy, someone on the other side of the planet can now buy a product from an American with the tap of a finger. But when nations or entire regions are torn apart by war and oppression, they become closed off, and economic growth in our own country is restricted as a result.” Where there is no leadership, chaos and decay results, and economic opportunity diminishes. If no one steps into the vacuum and creates order, that chaos will spread, and opportunities will be thwarted. And in this globalized and interconnected world, that instability will spill across borders – and yes, oceans, too – negatively affecting people’s physical and financial safety. In his speech, Marco points out that the recent setbacks in the Middle East have occurred as a result of American withdrawal. It is just one example of what happens when America is not involved in crucial situations abroad.
It is true that America cannot solve all the world’s problems. That is what alliances such as NATO are for. But foreign affairs is not a game. It is a delicate balance of diplomatic relationships, spanning miles and cultures. It is a group of people working together to achieve peace, stability and prosperity. Each player plays a unique and vital role. And yes, the role and expenditure of some is greater than that of others, but that is largely due to their level of importance. Some people want to “Make America great again.” Well, America is already great. In order to stay that way, it needs to continue its role as a chief global executive. We control the narrative, and stand watch, guarding against physical and technological foes. Look at the development of society since we assumed that role in 1945. Prosperity and ingenuity flourished, (and it continues to do so). Of course, problems always exist, but who better to be in charge of solving them than a benevolent and successful nation that practices what it preaches? Marco astutely observed: “Failing to lead costs us more in the long-term than it saved us in the short-term. And we will continue to pay a steep price each time we fail to lead in the future. There are complex considerations to make regarding our engagement in every region, but I believe a world without sustained American engagement is not a world any of us want to live in . . . Just because our government leaders are weak, does not mean America is weak.” Freedom is not free, and it takes courage, sacrifice, and cooperation to maintain it. The right choice is not always the easiest one. Unfortunately, our current leaders and candidates for President view America as a weak nation that is unable to carry such a burden anymore. Marco Rubio knows that is not true. He knows what it takes to lead; that we are strong, exceptional and equal to the task, just as those in the generations before us were.