Unfortunately, it is seen as anti-American and unpatriotic to simply point out the flaws in our current foreign policy and attempt to understand why certain countries and terrorist cells partake in acts of terror and hold such resentment toward the United States.
Before we go further, we need to make a crucial distinction — the distinction between an isolationist and a noninterventionist foreign policy. To be more specific, the Founding Fathers promoted a noninterventionist foreign policy, which essentially meant “peace, commerce, and honest friendship, with all nations, entangling alliances with none.” This statement was expressed during Thomas Jefferson’s first inaugural address.
The prime idea behind a noninterventionist foreign policy is to keep the U.S neutral in global affairs and solve problems through diplomacy and not warfare; to avoid all wars not directly related to self-defense and to be free of the moral impulse to assist or hinder other nations that proceed to delve into an endless cycle of warfare. However, a noninterventionist foreign policy does not endorse standing idly by.
A noninterventionist foreign policy urges trade and commerce even during times of war, unless an entity of that country is in danger. These policies strongly oppose more aggressive policies, such as sanctions and embargoes, which in the course of history have killed millions of people and stirred hatred toward the enforcer(s). Instead, noninterventionist policies push for diplomacy and assist in mending, for example, relations between two countries at war.
The most prominent example of an isolationist country in the 21st century is North Korea. The public is purposely misinformed, general Internet access is nearly nonexistent, trade is done at the margin of necessity, and diplomacy, according to reports, is slowly growing but is mostly restricted between trading partners.
Even though there are scenarios that may call for a little more or less intervention, noninterventionism — as stated above — should be the default approach to how nations engage with each other. Foreign policy is not exclusively black or white, war or isolation. In fact, there are many shades of gray that must be explored in order to one day obtain stability.
Toward the beginning of the 20th century, the U.S had very limited involvement in the Middle East compared to Britain and France, who had managed to colonize almost all of the Middle East after the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1918. The United States was popular and highly respected throughout the region.
By the end of the Second World War, the United States had come to consider the Middle East region as “the most strategically important area of the world,” and “one of the greatest material prizes in world history.” For that reason, it was not until after World War II that America became directly involved in the Middle East region.
In 1948, the U.S and the Truman administration pushed for a solution in the Arab-Israeli conflict. The United States was the first country to recognize Israel as a state, then several western nations followed. However, no Arab state recognized the state of Israel. The UN then assigned Israel a portion of Palestine and the Arab-Israeli conflict has since grown to be one of the most controversial and geopolitically significant issues today.
In 1951, Mohammad Mosaddeq became the prime minister of Iran. After he was elected, he wanted to drastically change European influence in Iran — especially economically. Mossadeq thus cut diplomatic ties with Britain and nationalized the Iranian oil industry to receive the major profits the British-owned Anglo-Iranian Oil company received.
Toward the beginning of the 20th century, the U.S had very limited involvement in the Middle East compared to Britain and France.
Then, in 1979, the Iranian people, fed up with the Shah, violently revolted against him in what is know as the Iranian Revolution. After the revolution, the Iranian people replaced the Shah with an Islamic Republic under the Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Soon afterwords, the U.S helped prop up Saddam Hussein and sold chemical weapons to him in order to fight Iran and their new Islamic Republic. This all escalated to what is now known as the Gulf War and the Iraq War.
The last example is referred to as Operation Cyclone. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union tried to expand its control into Afghanistan. In order to prevent expansion, the CIA supplied and trained Islamic militant groups to fight the Soviet Union upon expansion. The most prominent group was called the Mujahideen. Operation Cyclone was one of the longest and most expensive CIA operations ever undertaken.
The roots of contemporary jihadism date back to ideological developments that began to emerge toward the end of the 19 century. Specifically, Islamic revivalism opened the door for Qutbism and related ideologies during the mid-20th century. Its rise was re-enforced by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. So, in other words, funding and propping up these radical Islamist groups served U.S interests at the time but eventually turned into the same al-Qaida, al-Nusra, and ISIS we are fighting so hard now to destroy.
It is important to understand that there are more reasons behind violence than religious zeal or jealousy for our freedom and culture. The University of Chicago’s Robert Pape, for his book, Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism, collected a database of all 462 suicide terrorist attacks between 1980 and 2004. One thing he found was that religious beliefs were not as big of a factor as we thought.
The world’s leading suicide terrorist group is actually the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, a Marxist secular group. The larger Islamic fundamentalist countries at the time had very few attacks until the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
The main cause for terrorist recruitment is not religion. Michael Scheuer, who was chief to the CIA’s Osama Bin Laden Unit at the Counterterrorist Center, openly speaks about how much easier it is to recruit terrorists into a specific group after, for example, their parents are killed in a U.S.-led drone strike. Scheuer says that while religious radicalism is present, Arabs and Muslims are being influenced and convinced to fight due to the actions of their common enemy.
These issues are far more complex and I urge readers to continue researching and reading about U.S foreign policy and the examples explained above. There are many examples I left out, such as the Iraq War, Gulf War, Libya, and others. These examples all carry profound historical significance when it comes to examining current events such as FSA, ISIS, Iraq, and modern terrorism.
The United States needs a drastic change in its foreign policy. Trade, commerce, and diplomacy are the best ways to ensure peace and safety. As being the leader of the free world, if the United States leads by example, other countries will no doubt follow. The U.S is in a position to prove to the world that humans can evolve beyond war and aggression. WE, the United States, have the ability to finally show the world that the pen IS mightier than the sword and that an extended hand of friendship will take us further than the pain of a punch.
Editor’s note: This article originally published on the site, YoungJeffersonians.com, on April 9, 2015, and has been edited for publication on IVN.