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Reflecting Upon Another Anniversary of the War in Afghanistan

October 7, 2015, marks the 14th anniversary of the War in Afghanistan. During that time, we have spent over $700 billion and more than 2,200 American lives have been lost with countless others impacted by loss of limb and PTSD. Yet, Afghanistan stands primed to return to its past state once U.S. troops are removed.

This is what happens in the absence of a cogent foreign policy.

To stimulate a discussion about what our foreign policy should be, I offer an excerpt from an article I wrote for the Washington Times on March 20, 2012, titled, A rational approach to Foreign Policy for the U.S. (now archived by the Community Digital News here):

“The original mission was to drive al-Qaeda from its safe haven in Afghanistan. While the mission was perhaps misguided (since we apparently only relocated the training centers to safe havens in Pakistan), it has long-since been accomplished. However, we have chosen to remain to facilitate “nation building.” Once again, we should be reminded of George Santayana’s quote, ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’

“The reality is that the Constitution doesn’t provide direct guidance with respect to foreign policy. It wasn’t until 1936 that the Supreme Court decided that the Federal Government had exclusive and plenary power over the execution of foreign affairs based upon the fact that the United States is a sovereign nation. So, let’s build upon the ‘sovereign nation’ concept.

“FOREIGN POLICY:  The basis of our own Nation’s sovereignty should be a fundamental respect for the sovereignty of other nations.

“What are the consequences of that simple policy statement?

“It recognizes that the United States is not the ‘watchdog’ of the world. It is not responsible for the socio-economic and political decisions of other nations. Indeed, if we expect other nations to respect the sovereignty of the United States, we must equally honor the sovereignty of those nations.

If we expect other nations to respect the sovereignty of the United States, we must equally honor the sovereignty of those nations.
TJ O'Hara, IVN political analyst
“This is not to suggest an ‘isolationistic’ point of view but rather to pragmatically accept the limitations of our Government’s authority as well as to acknowledge its primary responsibility, which is to ‘form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense (sic), promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.’

“When President Obama initially traveled the globe to apologize for ‘America’s arrogance,’ he wasn’t entirely wrong. If his point was to emphasize that the United States has increasingly tried to force its will on other countries, his argument had merit. Unfortunately, his actions since that time have not reflected any meaningful change of course.

“We continue to pursue fruitless ‘nation building’ initiatives (such as in Iraq and Afghanistan) that have been abject failures and cost us trillions of dollars and thousands of lives over the years. In addition, nearly $30 billion in taxpayer funds are directed toward foreign aid every year, and ironically, the preponderance of it goes to fund the military investments of a handful of predominantly hostile nations. Benjamin Franklin’s definition of insanity would seem to be apropos.

“What if all that time, money and effort were redirected at resolving our own economic challenges rather than attempting to influence the political environments of other countries?

“What if we concentrated on reducing unemployment, poverty and illiteracy in the United States (areas in which our performance has markedly worsened over the past few years)?

“What if we created a model of excellence that inspired other nations to look to us for guidance rather than trying to impose our ideals on them through our purported “nation building” efforts?

“That is the United States of America that I envision: a country that presents such a robust model of success that every nation aspires to learn from our model; a country that engages in the affairs of other nations upon invitation rather than by dictate.”

Rather than taking a “Trumpesque” approach and just saying, “Believe me when I tell you, it will be great,” the article actually goes on to provide very specific details of how an approach of “sovereign respect” would need to be executed.

It concludes by suggesting:

“Consistently applied, this approach would: (1) stabilize our foreign policy in a manner that is actually consistent with our Constitution; (2) work to create more of a global ‘equilibrium’ with respect to economic and political interests; (3) shift the responsibility for ‘global order’ to global entities (such as the U.N.); and (4) dramatically reduce the cost of our forays into the affairs of other sovereign countries. With regard to ‘costs,’ let us not limit our awareness to the trillions of taxpayer dollars that have been spent. Let us primarily acknowledge the greater cost in human lives that has been incurred… To quote the President, ‘We can do better.’ The question becomes: ‘Then, why haven’t we?’”

Rather than defaulting to a major party position, how would you craft our Nation’s foreign policy?

Photo Credit: Przemek Tokar / shutterstock.com

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