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article imageOp-Ed: Putting America’s Economic House in Order

By John Dewar Gleissner     Feb 4, 2012 in World
The United States of America is still the world's leading economic and military power. How can the U.S. preserve that position?
Pronouncements by politicians and the U.S. State Department regarding other nations bring to mind the "policeman of the world" status the United States often adopts. Unquestionably, the United States is still the most powerful nation in the world, but our leadership status depends upon a healthy American economy. As American debt deepens, our ability and incentive to straighten out the rest of the world will and ought to decline. American power projected overseas always comes at a steep price. Young lives are lost. Aircraft carrier groups, foreign aid, weapons, intelligence services, military bases, alliances and foreign initiatives often cost billions of dollars. American triumphs over colonialism, fascism and communism bred overconfidence in our ability to impose our culture and values upon dissimilar nations and regions.
As was the case in Afghanistan, driving communism from Afghanistan did not produce an American-friendly state - or any state at all considering the disjointed status of Afghanistan on September 11, 2001. Yes, a victory in the Cold War was won in Afghanistan, but an enemy bastion in the War on Terrorism was then created. New enemies arise after old enemies are defeated. Something similar happened in Iraq: We eliminated our enemy Saddam Hussein, put the Shiite majority in power, and now face the Shiite enemy in Iran as well as certain Shiite enemies inside Iraq. The depositions of Moammar Qaddafi in Libya and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt do not necessarily create American-friendly successor regimes. We might face problems in Syria after a regime change occurs. A cost-benefit analysis should question how much benefit America obtains for the lives and money spent to police areas of the world vastly different from our own.
The United States must own up to its cultural ignorance of the Arab and Muslim worlds. No matter what we do, elements in those societies still hate our guts. Over a decade after 9-11, we still anger “friendly” Muslims in those countries where our troops fight. We thought Pakistan was our ally in the fight against global terrorism, only to find out they harbored our greatest enemy. After 9-11, we discovered that wealthy Saudis funded terrorists. The truth is, we have never been, we are not now, and we are not likely to be reliable and true friends with nations that differ so greatly from ours in religion, government, education, economics and culture. We can buy friends, as always, but then return to the inevitable cost-benefit analysis.
The financial cost of foreign military and economic intervention today must be measured in borrowed money. The cost of foreign military intervention seems prohibitive if the goal is to prevent another 9-11, because the attacks of 9-11 did not originate on foreign soil, not directly anyway. The 9-11 terrorists hijacked planes flying out of Virginia, Massachusetts and New Jersey.
Civil wars and suffering in most other nations do not harm American interests enough to justify the loss of American military lives. In fact, unfriendly nations that fight civil wars or other hostile nations increase our relative power most of the time. World power is always relative to other nations. China, Russia, Brazil and India are on the rise, primarily due to their economic strength. Economic power invariably translates into military and diplomatic strength. Economic forces, not bombs, eventually brought Vietnam to adopt our economic model. We would do well to remember that economic muscle generally precedes world power. Increasingly, the United States must get its own economic house in order before it takes inordinate interest in the affairs of faraway lands.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about neoisolationism, Debt, Economy, US economy, Afghanistan
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