Liberty Expose: America's Role In The World
Only two weeks into May and the United States is ramping up its military operations across the globe. In Venezuela, the Trump administration is considering military force to oust Nicolas Maduro from power so that Interim President Juan Guaido can restore order to the divided country. While in the Middle East, the Pentagon is deploying the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier group to the Persian gulf to send a message to Iran that their continued support for terrorism and pursuit of nuclear weapons will not be tolerated. While Donald Trump wanted to reign back US action across the globe so we are not the world’s policemen, we still seem stuck in the position. So what should our role in the world be?
As I have mentioned previously, Millennials and Gen-Zers are the non-interventionist generation. They no longer see military conflict as the best way to solve disputes and strengthen national security. While, I agree with this sentiment that the traditional neoconservative brand of foreign policy is no longer sustainable for the GOP or the world, the US must continue as a leader on the world’s stage by building stronger ties using soft power, such as trade and international aid (but this needs reform so that aid is used effectively).
The first tool that the US must use to reassert itself on the world’s stage is by building economic partnerships with other countries. Under the current political climate, the support for free trade agreements among politicians on both sides of the aisle seems to be in decline. In 2016, then-candidates Trump and Clinton vowed to take the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement claiming it would hurt American interests and benefit China. Recently, the GOP is going after Joe Biden for being the Obama administration’s posterboy for the trade agreement. Of all the front-runners in the Democratic primary, Biden is the only candidate in the top tier of the field who is strongly “pro-trade”, while his primary contenders -- Sanders, Warren, and Harris -- are all either mixed on the issue or fervently anti-trade. Many of the lesser known candidates are supportive of trade agreements, but they are floundering in polling due to poor name recognition in a crowded field.
Even though anti-trade candidates are gaining prominence, Americans overall continue to support the lower barriers to trade. As of 2018, 56 percent of adult Americans polled voiced support for free trade agreements, which was an increase from the general attitude during the presidential election. What is buoying support for free trade are democratic voters (67 percent), while Republicans are bitterly divided on the issue (46 percent oppose, 43 percent support).
The benefits of free trade agreements are enormous. Consumers enjoy lower prices, foreign states invest money into the economy, and most importantly, promotes better ties between governments. According to Patrick J. McDonald in his 2004 article titled “Peace through Trade of Free Trade?”, when countries adopt protectionist policies, “military conflict may create income gains” for industries that play a critical role in this sector, thus incentivizing more brinksmanship-style policy. But when countries are tethered together through trade agreements, they are less likely to go to war against each other as the costs would be crippling. In the case of the US-China relationship, China has previously been a major source of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into the US because they saw our economy as the best place to pump their vast resources into. In turn, China was one of the principal consumers of U.S. soybean crop, at least until the trade war began. Neither side could afford military conflict because of the immense repercussions it would entail.
International aid has been a cornerstone of US foreign policy since the end of the Second World War. With Europe and much of the world in shambles from the fighting, the United States was one of the few great powers left standing that had the resources to rebuild these fractured societies. Through the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan, we were able to restore those countries that could not pick themselves up. However, this system suffers from several deficiencies in the developing world, such as corruption and perpetuating a broken system.
Sadly, aid sometimes goes to states mainly based on their priority to national interests. This is true for the United States, China, and other wealthy countries. For the United States, the top recipients of foreign aid go to Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Afghanistan, and Kenya mainly because these countries are critical in the Global War on Terror (GWOT) and for trade. Israel, for example, is at the top of the list at $3.1 billion and much of that aid goes to supporting the country’s defense programs from its regional adversaries. Now the US does not solely give aid to countries critical in the GWOT. Uganda, which is among the poorest of the poor, received $436.4 million in 2018 in order to foster “the ideals of a multi-party democratic system and help fight the spread of deadly diseases that threaten to devastate local communities.” In the list provided by the Borgen Project, a few of the top countries we give aid to are plagued with corruption and no amount of aid will ever change that. Afghanistan is among the most corrupt regimes in the world as government officials pocket funding meant for resources and abuse the population.
Furthermore, international aid may not actually help recipients in getting out of their predicament. According to the Adam Smith Institute, “Foreign aid risks making Third World countries dependent on handouts by prioritising ‘short-term and immediate results’ instead of “lasting change.’” Among the most common forms of international aid used in the developing world are loans. Predictably, these loans make the situation in the recipient country unbearable because that economy is taking on more debt that they are unable to pay off and prolonging their time in extreme poverty. While aid is a noble idea, the policies that are implemented are unable to truly lift struggling countries out of the hole. U.S. foreign aid policy should instead replace monetary aid with either physical aid (medicine, technology, education supplies) or greater access to information (training, internet service) to allow these countries to rise above poverty.
While the United States must maintain its military strength to deter any and all threats, the country’s recent attempts at overthrowing foreign regimes with hard power has proven to be a resounding dud. However, the move towards isolationism and protectionism in the GOP is likewise unsustainable. To preserve the US hegemony and to advance global development, the country’s foreign policy must focus on building up other global societies and fostering healthy partnerships through trade and sustainable international aid that lifts impoverished states up instead of keeping them down. For the GOP in the post Trump era must return to supporting US involvement in world affairs. However, our involvement must not be solely confined to advancing our own national self-interest, but also advancing the interests of the global community.