A road map to freedom and prosperity

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2016/08/16/a-road-map-to-freedom-and-prosperity/

This summer, discussions about America’s role in the world have reached fever pitch. In fact, it has become near impossible to recognize a clear message within the noise of bold, and sometimes contradictory, statements about the proposed future of US foreign policy.

The world is consumed by chaos: No continent is without major strife. Civil wars, bloody persecutions, and the rise of Islamic terrorism have set fire to this world, and the strong-arm posturing by Russia, Iran, and North Korea tests old alliances and spells growing danger.

In such increasingly volatile times, America cannot pretend she has no role to play. Rather, any US government must develop a clear road map that shows sincere commitment to restoring peace and maintaining order in the world. Our privileges as citizens of a free country come at a price – the responsibility to defend freedom as a universal value.  This country will only thrive economically, if it continues to carry the torch of liberty for the rest of the world.

Much has changed in the world since Ronald Reagan challenged Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.” The specter of communism has vanished, defeated by those who recognized its inherent evil, its credibility destroyed by the close to 100 million dead it left behind. But the enemies of freedom remain, lurking under cover and within shifting alliances tinged in shades of grey.

In 2016, Americans are increasingly concerned with domestic affairs more than international ones. According to Pew’s 2016 Global Attitude Survey, 57 percent of Americans want the U.S. to deal with matters at home and let other countries deal with their own problems. To many, military engagement abroad appears futile and conflicts far from home seem irrelevant to personal well-being.

But despite the desire to withdraw, Americans today are impacted by global events and the U.S. response to them more than ever. Whether we wish to acknowledge it or not, U.S. foreign policy with respect to the global terrorist threat, international trade and global economic relations, the Middle East refugee crisis, and countless other issues impact our lives daily.

In the last 20 years, a major cause of the failures of US foreign policy has, according to Niall Ferguson in Colossus, been a sort of national attention deficit disorder. (Ferguson, Niall, Colossus. The Price of America’s Empire New York, 2004).  Hit and run tactics, defeating the enemy and leaving countries to fend for themselves, has had disastrous consequences not only for the regions in questions, but for our national safety. With the free flow of destructive technology and metastasizing terrorist networks, America can no longer hide behind its borders, but must remain involved long term.

Similarly, our local economy cannot help but be effected by the global economy. The US economy thrives on the mechanics of a free market — the bigger the better — and the availability of natural resources. Any US foreign policy must take into account American business interests that reach beyond its borders. Any economic sector in the US, any local business, depends on the sage management of US foreign policy for its future.  While free trade may appear as hurting certain branches of our economy, protective barriers cannot be a long term solution as they hamper economic development long term.

Likewise, our economic power can help increase freedom around the world. In the late 1980’s, Joseph S.  Nye of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government developed the concept of “soft power.” (Soft Power. The Means to Success in World Politics, 2004). According to his analysis, U.S. influence around the world grows because others admire our values and aspire to our level of prosperity and openness. How better to bolster our position but through a global free market? However, it takes more than Hollywood movies and sneakers to make true friends and allies.

In the interest of safety and the US economy, our government cannot choose to remain a passive spectator but must become involved in the world on all levels of trans-national relationships. This is the challenge that any US administration will face. We might wonder, how any US government can help create the institutions necessary for social, political and economic stability in foreign countries. Surely, the task is formidable. It requires exceptional diplomatic skills, foresight, sensitivity, and utmost flexibility as well as military readiness.

Specific national interests in the pursuit of active international engagement will remain paramount. But who else, if not America, can lead this world? Should America choose to retreat as supreme power from the world stage, a power vacuum would ensue and a nightmare scenario of rogue nations, criminal networks, and terrorist anarchy would unfold.

Former Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz argues that the aim of US foreign policy should be to “convince potential competitors that they need not aspire to a greater role or pursue a more aggressive posture to protect their legitimate interests.” (Quoted in: Bacevich, Andrew J., American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of U.S. Diplomacy Cambridge, Mass./London, 2002) But it is only through the proper projection of US power, grounded in the pride of its people in standing up for liberty, that America can remain in a strong enough position to do so.

Any leader of this country must resist offering up simplistic solutions to local problems. Xenophobic and neo-isolationist impulses will not only hurt America’s position in the world, but will undermine the great universal principles that America stands for. Jobs created through protectionism today will mean economic stagnation tomorrow. Apparent safety behind closed borders will turn into an even greater terrorist menace in the future. All Americans will pay the price, if America surrenders leadership.

Human longing for liberty knows no boundaries. It transcends geography and national borders and sparks the flame that carries humankind to ever greater freedom. America remains the great example, in Jefferson’s words, of a “nation of liberty” and a model to the world. This country cannot turn away from its moral obligation of assuming global leadership, in its own national interest and in the interest of humanity, trapped in a broken world, but longing to be free.

Tina McCormick

Tina McCormick

Tina McCormick is Publisher of the NewBostonPost. Read her past columns here.