On status quo: America as world police, problem solver
Take a look at a map of the globe tacked onto the wall of your nearest lecture hall, or easier yet — pull out your smart phone, open your Google Maps app and zoom out all the way until the world fits neatly on your snazzy, maybe cracked, HD screen. On every continent, including Antarctica, and in almost every ocean, there is a foreign policy crisis that is or already has unfolded. The United States, unsurprisingly, is entrenched in each one of these crises either directly or indirectly. This reality is accepted by many and qualified by the notion of American exceptionalism, a concept that only promulgates the perception of America as a world police. However, this has thrust the country into a highly unsustainable and tenuous position.
The continued absence of an activist forwarding U.S. foreign policy throughout the past two decades has evolved the U.S. into a reactionary geopolitical player. Over the past year alone we have been blindsided by the rise of Da'ish (ISIS), the ominous Russian annexation of Crimea and a brewing showdown of naval conflict in the South China Sea — all developments with profound global implications. U.S. foreign policy has nevertheless proven to be unprepared to tactfully approach any one of these issues.
Since 9/11, every subsequent release of the President’s National Security Strategy report has consistently been dominated by repetitive initiatives in counterterrorism and has lacked in any kind of pervasive international approach to foreign policy. These reports are not only intended to outline narrow national security issues but also represent a lens into America's global priorities. Indeed, every administration since 9/11 has failed to pronounce a proactive framework of foreign policy or a protracted diplomatic enterprise capable of anticipating and confronting the evolving issues of the times. This current political posture is economically costly, inefficient and frankly dangerous. Such unprepared nations often find themselves spread too thin, haphazardly bouncing between international issues and too distracted to focus on improving their own important domestic conditions. It is time for the U.S. to study its current position in the geopolitical environment and readjust for the future with more nimble foreign policy.
The international community is at a very sensitive locus: The White House’s current foreign policy doctrine of “don’t do dumb things,” will not be effective in navigating the U.S. through these critical moments. Perhaps today's administrators lack personnel with the statesmanship of figures like Dean Acheson or the tactfulness of Henry Kissinger. Perhaps, the State Department is now an institution too saturated by Northeastern academic elite, too inept to fashion the same kind of “realpolitik” stratagem of the past that steered the U.S. through the Cold War. Whatever the symptom of America’s leaders controlling her foreign affairs, we must recognize that the global status quo is on the cusp of shifting and that there are severe ramifications to not effectively understanding and controlling the political environment for the better.
America needs to adopt a foreign policy charter encompassing enough to comfortably engage modern global developments but at the same time can forward a new grand strategy, whatever that should be. While the U.S. can never delink itself from being one of the leading geopolitical players, it must not be controlled by the present or distracted from advancing progressive policy. Rather than occupying the role of the world’s most avid whack-a-mole player, the U.S. must venture out into the future with a plan designed for the political landscape to face any of the issues of tomorrow.
Peter Lotfalla is a School of Arts and Sciences senior double majoring in political science and economics.