Over the course of my adult life we have moved from the successful post-Vietnam bipartisan foreign policy of a reluctance to intervene to a failed foreign policy of “American exceptionalism”. While I have taken dead aim from time to time at Senator McCain on Twitter and in my blog, it would be grossly unfair not to mention Democratic support for much of the change. While President Obama spoke out against the Iraq war, almost the entire Democratic party went blithely along with our war to replace a Sunni dictator with a Shiite dictator.
How little Iraq has changed with Russia winning a recent large arms sale and Shiites now busily consolidating power under an iron fist. And yet, Senator McCain and much of his party continues to argue that American military leadership and the pumping of vast amounts of weapons including manpads (heat seeking missiles designed to shoot down planes and helicopters) into Syria is a preferable policy. To not learn the lessons of history is to turn to a policy of overreach that hastened the decline of Rome, 18th and 19th century France, and 20th century Britain.
What is happening in Syria is that the regime and its backers are losing. We are now at a stage where they cannot win. It may indeed take another year or two of horrendous carnage, but the regime is done. When it falls, Iran will be completely isolated.
If we can simply resist the people who say, “see there is a humanitarian disaster, we must intervene regardless of whether we can be effective”, then the Syrian opposition will achieve on their own what we desire. Or we can become involved, take casualties when the manpads are turned on our airlines, and cause further resentment in a part of the world that except for its dependent elites does not want us.
Pictures of suffering humans are not an American national interest, because if they were the US military would be entering Honduras. In Honduras we have an impending disaster of much greater importance right near our borders. Yet the press is not highlighting this problem, because of the bipartisan fascination with the least important part of the world – the Middle East.
Honduras has drifted back into a military dictatorship established in a coupe with a horrendous human rights record. It is a burgeoning center for narcotics shipments from South America into the United States. We are now on a bipartisan basis pouring weapons and military aid into Honduras to bolster our failed drug war and to provide a counter-weight to perceived threats from Cuba, Venezuela, and Bolivia. And the cost of this is we are once again failing to support democracy in our backyard.
The United States has focused for several decades on the wrong parts of the world. Instead of engaging in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia, we have continued to fight the Cold War against Russia and our old proxy wars in the Middle East.
And it is not just Honduras where we have drifted backwards, but throughout Latin America. Both parties have seen the rise of leftist government in Latin America through the lens of the Cold War. News flash – there is no Soviet Union backing these governments. There is zero need to oppose democracy of the left, center, or right.
Further, they are not monolithically bad. No one can argue that the stupidity in Venezuela (country of my birth), Bolivia, and Nicaragua is leading to the eventual destruction of these countries’ economies, but that has nothing to do with Brazil. The leftist government in Brazil is not anti-American and it has worked. Brazil is growing at astonishing rate and that growth is creating a burgeoning middle-class and democracy.
And of course, we have not even begun to focus on Asia which is creating much of the world’s wealth. We are no longer 50% of the world economy. Why? Not because we are in decline, but because our way of life is ascendant.
What result did we think the spreading of capitalism and democracy would yield? We have got to begin to turn away from the irrelevant parts of the world and to the growing parts. We need to focus our attention in Latin America, Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa on the burgeoning capitalist and democratic countries. Because if we can assist them through trade, stability, and the absence of war we can assure that our way of life continues well into the next century.
Or we can like Britain engage in a 1914-1918 style elective war and meaningless brush wars chasing American exceptionalism and lose the flower of the next American generation. And that will yield decline and bankruptcy.