America has benefited in many ways from our engagement with the world. A vast majority of Americas are immigrants or the descendants of immigrants. Economic, technological, and cultural exchange with other countries enriches the United States. Rational, friendly, and self-aware engagement with other countries can help both America and the world. Unfortunately, much of our government’s foreign policy is decidedly irrational, unfriendly, and ignorant. The approach that our government has taken to secure Washington DC’s self-appointed position as the judge, jury, and executioner of “the international order” is unsustainable, and has become a major contributing factor to our national decline.
Let us first define the Federal government’s approach to foreign relations. The government of the United States of America seeks to be the dominant political, economic, and military force, in every part of the world, forever. It also views all its actions and interventions abroad as inherently beneficial to the rest of the world and America itself, even when many Americans and foreigners disagree. Our political masters believe (or at least they pretend to believe) that the United States government must not only be the most powerful country everywhere forever, but that is also has a sacred mission to spread its ideal political and economic model to every corner of the globe, despite any setbacks, hypocrisy, or local resistance.
There was a time when Washington’s ambitions for perpetual and total global domination may have seemed possible. After the destruction unleashed by World War Two, the United States possessed by far the world’s strongest economy, technology and military. In 1946 as most key cities in Europe and Asia struggled to recover from wartime devastation, America produced just shy of half of the world’s total economic output. The US was the only country with nuclear weapons. Furthermore, despite some misgivings about colonialism in the Philippines and strong-armed actions in Latin America, the United States had an overwhelmingly positive reputation among most of the world’s people. A second moment of US triumphalism came during the 1990s, after the Soviet Union collapsed. Many US leaders believed America had no potential competitors in terms of raw power and of moral righteousness.
America’s position within the global system has changed dramatically, but our leaders have not realized that a shift has taken place. The American economy – while still very large – is not nearly as dominant as it was in the 1940s or even 1990s. China has displaced the US as the world’s overall largest trading partner and industrial powerhouse. Of the world’s nine countries armed with nuclear weapons, only two are treaty allies with the US. Another two (Russia and North Korea) have open antagonism with the United States, while a third (China) is a legitimate peer competitor for overall global power. Furthermore, America’s disastrous wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, along with the backing of coups in various countries, have undermined Washington’s image as a uniquely moral global power, both at home and abroad. Yet our foreign policy seems built upon the dangerous and outdated assumptions that not only is our government impose its will upon any other country, but that its actions are benevolent, and seen as benevolent by most of the world. Mainstream politicians and media condemn any attempts at rebalancing or reimagining America’s place in the world as anything less than the forever sovereign with a right – nay, a duty – to impose Washington’s economic, political, and military will at any corner of any continent as treason.
The financial costs of our foreign policy are enormous. Every year, the US government spends over 800 billion dollars – around 3.5% of our entire economic output – on the military. As of 2022, it is spending twice as much as China (Beijing’s military outlays account for just 1.7% of GDP). India, third in military spending and with a population of well over one billion, spends less than a tenth as much as the US on its armed forces. When accounting for interest payments (since much of the spending required taking on debt), America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have wasted easily over two trillion dollars each.Every man, woman, and child in the United States faces a bill of around twelve thousand dollars for this disastrous conflicts, which in no way have made America stronger, richer, or more respected. The US also spends tens of billions annually on foreign aid, which takes the form of financing, humanitarian assistance, and weaponry for select countries.
In many instances, the costs of out government’s endless drive for total global domination are self-perpetuating. For example, decades of US aid to Israel was a motivating factor in the 9/11 attacks, which in turn spawned two additional US wars. Key al Qaeda leaders once fought as de facto American allies in the US-supported war against the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan. Iran was a US Cold War friend before its 1979 revolution. Saddam Hussein was once Washington DC’s partner against the new anti-American Iranian government, before the US launched a war over Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. The subsequent American overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003 increased regional instability and helped contribute to the civil war in Syria. US also intervened in the Syrian war, first on the side of anti-Assad rebels and then against ISIS, which was composed, in part, of some of the very same anti-Assad fighters. American efforts to help overthrow the Libyan government in 2011 similarly unleashed a wave of instability throughout parts of northern Africa. Washington spends tens of billions of dollars aiding Ukraine after a Russian invasion; the Russian invasion was partially prompted by Moscow’s fears over a growing US military presence near its western borders.
Washington DC’s struggle for indisputable dominance in every region of the Earth creates enormous opportunity costs. Our government devotes huge Federal bureaucracies to cajoling, pressuring, threatening, and otherwise influencing other countries to follow American dictates. Presidents devote much of their attention to interacting with foreign leaders. While diplomatic engagement with other countries is inevitably and often perfectly reasonable, the American government’s outsized global ambitions and commitments necessitate far greater efforts than any other contemporary country. Our government is, frankly, distracted by the pursuit of its unreasonable and unsustainable goals.
An unsustainable quest for perpetual world domination is invariably deadly. Tens of thousands of Americans have died in ultimately failed wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Innumerable more suffer from the visible and invisible scars of war. Washington’s wars of choice have also led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of foreign combatants and civilians, greatly increasing anti-American sentiment abroad.
Our government’s overly assertive global stance puts America at daily risk of annihilation. Washington DC maintains an antagonistic relationship with Russia, China, and North Korea. The American military also has a significant presence along the borders of those three countries. This military stance, along with actions that are seen by the three countries as aggressive, increases the risk of an uncontrolled escalation or an accident leading to nuclear war. Russia and China have hundreds of nuclear weapons capable of hitting the US mainland. While North Korea probably only has a handful of such weapons, even the detonation of one or two nuclear missiles in American territory would probably be enough to destroy our country in any recognizable shape. It is extremely unlikely that the leaders of any country will ever intentionally launch a suicidal nuclear first strike against another rival nuclear power. Nevertheless, Washington DC’s global posture increases the possibility of an essentially accidental war that could destroy our country.
What renders our incalculably wasteful foreign policy approach all the more tragic is that is is probably unnecessary. The United States is protected from conventional attack from powerful rivals by vast oceans. Our nuclear capabilities are more than sufficient to dissuade any other power from intentionally launching a first strike. We have vast human and natural resources. Furthermore, the United States maintains defense pacts with strong regional powers, including France, the UK, Canada, Japan, South Korea and Australia. There is simply no rational explanation for our endless meddling and dozens of military bases in the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa – areas of the world where there is no obvious, direct threat to the United States (except for the threats our own actions cause by inviting a motive for revenge). Potential rivals, like China or perhaps someday India, are hugely reliant on international trade and therefore have no obvious rational motives for disrupting global shipping. The US could enjoy an almost perfectly secure geopolitical position simply by defending our own borders and those of our allies, while maintaining some naval forces to work against piracy. However, by arrogantly seeking to maintain perpetual domination in every region of the globe, the US invariably runs against regional resistance, and weakens its overall position.
America’s foreign policy of perpetual and total global domination through military force and foreign meddling is also broadly unpopular, widening the disconnect between our government and the common people. After initial enthusiasm, the public turned against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq long before our elected representatives heeded popular sentiment and withdrew. In May 2022 63% of Americans surveyed said aid to Ukraine was “a good idea”, while a bill for $40 billion in additional spending was approved by 86% of the House of Representatives. The causes this disconnect should be apparent. Unlike the vast majority of Americans, most politicians benefit directly and indirectly from military actions and spending. American outlays in our various conflicts and interventions, while tremendously costly to the general public, immensely benefit select organizations securely ensconced nearest to the generous teat of the Federal government. The two-party duopoly supports these conflicts because it benefits from them. War is very profitable to a select few, and it also helps the government justify increased control over our lives.
Our government’s efforts to secure their global position through military force and coercion have helped contribute to our collapse in numerous ways. We have wasted trillions of dollars in ultimately failed wars. These trillions could have been spent instead on improving the material wellbeing of Americans through domestic spending or tax cuts. The decline in the average American’s standard of living may have been avoided if our government had simply refrained from wars and prolonged occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Wars and constant meddling in foreign countries take up a huge portion not only of our Federal budget, but also of the attention of our officials and bureaucrats.
Washington’s overly assertive international stance greatly escalates the possibility of war – including nuclear war – with a rival power. Although all national governments have a clear and common interest in avoiding nuclear destruction, increased military deployments and strategic brinksmanship increase the threat of a conflict that could end human civilization in its current form within several hours of fighting. Even the downsides of a “merely” conventional war are enormous, as such conflicts may disrupt vital flows of trade, including energy and food.
As America continues to decline, the continued commitment of our government to its increasingly unrealistic goal of total global domination enhances popular discontent and anger, both domestically and abroad. However, instead of recognizing the limits of their power and adjusting to a more realistic stance, Washington DC is apparently intent on doubling-down its foreign commitments and thereby exacerbating the cycle of decline, conflict, and eventual collapse. Indeed, the American government will probably increase its foreign entanglements during the initial stages of systematic collapse, either from a desperate attempt to unite its population against a foreign adversary or as a last-ditch effort to hold on to its crumbling global prestige.
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