Our chief foreign threats do not rest in the developed world, but in failed states, which are present with great suffering and pregnant with the potential for great destruction to us. Both morality and self-interest dictate that we intervene if we can have a positive impact, and despite our past mistakes, I believe we can develop a strategy, which is economic, diplomatic, and militaristic, to “prepare our partners to defend and govern themselves.” We need a 21st century coherent doctrine that includes both soft and hard power.
We have missed many opportunities to advance our interests in areas from Central Asia to Somalia, and there many more human rights atrocities taking place every year that could be resolved or prevented by a legitimate, credible commitment to peacekeeping and conflict prevention.
Clearly, we cannot count on China to sacrifice their immediate interests for these moral aims, and I would add that Europe’s moral posturing is just that, and nothing more (by extension, I include the UN). While international support is desired, we should seek it as a political tool, not as moral approval. Likewise, state sovereignty is a very real political concern, but not a moral reason to avoid intervention.
Global stability is a public good that only we have the incentive to provide at any cost greater than lip service. In many instances, if we do nothing, no one will.
To this end, our military must continue to shift from its historical large-scale conventional warfare focus to a ‘small-war’ mentality. We should maintain an active, albeit selective, participation in aiding in governing failed states. Concretely, I think this will take the form of security guarantees and quick-response peacekeeping initiatives.
This is not an inclusive post, but I will summarize: we must learn from our recent mistakes, and engage much more thoughtfully; that said, we should not lose or nerve; we should not hand out moral compass to the UN, and we should not shy from engaging the world economically, diplomatically, or militarily. Isolationism, in any of these instances, is immoral and unwise.
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