Ethan Yang ’20
I’m going to be honest – in 2016 I, along with countless other college students, thought the election of President Trump was going to lead the nation into something akin to World War Three. I was wrong and now I think Trump’s foreign policy in the Middle East has been, by far, the best of any president in recent history.
Granted that’s not saying much considering the Obama administration failed in its promise to bring our troops home and then proceeded to bomb Libya back into the stone age, creating a civil war. George W. Bush, in 2001, brought the country into what’s become a never-ending war in the Middle East. Over 500,000 individuals have died as a result of US involvement post 9/11, we have spent trillions of taxpayer dollars, and both sides of the political spectrum are only calling for more bloodshed.
Of all people, Trinity alum Tucker Carlson is probably one of the biggest critics of these wars, not CNN or MSNBC. The fact that the mainstream media and the foreign policy establishment are so quick to attack proponents of peace is absolutely shameful.
Today, the biggest thing in the news is the removal of 50 US troops from the Syrian-Turkish border. The controversy is that those troops were essential to keeping stability in the region and preventing a Turkish massacre of the Kurdish militia, our allies.
I do concede that a hasty pullout would be questionable. That was, until the Trump administration secured a ceasefire for our Kurdish allies to retreat. Furthermore, there will always be a reason to be anywhere, whether it is “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq, ISIS in Syria, or every single human rights violation in every part of the world. However, let’s not get distracted from the broader issue: US involvement in the region has caused the carnage and instability that exist today.
Further, the United States has no clear interests in continuing to send our men and women in uniform into harm’s way – to fight and die in a region most of us can’t point to on a map. According to the Watson Institute at Brown University, there have been over 21 million refugees that have been created, 5.9 trillion dollars spent since 9/11, and an appalling list of human rights violations, all due to US incursion in the Middle East. If we can barely trust our government to run the country here at home, why would we even think about nation-building in the Middle East? Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, and Bashar Al-Assad are all awful men and brutal dictators, but our wars have been more destructive than they could have ever hoped to be.
Taking a more reserved stance on foreign policy is putting America first, no matter your political stance. The national debt is soaring over 22 trillion dollars, and the Pew Research Center reports that 393 billion dollars are owed for this year’s interest payments alone. Along with this shocking figure, the US government has greenlighted a defense budget of 684 billion dollars for 2019 and 738 billion dollars for 2020. For context, these figures are greater than the next seven countries combined, dwarfing our rivals China and Russia.
These wars leave us with no money for ourselves and are a betrayal to the taxpayer. Yet it seems like few Democratic presidential candidates are speaking out and even fewer are standing with the President’s decision. Free public college, for example, would cost 79 billion dollars a year according to the Department of Education, entirely feasible if we reformed our foreign policy.
Keeping tens of thousands of troops in the Middle East and even more all around the world is not building a better American infrastructure. It’s time to take the money wasted on bloodshed and invest it here at home, or better yet, to not take it from the taxpayer to begin with.
The words of George Washington say it best. In Tocqueville’s legendary book, Democracy in America, Tocqueville cites a letter Washington wrote to advocate for a more reserved foreign policy. The letter reads, “Why quit our own to stand on foreign ground? Why, by intertwining our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice?”
Washington was referring to the tumultuous and unstable situation in continental Europe that many wanted the US to intervene in. Sound familiar? The feuds and conflicts in the Middle East and around the world are seldom our problem. Most of the time our actions make things worse. Our birthright as Americans and our gift to the world is the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Waging endless wars prevents us from guaranteeing any of those rights. Let’s bring our soldiers home.