The war on terrorism that the United States has been waging since September 11, 2001 has taken a great many guises. The multinational invasion and “liberation” of Afghanistan in late 2001/2002, the unilateral “pre-emptive” strike against Saddam Hussein in 2003, new priorities in both domestic and foreign relation programs in the United States. However, one wonders if we have strayed too far in that direction. After all, while the loss of life was regrettable and abhorrent, and there certainly is at least one faction of radicals in the world who are determined to see the United States fall by any means necessary, there are far more pressing, and relevant, issues at hand in the world today. And the United States, by making the war on terror our #1 utmost priority, we have given way in many other areas, and one could make the case that we are losing our dominant edge in the influence over the future direction of the world.
The examples are evident enough. It was reported in this blog in May 2006 of the movements of many Latin American countries to the socialist left, headed by Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. While Peru and (for now) Mexico have stalled his agenda, it remains that he is a strong, central influence in the regions politics and economies. This is a region the United States spent decades, and billions of dollars, to help grow to its own desire, as some bonsai that needed constant pruning, shaping, and feeding. It didn’t work out as we had planned, as the repressive tactics that were utilized merely succeeded in spreading corruption and a widening poverty disparity. Coupled with our new apathy towards the region, as it is not a hotbed of terrorism, the people have responded by veering in a new direction, completely independent of America’s recommendations.
The same sort of independence is being seen in Asia. As our collective vision lies elsewhere, China, Russia, and India look to create a regional dominance in politics and economics, becoming the major influences in that part of the world. China and Russia have already asserted themselves in the cases of North Korea and Iran, two arguments that the United States wishes it had more solidarity on. The United States has been the dominant power in that region since the conclusion of WWII, and is now slipping in the face of new self-confident giants of regional policy.
While this is not inherently a bad thing, as the United States makes up a small portion of the world, it is certainly something to take note of. We would do well to build strong, multi-governmental bodies where we can work as a part of a team to help direct policies in these regions of the world. Not as a majority voice, nor as a major deciding factor, but playing as one of the team. That has not always been our strongest suit as a nation, and it would not be easy now to shift from strong-man in the group to team player. But this kind of shift is becoming increasingly necessary as we are so distracted in our own pursuit of physical stability against these “terrorists.” We have sought strictly bilateral agreements with select partners, in lieu of other stronger, more central treaties. A prime example is our vacillation over the nuclear proliferation with India versus with other nations, most notably the more unstable, but also “strategic” partner of Pakistan. A more inclusive solution, which might also help foster better relations between the two, would have been a preferred solution. But we chose not to.
We are not popular in the world, not by any means. Our policies, mostly generated by this administration, but not exclusively, have set a tone that many of the world perceives as unilateral, super-capitalist, and uncaring of more social concerns. If more regional bodies begin to exclude the United States out of negotiations, trade agreements, political disputes, then one can only wonder where the United States will lie in the final judgment. Would American businesses be cut out of the loop of new trade agreements? Could we stop a war when our voice is not considered relevant to the argument or region at hand? Would we be asked to help in times of need, or congratulated in times of prosperity? Life with the blinders on, as we have pursued recently, has its consequences. The beginning of which is only now starting to play out.