I’ve watched most of the debates in the three post-9/11 presidential races. As I’ve grown and met more people, read a wider range of news sources, and taken college-level social science courses, the foreign policy talk of the candidates has become more jarring and disturbing.
Aggressive, interventionist foreign policy is not just wrong in a theoretical way, or a moral way. Its history is one of corpses, strewn from Vietnam to Iran, from El Salvador to Iraq and Afghanistan. Not just soldiers, but women and children of every race, faith, and creed. The United States has undermined democracies in favor of despots who promise open markets for goods, and to be an ‘ally’ in the region. Our war with the Taliban is not just against hardline Islamic fundamentalists- many fighters are poor farmers making a few hundred dollars as a hired gun.
My issue is not that American politicians have used these methods in the past, but rather at every opportunity they champion them as a sort of ideal foreign policy.
Both Gov. Romney and the President agreed on drones being of vital necessity- without ever mentioning the bloody collateral damage. Both agree that the United States should have the largest military in the world well into the distant future, and Romney wants to make the difference between US and world military spending even more lopsided. Millions of people are homeless, out of work, chronically poor, or heavily in debt. Today, we imprison more of our own people than any society in human history.
Yet America is, as Romney says “the hope of the earth.” Despite endless talk about spending cuts and a spiraling debt, both candidates think hundreds of billions of dollars is a responsible amount for war and maintaining alliances with reprehensible regimes like Bahrain and Pakistan. There was much talk of women, yet the most backwards regimes in the world are allies (Saudi Arabia) or countries with governments the United States installed (Afghanistan). There are seven countries in the world that allow women to be stoned to death- we are allies with at least four of them.
The question historians will ask fifty years from now: how were we able to squander so much wealth? Trillions of dollars turned into ordnance, blood, and enriching the economic elite. Many nation-states finally had the food, capital, finances, and time to solve global issues, and yet initiatives like the Millennium Goals are both modest and unmet. It is a world where supersonic fighters exist by the hundreds, yet polio, cholera, and malaria still kill hundreds of thousands annually. And global warming (never mentioned in a debate) is a rising threat. This despite the failed harvest in the Midwest, caused by record high sustained heat. Food riots have happened in a hundred countries, instead the debate parties were interested in playing geopolitical chess with Russia.
As a civil libertarian, I find the whole debate a celebration of bloodshed and undermined democracy. There is a better way to live within this world, but neither Romney nor Obama wish to pursue it. It’s just the same zero-sum, arms race mentality.