“U.S. Do Something”

Author: Gary Hart

 

Discussing the tumultuous “Arab spring”, a Sunday morning commentator argued that the North African/Middle East uprisings were a great triumph for Iran and disaster for Israel and the U.S.  And, he said, the U.S. is letting it happen and “not doing a thing.”

Needless to say, he did not mention the menu of options the U.S. has to work with…for the very simple reason that it doesn’t exist.  That is to say, unless he has in mind yet a fourth, fifth, sixth, or seventh military intervention.  Even the most powerful nation on earth, with far and away the most extensive military establishment, cannot dictate terms in every circumstance and certainly not in six or eight countries at a time and even more certainly not when engaged in two and a half wars already.

What is it we are supposed to do, I wonder?  Send diplomats, perhaps.  But with whom do they negotiate?  Mobs of demonstrators in huge squares?  The commentators suggested we should have stood more firmly with President Mubarak in Egypt.  Aside from issuing proclamations of support, how should we have done that?  Send troops?  Does anyone believe the Egyptian uprising was waiting for instruction from the U.S.?  And the troops we have are on multiple deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Welcome to the 21st century, a time already characterized by the limits on American power.  People are rising up against oligarchs we have supported for decades.  Some want democracy.  Some want religious rule.  Some want their tribe or clan to rule.  Are we in a position to dictate in multiple countries who should and should not govern?  And even if we could, should we?

Among the many new realities of the 21st century are boundaries on what America can and cannot do.  This is not an argument for isolationism or retreat.  It is an argument for a realistic understanding of what we can and cannot do and should and should not do.  What we should not do is violate the principles contained in our Declaration and our Constitution, the definition of who we are and who we consider ourselves to be. 

The best outcome in this turbulent time is to hope that, by our example and our behavior, as many uprisings as possible will, as in Tiananmen Square some years ago, erect in their public squares some semblance of our Statue of Liberty as their symbol of what they hope to become.

5 Responses to ““U.S. Do Something””

  1. Gary Hart: "U.S. Do Something" | GoodPorkBadPork.com Says:

    […] http://www.mattersofprinciple.com/?p=674 Discussing the tumultuous "Arab spring", a Sunday morning commentator argued that the North African/Middle East uprisings were a great triumph for Iran and disaster for Israel and the U.S. And, he said, the U.S. is letting it happen and "not doing a thing." Needless to say, he did not mention the menu of options the U.S. has to work with…for the very simple reason that it doesn't exist. That is to say, unless he has in mind yet a fourth, fifth, sixth, or seventh military intervention. Even the most powerful nation on earth, with far and away the most extensive military establishment, cannot dictate terms in every circumstance and certainly not in six or eight countries at a time and even more certainly not when engaged in two and a half wars already. What is it we are supposed to do, I wonder? Send diplomats, perhaps. But with whom do they negotiate? Mobs of demonstrators in huge squares? The commentators suggested we should have stood more firmly with President Mubarak in Egypt. Aside from issuing proclamations of support, how should we have done that? Send troops? Does anyone believe the Egyptian uprising was waiting for instruction from the U.S.? And the troops we have are on multiple deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq. Welcome to the 21st century, a time already characterized by the limits on American power. People are rising up against oligarchs we have supported for decades. Some want democracy. Some want religious rule. Some want their tribe or clan to rule. Are we in a position to dictate in multiple countries who should and should not govern? And even if we could, should we? Among the many new realities of the 21st century are boundaries on what America can and cannot do. This is not an argument for isolationism or retreat. It is an argument for a realistic understanding of what we can and cannot do and should and should not do. What we should not do is violate the principles contained in our Declaration and our Constitution, the definition of who we are and who we consider ourselves to be. The best outcome in this turbulent time is to hope that, by our example and our behavior, as many uprisings as possible will, as in Tiananmen Square some years ago, erect in their public squares some semblance of our Statue of Liberty as their symbol of what they hope to become. […]

  2. Pat Boice Says:

    Exactly so, Prof. Hart! More war is certainly not the answer – either morally or financially. So easy for the Sunday morning TV commentators to think they can so glibly offer solutions!

  3. Jim Engelking Says:

    And many of them are doing just that, although not within the 24-hour “news” cycle adopted by American cable networks and their unlimited supply of talking heads.

  4. JMR Says:

    You say this is not a call for isolationism, but to a certain extent I have to disagree. I do not see a bright future for the U.S. if it continues on its current course, even should it modify current policy. I see two options available at this point:

    1) The U.S. reigns in its influence for some time, using a semi-isolationist
    or total isolationist stance to lick its wounds and recover from the mess
    it is in currently.

    2) The U.S. takes the path of empire. Resources generated through an
    imperialist doctrine would help end the problem of its financial status.
    With an imperialist viewpoint, the U.S. can intervene where it wants
    whether or not it has sufficient justification.

    And yes, I do get flak for my viewpoints. But, if everyone’s thinking alike, someone isn’t thinking.

  5. Gary Hart Says:

    To JMR: There are those who think our two Persian Gulf wars, in large part having to do with our reliance on its oil, were acts of empire and contrary to our proclaimed heritage as a republic. They haven’t helped our financial status at all. To the contrary. Though I clearly disagree with the t.v. commentator who was angered that we didn’t “do something” to stop the uprisings, there are many non-military means of engagement with large parts of the world that involve neither military deployments nor semi-isolationism. Indeed, a globalized world gives us little choice but to find that middle ground.

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