In 1993, the U.S. military was in Somalia on a humanitarian intervention mission that was neither vital nor important to U.S. national security. The mission resulted in the tragic deaths of 18 U.S. Army Rangers. Today, the U.S. military is in Somalia to help Somali president Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo wage a war against al Shabab—a war neither vital nor important to U.S. national security. If the first time was simply a tragedy, the second time is foolhardy.
Deterrence will hold against Kim Jong-un’s far weaker regime and will safeguard American lives. A preventive attack will unnecessarily sacrifice them.
Unfolding before our eyes, the tectonic plates of geopolitics are shifting. We are in the midst of a truly world historical event: what scholars of great power politics call a power transition. Power transitions occur when the dominant (hegemonic) great power’s primacy is challenged by a rising great power.
The rationale for that proposal, like most recent calls for defense spending increases, is that funds do not match forces, producing strain. But higher spending isn’t the only solution. Why not unburden our military by eliminating its many missions disconnected from U.S. security?
The costs to the U.S. of turning Ukraine into a proxy war against Russia overshadow the benefit of increasing Moscow’s casualty count. Sending lethal equipment to Kiev will do very little to begin bringing the conflict to a resolution. Sometimes the best course of action the U.S. can take is to not get more involved on issues peripheral to American grand strategy.
Preventing terrorist attacks on U.S. citizens, U.S. interests in Africa and the greater Mideast, and U.S. allies are all desirable goals—but they cannot all be Washington’s goals. To defend U.S. citizens is in our government’s purview, but applying external military solutions to the internal turmoil of any and every country in which we have a diplomatic outpost is neither prudent nor feasible. If anything, it exhibits a certain dark irony: Washington has interests in Somalia because of our military intervention there, and the military intervention exists to protect those interests. We are at war in Somalia because we are at war in Somalia; American foreign policy is both the chicken and the egg.
To address this, the State Department and Congress should work to recruit individuals with a variety of career experiences from sectors like business, technology, medicine, and agriculture. A diplomatic corps that is more reflective of the American people would be more beneficial to the country and gain more support for its mission.
There are no white knights to side with in ugly sectarian and religious struggles such as this. We should only get involved in a conflict if our vital interests—our security, prosperity, or way of life—are at stake. We should not use our military to referee—or worse, join sides—in the Shia Iran versus Sunni Saudi Arabia proxy war.
National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster said the U.S. was “running out of time” to solve the crisis in Korea, implying that military action will be needed within “a few months.” He is wrong. Time is on our side, not on Kim Jong-un’s. A rational, logical, and patient foreign policy will preserve the lives of our allies, prevent the use of nuclear weapons by North Korea, and increase American security. If time is running out on anything, I fear it may be on hoping Trump chooses a rational policy instead of a reckless militaristic one.
We can’t reshape the world in America’s image through military force or coercion, and trying to do so often backfires. Of course we should talk to Russia and Putin, especially when treating Putin as something he is not may even prolong his autocratic reign. We have been warned by statesmen of old to not obsess over unrealistic threats from over the ocean. These statesmen loathed foreign tyrants, but they knew that an America true to her principles would always win the long game. Time to take those warnings to heart.
To inform citizens, thought leaders, and policy makers of the importance of a strong, dynamic military—used more judiciously to protect America's narrowly defined national interests—and promote a realistic grand strategy prioritizing restraint, diplomacy, and free trade to ensure American security.