America’s Apathy Towards Foreign Policy Is A Luxury
With oceans on both sides and allies to the North and South, the United States enjoys a historically low threat of invasion. Not only are our borders militarily secure, but our near-abroad is too. Additionally, we’re the only nuclear-armed power in the Americas.
We can go about our lives on any given day, confident that no army will march through our towns, no air force will bomb our cities, nor will a navy block our imports.
Of course, this state of affairs is excellent for everyone living or doing business in the U.S. But it does come at a great cost.
Living lives that are so removed from war and conflict allows many Americans to spend little to no time thinking about or engaging with foreign policy.
A lack of interest has allowed the military and defense industry to operate largely outside of public scrutiny. Occasional stories will grab public attention, but even then they are forgotten in a blink of an eye. For example, the disastrous war in Yemen got little attention in the United States, despite our heavy involvement. .
In fact, a major U.S. news network, MSNBC, went an entire year without mentioning the war even once.
On the other hand, a lack of immediate personal consequences allows those voters who do engage with foreign policy to vote emotionally and without as much regard for the effects of those policies on real people.
For example, Many Americans have no clue that NATO just led a massive naval exercise naval exercise in the Black Sea, which is hardly uncommon. The Black Sea region is of enormous importance to Russia. As the home to its only domestic warm water ports, the Black Sea is Russia’s only way to access the world’s oceans year-round. It’s not that every American needs to be abreast with everything going on overseas, but we must not be ignorant.
American’s may take ocean access for granted, but it is a prerequisite to be a geopolitical superpower. With its 2014 operations in Crimea, Russia has already shown that it’s willing to go to great lengths to hold onto year-round ocean access.
And so, we are playing with fire by getting more active and aggressive in the region. But back in the United States, five thousand miles away, these exercises are barely even news-worthy.
Similarly, ocean access is crucial for China. The country exports hundreds of billions of dollars worth of goods annually through the South China Sea. The U.S. military has a heavy presence in the area, which is clearly of concern to Chinese leaders.
Again, it may be hard for Americans to understand just how provocative it is for us to sail carrier battle groups through this tense region. But we must remember that our actions in foreign lands have consequences.
The attacks on September 11th, 2001, are the best example of the consequences of our foreign policy being felt by Americans directly. Unfortunately, we came to the wrong conclusions and doubled down on the very actions that had led to the attacks.
As Americans, we ought to use the historic levels of security that our geography gives us to better the world. And we must avoid the inclination to become blinded by safety and distance.