Allies need to step up as U.S. weighs interventionism versus isolationism

By Saba Long

A week ago I stopped to say hello to the security guard in my building. I hadn’t seen him in a while and felt compelled to speak. Normally jovial, I immediately noticed his energy was different so I asked how he was doing.

An Army reservist, he had just received orders to go to the Middle East and would be leaving after Thanksgiving. For the few minutes I listened to him speak, his Caribbean accent slightly heavier than usual, it was evident he was still dealing with the scars of earlier Middle East deployments.

Why are we trying to save other countries when we’re dealing with problems like Ferguson, he questioned. What are we going to accomplish by going there, he continued.

This central theme of interventionism versus isolationism is dominating American foreign policy discussions. The varied – in geography and in threat level – global crises the Western world is currently addressing is alarming.

In preparation for this week’s North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit, Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen remarked on NATO involvement in Afghanistan: “We have done what we set out to do. We have denied safe haven to international terrorists. We have built up capable Afghan forces of 350,000 troops and police. So our nations are safer, and Afghanistan is stronger.”

Surely, there have been successes but foreign policy hawks and others continue to drown them out with the fear of ever-escalating threats.

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) points out interventionists’ policies are likely to blame for the rise of the jihad agenda. Perhaps.

Or, it could be because American troops withdrew too early. The United States is too involved in global policing to ignore the extremists’ agenda.

President Barack Obama has cautiously monitored the ISIS situation in the Middle East and the Vladimir Putin situation in Eastern Europe, careful to not over or under commit.

Some have argued the United States is alone in bearing the burden of international peace.

“The pattern of NATO spending reflects Europe’s increasing reliance on the U.S.,” Financial Times columnist Gideon Rachman has written. “The Iraq and Afghanistan wars have left their marks. So has the financial crisis of 2008. Mr. Obama’s reluctance to deploy military force is not an aberration or a personal folly. It is an accurate reflection of the mood of the American people, with opinion polls showing the highest levels of isolationism in more than 50 years.”

As the Obama administration develops a strategy to address these threats and keep America safe, Republicans and Democrats ought to pressure America’s allies to provide more reinforcement – financial and political.

Perhaps then we can better address our own problems.

Saba Long is a communications and political professional who lives in downtown Atlanta. She serves as the senior council aide and communications liaison for Post 2 At-Large Atlanta City Councilman Aaron Watson. Most recently, Saba was the press secretary for MAVEN and Untie Atlanta -- the Metro Chamber’s education and advocacy campaigns in supportive of the Atlanta Regional Transportation Referendum. She has consulted with H.E.G. an analytics and evaluation firm where she lent strategic marketing and social media expertise to numerous political campaigns, including that of Fulton County Chairman John Eaves and the 2010 Clayton County transportation referendum. In 2009, Saba served as the deputy campaign manager for the campaign of City Council President Ceasar Mitchell. Previously, Saba was a Junior Account Executive at iFusion Marketing, where she lent fractional marketing strategy to various ATDC technology startups operating out of the Georgia Tech incubator, ATDC. For the past two years, Saba has presented on online marketing and politics to the incoming fellows of the Atlanta chapter of the New Leaders Council.

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