Much like a fiance with cold feet, the United States seems to be having commitment issues, particularly when it comes to its foreign policy. Some of this is due to changes in leadership and changes in party control, but I want to focus on the commitment issues the U.S. engages in bipartisanly. The U.S. is currently engaged in five wars around the world. These wars are in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia and Yemen. The U.S. also conducts military operations in other countries but these are the countries the U.S. is “officially” at war in. All of these countries have wars that have no end in sight.
The U.S. has been at war in some of these countries for basically my entire life. 20 years in Afghanistan, 18 years in Iraq, and the U.S. has very little to show for it. I attribute this to the U.S.’s reluctance to fully commit to a war and the unwillingness of the American people to support a war of full commitment. The U.S.’s objectives for these wars could be loosely described as establishing a stable and functional democratic government in these states, in addition to protecting the human rights of the people living within these territories. Hypocrisies and contradictions aside, this is a tall order.
Accomplishing these goals requires tens, if not hundreds of thousands of troops, depending on the size of the country, and it requires the U.S. to stay anywhere between five and 10 years after the defeat of the enemy. The U.S. would need to engage in the sort of state-building and peacekeeping that it did following the end of World War II in Germany, Italy and Japan. However, it seems obvious to me that neither the U.S. government nor the American people are willing to make this sort of commitment. These actions would probably require conscription and these wars are already incredibly unpopular.
So, the U.S. government needs to make a choice. It can decide to fully commit, with or without public support, it can continue business as usual or it can leave. Only one of these options can accomplish the goals the U.S. has laid out. Continuing business as usual is the worst choice because it unendingly continues the conflict, death and instability in these regions. If the U.S. leaves, the strongest factions will win and will most likely not be the regimes the U.S. wishes to be in power but things will be more stable and the unending violence will be diminished. The U.S. government and the American people need to have a reckoning and discover what it is that they truly want, because in the absence of commitment or leaving, these areas suffer.