Once a day I like to check the various social media websites, just to see what is going on in everyone’s lives. I don’t expect much. Obviously, it’s just space for people to vent, post their interests and other miscellaneous things. Occasionally, you stumble across articles shared on diverse subjects, such as the election, police shootings, or celebrity divorces. Once in a blue moon you even get articles on things that impact the lives of people. Well this morning, I stumbled upon an item shared by someone, on Facebook, who typically makes posts on sports and often provides profound quotes from some brilliant people. The post entailed a New York Post article that discussed the latest event in the US-Russia relations saga, one that is quite disturbing to someone like myself who studies International Relations with the concentration in Russian & Slavic Studies. With the Syria peace talks now a nonentity, Russian nuclear-capable missiles moved into the Russian Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad, Western calls for human right violations and war crime charges against Damascus and Moscow, and now Russian President Vladimir Putin recalling all Russian nationals home, one would think that society would be frightened.
Well, the world just moves on, posts about sports, Dancing with the Stars, The Bachelorette, food, and cinema continue as if we weren’t on the brink of potential war with Russia. I don’t, per se, have objections to this. The whole premise of democracy is to vote in leaders whose primary job is to keep the nation secure and economically viable. The citizenry shouldn’t have to worry about these events; they should be able to live life as free peoples who can do whatever they want, obviously within the confines of the law. My objection, however, is the obliviousness of the people, and how quick they are to dismiss particular threats. In this Facebook quote, a woman wrote the most ignorant and arrogant comment I have ever seen on an issue as pressing as a Cold War potentially going hot. She posited that the United States should leave Russia be, that we “shouldn’t give a shit, let the Russians go on, and take China with them to hell as well” (not exactly verbatim, the comments had been deleted by the time of this writing). I made the mistake of attempting to debate with the woman, and we know how Facebook discussions end up. She accused me of being a ‘globalist’ and that she was worried about the future of this nation when someone like me, who apparently ‘preaches world order,’ would ever be in a leadership position. Well, I thank you for the vote of confidence!
So why should foreign policy matter to those who do not study it? Good question. I would venture to guess that more people pay attention now because of the election cycle than they typically would, however, the reason they are paying attention isn’t exactly a good one. There is clearly a hint of pseudo-isolationism in the air because of what Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump has been saying. Hillary Clinton has not added anything to the discussion either. Both candidates have only divided the nation even more than it was already divided, and they’ve marginalized the masses on subjects of which they clearly lack understanding. Case and point being this Facebook debate, or lack thereof, where apparently isolationism was a good thing, where giving up our hegemonic status would be beneficial to this country. Right…
Whether globalization is a good or bad thing, well that’s a debate for another day. From an international relations standpoint, and more specifically from a U.S. foreign policy view, the reason why we are a superpower is primarily due to our leadership in the world. Whether you possess a realist view, or a liberal one, or perhaps one of the other theories in international relations, one must realize that our position in the world is what makes this country so great. The fact that nations around the world look to us for the right answers, respect us for our decision making, and rising superpowers, like Russia and China, fear us, is what we want. Our currency is still the primary currency of the world, our goods and services admired, and our stock market still the single greatest source of foreign investment. The United States hard power, aka our military, is still the most influential in the world. Our soft power, things like our culture, diplomacy, and ideals are still the hallmarks of our great nation. Why would we want to ruin all of this with an isolationist stance? That would just give way to Russia and China expanding their spheres of influence, and allowing for them to grow into a substantial force, that one day would be difficult to ward off.
The beauty of this country is that people can go on Facebook and post all the petty things they want. They can waste away their entire Sunday watching NFL games, or sit down to watch the multitude of reality TV shows on our networks. There are societies in this world that can’t do any of this, and they’d be willing to give everything to be able to vote, get access to clean drinking water and food, and all the other things we take for granted in a democracy. As an aspiring foreign policy professional, I am willing to sacrifice my time and efforts so that people in this country can continue to do as they please, to live as free peoples. I only ask that people educate themselves more on the subjects that influence their lives, because unless you’re a professional athlete, sports won’t do much for you besides personal gratification. The whole premise of democracy is that a free people vote for their desired candidate into office to improve their lives for the better. But when you have individuals who do not even read slightly about certain subjects, and are not willing to educate themselves on issues of substance, how confident can you be in them to vote the right person in, and then expect anything different?