American foreign policy, 11 years later

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By: Patrick Brehany

Contributing Writer

Today we mark the anniversary of a tragedy that has fundamentally changed the contours of American life. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 shattered the general peace and stability that characterized much of the period after the disintegration of the Soviet Union. As we mark this day, we should gratefully recognize the sacrifices and suffering endured by the nation and especially by our armed forces. Now, with a certain amount of time elapsed, our generation must confront an international reality that seems to offer no guarantees of future stability, much less peace.

At this juncture in geopolitical history, we must avoid the complacency and cowardice of entrusting our national interests and safety to an idealized international coalition of states or organizations. American foreign policy has always been inspired by principle and characterized by leadership; now is not the time to develop a servile deference to international opinion. There may be arguments about the details of specific courses of action pursued in the last decade, but we must have faith that our nation has the right to defend fundamental interests against aggression and without the expectation of international support.

Two current events serve to illustrate first the limitations of international consensus and second the reality of American exceptionalism. First, while America may not have a strategic interest in intervening in Syria, our reliance on the United Nations has muted almost any response. Recent experience demonstrates that if a tyrannical regime has powerful allies on the Security Council, it can abuse its people or threaten international stability while the world is forced to stand by. Second, while some may say that America possesses too much power and a propensity to act unilaterally, history vindicates America as steward for peace, stability and prosperity. As the Iranian regime continues to pursue nuclear capabilities, the world watches in horror, knowing that such a powerful weapon in such ideological hands represents a true danger. In contrast, America has never expressed a desire to threaten the international community – despite being the sole possessor of nuclear arms for four years following World War II.

While there may come a time when peace is achieved among nations, the United States must continue to prudently pursue its national interests until that utopia is attained. We are fortunate to live in a nation where relevant policy is created by a dynamic and democratic system. I trust that the proper course of action will further the proud tradition whereby America engages the world not in pursuit of power, but in defense of fundamental human rights. If we aspire to be a “City on a Hill,” if we desire that all men be able to exercise the rights granted them by Nature’s God, then we must be willing to lead continually by example and, when necessary, employ force judiciously.

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