Tuesday, September 25, 2012

History Repeats (Unedited Edition)

Andy Wolf

 In light of recent upheavals around the world, especially the anti-American fury that has swept the Middle East in response to the anti-Islamic film ("The Innocence of Muslims"), as well as a war in Afghanistan and US ally Israel showing their teeth in the middle east, it is easy to see that American influence is everywhere. The United States of the 21st century is very much along the lines of the old adage, “Love me, hate me- you're still thinking about me.” As the first world hyper-power, we have seen our country rise to unprecedented heights in some respects while falling dreadfully short in others.

These recent events in the east are nothing new. In the late 70’s/early 80’s, Jimmy Carter was president, the economy was suffering and an embassy was taken over in Iran by religious extremists. Israel participated in the Yom Kippur and Lebanon wars, The post-Glasnost Soviet Union was undergoing cultural changes, with public approval of the Afghanistan War at an all-time low. Gas prices were high, and the American people were generally oblivious or apathetic to the world around them.

Who knew paying attention to history would pay off?

I was originally going to write about how the United States simultaneously embraces and shuns it’s self-appointed role as “World Police” and how that indecisiveness makes the actions fairly ineffective, leading to a “damned if we do, damned if we don't” kind of situation we consistently find ourselves in when it comes to world affairs.

I’m not gonna do that. Here’s why.

Everything I mentioned above is part of a cycle. It happens over and over, and endless waltz if you will. Everything we do falls into the same rut and carves out the same pattern, each time on a bigger scale. Think of it like the little trickle of water that eventually created the Grand Canyon.

9/11, the outrage and quagmired wars that followed, the “world police” argument, economic downturn and fairly unreliable global trends are not far off from say, the late 1800s to early 1900s. The USS Maine exploded, spiraling the United States into the Spanish-American War, which - while ending fairly similarly to modern conflicts- showed the strength and weaknesses of American foreign policy. What about “gunboat diplomacy”, the idea of being an omnipresent force around the world in order to spread national influence? That is certainly nothing new. President Herbert Hoover was in office when the Great Depression began. He was upstaged by Franklin Roosevelt, an anti-imperialist who liked many elements of collectivism, who used upbeat music and campaign slogans, blamed Hoover for everything and took a lot of personal power (and more terms than any other president) and leeway to make his dreams realities, be it for the better or worse of society. (Luckily, World War II came his way). All of these things are eerily familiar and that occurred to me as I researched for this article.

I guess the point I am trying to make is, it doesn’t really matter how we feel about the United States being the world police. Super Powers rise and fall, and history repeats itself, pretty much every 30-40 years. To know what happens next in the story, you need only thumb back a few pages.

I don’t know, maybe this job has made me a little cynical. Maybe I’m just tired of watching re-runs make breaking news on CNN. But no matter how you look at it, one very big trend is brought to the forefront- as much as I disagree with some of the needless wars we fight and the humanitarian aid that often goes wasted on countries who neither deserve nor have any desire to improve (Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc), we are “damned if we do”- criticized for having the farthest reaching influence and “damned if we dont” - because if we don’t use that influence, another faction will, such as Russia, China or even something as scattered as radical idealism.
I guess in short, America is no longer a kid. America is an adult now, who has to face adult responsibilities that don’t always make sense or end up in her favor, regardless of what she does. Still, history will repeat itself and on a much larger scale. As the world gets smaller, so does the elbow room.

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