During the past 20-plus years, the United States has involved itself in wars in the Middle East, in Africa, and now in Europe with the Ukraine War. In 2001, George Bush Jr.’s administration brought to life the War on Terror with the “Bush Doctrine.” He propagated conflict abroad, molded our foreign policy into one of aggression, and normalized war in the minds of the American public.
Donald Trump, for all his flaws, did not involve us in any new wars, and many advocates for peaceful foreign policy were optimistic that aggressive militarism was on the decline when President Joe Biden pulled American troops out of Afghanistan. Those hopes dissipated, quickly, though, when the Biden administration sent American money overseas to Ukraine and when Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) vowed to keep us involved in the Ukraine War.
The United States desperately needs to mind its own business internationally, which is why we need a return to the Monroe Doctrine now, more than ever.
In 1823, amid the backdrop of Napoleon Bonaparte’s conquest, European countries began to look at Central and South American, hungry to re-establish dominance over their former colonies. In response, President James Monroe issued the “Monroe Doctrine,” with the following three main points—”separate spheres of influence for the Americas and Europe, non-colonization, and non-intervention.”
The Monroe Doctrine was designed to signify a clear break between the New World and the autocratic realm of Europe, but its message of non-interventionism is the most poignant and timely today.
The Doctrine stated, “In the wars of European powers, in matters relating to themselves, we have never taken part, nor does it comport our policy to do so. It is only when our rights are invaded, or seriously menaced that we resent our injuries, or make preparations for our defense.”
Our country’s foreign policy no longer bears any resemblance to the Monroe Doctrine or its admonitions of temperance and restraint. The United States has 750 military bases in 80 countries (that we know of) around the world. Our military is actively participating in wars in Yemen, Somalia, and Syria, in addition to pumping billions of dollars into the war in Ukraine. Regime change, entangling alliances, and wars for empire are dangerous practices and should be abandoned by the United States government. We should return to the Monroe Doctrine if we want the United States to remain a successful country.
Empires fall when they over expand to enforce large territories. The United States defense budget is $ 2.04 trillion. This bloated budget is a point of contention in American politics, especially when so many people feel the pains of inflation and the rising cost of groceries and gasoline. In response to the United States’ militaristic foreign policy, other countries have banded together to form the BRICS currency agreement, a plan to shift away from using the U.S. dollar as their common currency for trade and investment. Hostility is bad for business.
Having war guarantees and entangling alliances puts a military obligation on the domestic population. In the mid to late 1960s, thousands of Americans rallied in D.C. to protest the military draft and our failed war in Vietnam. There has been no military draft for decades, but we still feel the pain of strained relations with other countries via embargoes, bad PR, and travel restrictions. Let’s also not forget the thousands of disabled veterans in the United States, or the high veteran suicide rate.
Whoever our next president is, he or she has a wonderful opportunity to turn the tide and embrace peaceful foreign policy. America can set an example for nations abroad. We can curtail our meddling and military spending, withdraw from entangling alliances (like NATO), and encourage European countries to fund their own national defense instead of relying on the American military.
In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of State William Seward declined an invitation to join Napoleon in a protest of the Russian Tsar. Seward said he was defending “our policy of non-intervention.” American could make history again by offering a hand in diplomacy and firmly declining further invitations into long, drawn out, unwinnable wars.
Angela McArdle is chair of the Libertarian National Committee.
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.