Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Destroying Our Foreign Policy from the Inside

As I write this, it appears that a deal is in the works to avoid the U.S. default everyone has been so worried about for the past several weeks. Thank goodness. The economic repercussions of the United States government failing to approve a debt ceiling increase that would allow us to pay for things we have already agreed to pay for would have not only impacted our domestic economy, but would have sent shudders through the entire global economy. Should the deal be reached today that would avert this, we can go back to discussing all the other unfortunate consequences that our government's actions the past several weeks have had, and will continue to have, on our role in the global political arena. And let us be clear about this: these consequences are just as significant as the default itself, and may plague us for just as long.

In light of the impending doom that failure to reach an agreement would bring at midnight tonight, people from around the world have voiced their disappointment in the U.S., and for good reason. China has been particularly outspoken, taking turns lampooning and lambasting us for our apparent nonchalance at the effect our default would have on China's economy. Being our largest creditor (China owns roughly $1.3 trillion of U.S. debt), our decisions over the next several days could easily dismantle the Chinese economy along with our own.

But there are other important points to be made. A New York Times article points to Greece, where the U.S. and the EU have taken the stance that Greece's irresponsibility at managing their finances resulted in their current financial malaise, and they should be responsible for finding ways to ameliorate it themselves. Austerity and other financial hardships that will likely impact much of the Greek population should not be off the table. However, the United States has demonstrated that they too - or, should I say, the representatives who the U.S. population has elected - are incapable of responsibly managing debt and finances.

Finally, after two lengthy wars in the Middle East and an aggressive pro-democracy approach, the United States is now left to look itself in the mirror and see its own democratic government in complete, embarrassing disarray. The image we are projecting for the rest of the world to see is one of a government that is elected by its people only to spurn them during policymaking and legislation farther down the road. I have seen little indication over the past few weeks that these representatives of the people care about anybody but themselves - political gridlock is the new norm, with complete disregard to those it may be hurting. How is it that the United States can continue to advocate for democracy around the globe when ours is so detrimental to our society?

The greatest threat to American influence is America itself. Our biggest threat to our foreign policy is our own government. Perhaps the debt ceiling issue will be resolved, but what has been demonstrated over the past several weeks is at best an appalling lack of foresight and at worst a complete lack of urgency when looking at what may lie ahead for us. And while avoiding a default is of the utmost importance, it's hard to call it a victory - the consequences of coming this close have already affected us, and will remain visible for weeks to come regardless of whether the default comes or not.

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