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Manifest Destiny falls flat

The foreign policy of the United States has largely been driven by the euphoria of its post Revolutionary War birth as a nation.

Early 19th century America had become a poster child for the concept of democracy and its mandate to champion an individual’s fundamental right to freedom of choice.

The United States wanted to share the concept with the rest of the world and become a major force against the unchecked ambitions of powerful European countries that had built large colonial empires through occupation forces in the major inhabited continents in the world. Manifest Destiny started with expansion of the physical boundaries of the United States in the early 19th century and it continues with America’s global role in the 21st century.

The idea of Manifest Destiny was borne out of young America’s plan to stem the tide of colonial occupation by European powers and replace it with a new sense of national identity and pride that the United States had found in its own hard-fought war to gain freedom from Mother England.

It looked great in theory to its enthusiastic supporters and Manifest Destiny has been at the very core of U.S. foreign policy since America’s first foray into battle as an independent nation seeking greater territory.

The idea that a greater divine power stood on the side of the United States has always been a part of the thought process, whether the enemies were godless Native Americans, godless empires like Spain, godless communists like the former Soviet Union, or godless despots like Iraq’s Saddam Hussein.

The problem with Manifest Destiny is that it has indeed profoundly shaped U.S. foreign policy at the cost of millions of human beings and trillions of dollars, yet it has fallen well short of success in most of its campaigns.

It has been a costly failure in terms of actual benefit to both the United States and the general populace of nearly every region in which the U.S. has chosen to focus its efforts with either military intervention or generous financial aid to prop up a perceived friendly regime.

It is now 2012 and the United States is buried under a staggering multi-trillion-dollar mountain of debt that is largely held in abeyance by unprecedented indebtedness to global rival China, an ambitious and powerful new player in global economics.

The arrangement is awkward at best, but it may also play a role in U.S. foreign policy because it will be difficult for the U.S. to direct forceful criticism at Chinese policy, even when China forcefully suspends human rights in its domestic directives.

It is not prudent to severely criticize your major creditor.

Given the enormous expense and poor overall track record of U.S. foreign policy, it may be time to reverse direction on Manifest Destiny.

It may be time for the United States to look inward rather than outward in the 21st century because it can cut costs and focus better on the destiny of its own citizens with a better domestic policy.

Maybe it is time to invest in a better America and retire the sheriff of the world hat.

The first investment should be a secure energy supply and that goal would be easily achieved by the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada, America’s closest and most stable neighbour. The projected supply numbers in the oilsands would provide the U.S. with a very long-term and uninterrupted source of energy that would not be subjected to the interests of hostile foreign oil nations that use their oil resource as a blunt force weapon in negotiations with the United States.

A United States shift away from the glare of the global stage would also be a cost-cutting move because it would also mean a reduction in defence costs. Foreign wars are incredibly expensive in a financial sense, let alone the immeasurable cost of human life, so a new direction to defend America’s shores would be advisable for a few diverse reasons: saving money and, more importantly, saving lives lost on foreign soil.

The United States could shift its focus to domestic policy and build an even stronger network of home security and counter-intelligence to stem the tide of terrorism from foreign enemies.

The new emphasis for America would be a stronger investment in itself instead of a series of hostile encounters with foreign enemies and dubious alliances with treacherous allies propped up by U.S. dollars.

It is time for America to take care of Americans and their best interests before it concerns itself with a larger world. It may sound self-serving, but an ocean of debt and the loss of too many young American lives in the pursuit of Manifest Destiny are the best arguments in favour of a new direction home for the United States.

Jim Sutherland is a local freelance writer.



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