It seems as though the United States is on the brink of entering more than a few new military conflicts. Recent days have seen attacks against Syria and the positioning of American naval vessels within striking distance of North Korea. With the threat of violence looming, how can America keep from getting sucked into another conflict similar to those from the war on terror?
During the fateful 2016 presidential election, one of the major promises that Donald Trump put at the center of his platform was the adoption of a somewhat isolationist stance when it came to foreign affairs. The idea was that closing off America’s borders, as well as refusing involvement in the refugee crisis and Middle Eastern conflicts, would go a long way toward making this country great again.
The appeal of this stance is not hard to see. After all, it has been nearly sixteen years since the attacks on the world trade center in 2001, and yet, the United States has had troops in the Middle East “fighting terrorism and promoting democracy” for all nearly fourteen of those years. For college-age, young adults, most are unable to remember a time when American troops were not engaging hostiles in the region. You can understand how the promise to end U.S. involvement in these conflicts would appeal to a great many American citizens.
Now that Trump has been sworn in and has officially entered the Oval Office, though, it is becoming more clear with each passing day that such a stance will not happen. It’s been less than ninety days since our 45th president shouldered the burden of commander-in-chief, and already, the nation has seen multiple military strikes carried out in foreign countries against international actors.
Whether it was the raid he authorized in Yemen against al-Qaida, just days into his presidency, or his recent military strike in Syria, in response to the human rights abuses committed by the regime of Bashar al Assad, it is becoming clear that Trump has no intention of implementing an isolationist approach toward international affairs.
This fact is further compounded by his wish to increase the military’s budget by $54 billion. To be fair, Trump is hardly the first commander-in-chief to authorize military action overseas. Both Barack Obama and George W. Bush held and used expanded military powers following the aftermath of 9/11. The issue isn’t one that President Trump has started, rather one that he is continuing to be a part of. There are without a doubt times when the United States is called upon and morally obligated to step in and assert a military presence in order to prevent atrocities, such as the Holocaust and Rwandan genocide.
To his credit, I believe that Trump’s recent missile strike against Assad falls under this category, as it was in response to a horrendous chemical attack committed against Syrian civilians. The major issue with this attack, though, is that it was not approved by Congress. Trump acted on his own accord and, though he made the right decision this time, who’s to say that the next strike he orders won’t be a disaster.
And yet, bypassing Congress in order to more efficiently carryout military endeavors has become the modern norm in America. Despite the fact that the United States has been “at war” in the Middle East for as long as I can remember, Congress has not issued a declaration of war since the World War II in 1941. So, all of these modern “wars” that American soldiers have been sacrificing their lives for are not really wars; rather, they are simply “Extended Military Engagements.” One of the major issues with these engagements is the fact that they aren’t official, which means that they have the ability to fly under the radar to some extent.
When a country declares war, it is a huge deal, and it is a fact that weighs heavily on the minds of it citizens on a daily basis. When the United States enters an “Extended Military Engagement,” though, citizens may have moral issues with it, but with the exception of those who have loved ones in the military, civilian life will rarely be affected. Because of this lack of impact, putting a stop to such conflicts is extremely difficult. After all, nothing stops wars faster than a change in public opinion; however, if these conflicts do not affect the everyday lives of Americans, the sad truth is citizens won’t care enough to bring an end to such engagements.
Historically, the only real exception to this is the Vietnam War. Though the word “war” is a part of its name, there was never a declaration of war passed by Congress. There was, though, massive public outcry, an outcry that can be attributed to the institution of the draft. Nothing grabs the public’s attention faster than sending its sons and daughters off to die.
The quickest and easiest way to reduce extended military engagements by the United States, in other nations, is to bring back the draft. I understand that the idea of being sent off to war and being forced to fight for something you don’t believe in is infuriating, but that’s the idea. This nation has been engaging in controversial conflicts for far too long. So long, in fact, that these unofficial wars have become the norm. It is easy enough to say, “I think we should bring our boys home,” but if you don’t have a family member in the armed services, you really have no stake in the war.
If a draft is put in place, though, all of America will suddenly have a stake in the conflict. No parent wants their child, sibling or spouse to die a violent death in a distant land. So, despite the fact that the reinstatement of the draft may seem counterproductive to peace, the threat of having your loved ones put in harm’s way would anger and scare the public to such an extent that they would quickly put an end to the majority of these conflicts.