By CALVIN SHERWOOD
In just a few days, it will be ten years since a terrorist attack drastically altered the way Americans look at the world. No other event in my lifetime has had more influence on American politics. Looking back on the event, it is one of a handful of days that I can still remember exactly where I was when I first heard the news.
Ever since then, the United States has involved itself in the Middle East, first in Afghanistan as a direct result of the attacks, and later in Iraq with more ambiguous motives. The results of the last decade of intervention in foreign lands have been, at best, quite mixed.
Sectarian violence still flares up in Iraq now and again, while Afghanistan seems as unstable as when the Taliban first left. It does not help that Afghani President Hamid Karzai, whom the U.S. supports, does not seem to have a problem with corruption in the government, and thus feeds the sectarian fires stoked by the Taliban and tribal chiefs.
Support for continuing these wars is drying up fast, which is why President Obama has presented timetables for their departure. This should also be met with a departure from the past foreign interventionist policy that instigated them and replaced with a new one.
To people all over the country, as well as those at the University of Mary Washington who occasionally gaze outside the collegiate social bubble, this should come as no surprise.
We, as a country, are financially, morally and mentally tired of being the sheriff of the world. That is why it is especially comforting to see the Arab Spring occur as the U.S. power in the Middle East begins to wane and withdraw.
It is also why America should accept a less prominent role by siding and supporting protesters without fighting for them. Watching Libyans earn their freedom by providing the ground support and fighting for themselves is a powerful lesson that others, like the Syrians, are learning.
Unlike Iraq and Afghanistan, where the U.S. had to cajole the native population to action, an extremely determined population has initiated recent political unrest during the Arab Spring. These protesters have shown in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya that they are capable of handling themselves without direct interference from America, and if the U.S. wants to help, supplies and diplomacy are more acceptable than foot soldiers.
America and NATO did that well enough in Libya and now have a fairly successful outline for future foreign policy scenarios. This style of letting others take more of the initiative may also provide the U.S. with a set of better-equipped and useful allies. Will this be the path America takes? Hopefully, when we look back on this in another ten years, we will have our answer.