From Afghanistan to Iraq to Egypt to Libya, when it comes to US foreign policy, America’s hands are not just full, they’re often tied.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was charged with the task of laying out the plan for the future today at the House Foreign Relations Committee Hearing on Capitol Hill.
In her opening statements, she spoke about the past.
“Generations of Americans including my own have grown up successful and safe because we chose to lead the world tackling the greatest challenges,” she said.
But now there are clear signs that the challenges and the times are changing, as Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) pointed out.
“A lot of people in this country have come to the conclusion that our policy overhaul has been inconsistent,” Rep. Paul said, “Sometimes we support the bad guys, then the bad guys become our enemies.”
2011 has been a major year, with major shifts in prominence and power, in North Africa and the Middle East.
But just days before the regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak fell, both Secretary Clinton and CIA. Director Leon Panetta called it “stable.”
There are also inconsistencies in the perception on the war in Afghanistan.
“In Afghanistan, integrated military and civilian surges have helped set the stage for our diplomatic surge to support Afghan led reconciliation that could end the conflict and put Al Qaeda on the run,” she said.
It is a sharp contrast from the assessment of Robert Watkins, UN Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General for Afghanistan.
"It is fair to say that security in the country is at its lowest point since the departure of the Taliban,” he recently said.
Even Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said to a group of cadets at West Point, that decisions have been wrong time and time again.
“In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as General MacArthur so delicately put it,” Gates remarked.
There is also the matter of money, with the US economy weak and losing leverage to other powers like China and Brazil. It is another frustration voiced by lawmakers.
“Does it make any sense for the U.S. to be borrowing money from China and then giving it back to other countries including China?” asked Dana Rohrbacher (R-CA).
When it comes to Iran, there is a clear position given by the State Department.
“The denial of human dignity in Iran is an outrage that deserves the condemnation of all those who speak out for freedom and justice,” said Secretary Clinton to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.
But in many other regions, like Bahrain, Albania, and most prominently – Iraq, where many more people are killed at the hands of a US allied government, the silence is deafening.
And as the landscape changes daily in Libya, cracks in the foundation here grow deeper, as lawmakers bicker about what to do.
“We must remain firm ties with our allies and enemies must be clearly identified,” said Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Chairwoman of the House Foreign Relations Committee.
It seems when it comes to US Foreign Policy, there is a frequently changing position on good versus evil and a diminishing power to influence what comes next.
Lawrence Korb, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress said it is always a possibility the US will result to military intervention as a means of foreign policy, even in cases like Libya.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called for a strong strategic response to ongoing events in the nation.
“I would be very surprised if we put troops in on the ground,” Korb said. “I do think however if NATO or the UN authorizes missions to take refugees out by ship or to have a no fly zone, the United States will participate in that.”
He added, “Strategic response basically means that you’ll do it in keeping with the overall global security. After all the last thing we want is Gaddafi to blame these problems on the United States. He’s trying, but he has no evidence.”
Libya is different than Tunisia or Egypt because of the excessive force being used against the people, Korb explained. Outside intervention is less likely in neighboring nations for that reason.
American’s have learned to use new directions in foreign policy, he argued, having made bad choices in Iraq and Afghanistan. Moving forward the US is working more globally and diplomatically, unlike the way the Bush administration addressed international policy.
“Military power can’t be the answer to everything,” he remarked.
The founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation, Jacob Hornberger, said the US is likely contemplating an intervention in Libya.
“They are sending war ships over there. It’s just classic US foreign policy,” he said. “They are either supporting the dictators or they’re ousting them. Instead they should be doing, just leave the world alone.”
‘National security’ is a term now used to justify just about anything US leaders want to do, whether necessary or not, Hornberger argued.
“What Americans need to be doing is doing exactly what the people in the Middle East are doing; start reflecting on what is the role of our government in all this,” he said. “We need to be doing some soul searching over here just like the people over there are doing.”
However, there has been mainly silence regarding the US and its policies from within the nation.