Dear US, before fixing the world, fix yourself!

Published: October 3, 2014
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Demonstrators protest the killing of unarmed teen Michael Brown across the street from the Ferguson Police Department in Ferguson, Missouri August 23, 2014. PHOTO: REUTERS

Demonstrators march down West Florissant with a U.S. flag during a peaceful march in reaction to the shooting of Michael Brown near Ferguson, Missouri August 18, 2014. PHOTO: REUTERS Demonstrators protest the killing of unarmed teen Michael Brown across the street from the Ferguson Police Department in Ferguson, Missouri August 23, 2014. PHOTO: REUTERS

At a time when the United States forces are grappling with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) scourge, it may not be the most appropriate moment to write this.

However, recent events, such as the incident in Ferguson, Missouri, happening within the US, have prompted many to ask a rather critical question – does the US really need to go to foreign lands, sacrifice lives, dole out billions and play the role of a fixer when the country itself is domestically faced with issues of monstrous importance?

As international affairs have significantly evolved, Washington continues to tow a somewhat outdated line. While the rest of the world marches to a different tune, the US has lost tremendous strategic and economic footing. Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya are some of the most glaring examples where tons of US dollars have literally been dumped, for not so compelling reasons, and ended up in chaotic situations all the while failing to achieve the desired results. The US did succeed in uprooting the stale, age-old, failed systems in those countries but missions, both military and civil, did not necessarily drill democratic, non-corrupt values into their cultural ethos.

Granted that the US is faced with a number of evolving international security concerns; however, the domestic environment is nowhere close to as promising as it used to be. In fact, it is alarming. Money is scarce, the infrastructure to support an ever-growing population is in shambles, racism are rampant, gun and domestic violence seems to be unending, people have lost jobs in massive numbers, and, most importantly, immigration reform is desperately needed.

The Ferguson incident was just one in the long line of pain points that are hurting Americans. Over the past few years, thousands of innocent lives have been lost to gun violence. President Barack Obama has committed to work on the issue but has faced severe criticism from the far right. They haven’t made any substantial inroads in removing the outdated, redundant second amendment from the constitution.

The country is literally running out of money. The institution of Social Security that primarily looks after post-retirement arrangements for citizens is projected to go bankrupt in the next 20 to 25 years. While politicians bicker over domestic reforms, it appears that there’s this extraordinary urge to look outward and reform nations all the over the globe, be a hero and save the day for the less fortunate. The realisation that money, manpower, strategic advisors and even the armed forces are needed more domestically to implement certain direly needed policy planning and execution is missing in action.

The repercussions of all this are undoubtedly far-reaching. Americans are finding themselves on the edge, frustrated and not being able to plan for the future. The after-effects of the George W Bush recession are still lingering and resonating. In such circumstances, one questions the rationale behind the US spending incredible amount of energy and attention abroad, especially when its own people are suffering. Why crusade for others when there are so many fires to put out at home?

I understand that safeguarding overseas interests is integral to US’s existence but let’s not forget that millions of needy folks go without food every night, live on the streets and are drowned in poverty domestically. The point is that it’s frustrating to see the growing disparity, the disappearance of the robust middle class that the US used to have until the dreadful recession hit. US cannot keep showing generosity outside and bleed internally.

The country must take it easy and go slow with foreign missions, operations, and the propagation of democratic ideals in godforsaken areas of the world and divert the much-needed dollars for domestic improvement. As bridges continue to collapse, one-time mega cities that were centres of industrial prowess go down and wilt under financial pressure and power systems become redundant, the enthusiasm to encourage defence corporations to manufacture more weapons for military usage overseas should end for good.

In the midst of this disturbed environment, the president seems to be pulled in different directions. His agenda is riddled with foreign policy issues. He’s got ISIS, al Qaeda, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Russia, Syria and everything else – urgent and to be resolved now – beyond the US frontiers. Somehow those on the right side of the divide seem to get more attention than the saner elements in his advisory circles. More weapons and more wars don’t make any sense anymore. People elected Obama for better economy, more jobs, less racism and better education for children. Instead what we are getting is an onslaught of strategy that is based on diverting money to the armed forces and less and less on public matters.

The Obama administration is ignoring the ‘real issues’ – the overwhelming and overpowering human issues. Things, right here, in the heart of America, are a fractured mess. While I am not advocating a drastic shift in policy, this is a plea for striking some kind of balance between extravagantly over-spending in foreign lands and focusing on domestic priorities.

It is comprehensible that America is faced with threats from all over the globe. Wouldn’t it, however, make better sense if a restock and re-evaluation of foreign and domestic policies is carried out?

Perhaps this is a good opportunity to task the look-busy-do-nothing Congress to help sort out this rather enigmatic imbalance?

Remember it’s all about expanding the financial bandwidth in the US and not fighting someone else’s wars. Nations do better if they are able to face facts. US cannot keep trying to spread goodwill all over the world and let its own people rot. This is the time to take a step back and look inward.

Ahson Saeed Hasan

Ahson Saeed Hasan

The writer is a proud American, a peacenik who has traveled well over 80 countries and lived in four continents. He likes to share his experiences and reflect on the worldly surroundings. He tweets @tweetingacho (twitter.com/tweetingacho)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.