By Dimitri Alexander Simes, James Marcucci and David Saveliev
The United States has launched 188 military interventions in the past sixteen years. By contrast, during the forty-four year-long Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, it only intervened forty-six times. One would think that without the constant, existential threat of the Soviet Union, the government would invest in infrastructure, education, healthcare, or scientific exploration. Instead, they prioritize foreign wars.
Both Democrat and Republican administrations have followed a policy of military adventurism with religious zeal. And these interventions have reaped enormous human and financial costs. In Iraq and Afghanistan, 200,000 civilians have been killed in direct violence. Another ten million Afghan, Iraqi, and Pakistani people live as war refugees and internally displaced persons, in grossly inadequate conditions. On the American side, almost seven thousand U.S. soldiers have died overseas, fighting these pointless wars. The cost of the military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Syria totals about $5.6 trillion. And this does not include future interest on borrowing for the wars, which is expected to add another $8 trillion through 2054.
The United States has nothing to show for its interventions. After sixteen years of U.S. military deployment in Afghanistan, the Taliban either controls or is contending for control in 43% of Afghanistan’s districts. In Iraq, Washington created a power vacuum from which ISIS emerged. Six years after NATO’s “humanitarian mission” in Libya, the country has been ravaged by civil war and is now a hotbed for Islamic extremism. American efforts to bolster “moderate rebels” in Syria instead empowered terrorist groups like Jabhat Al-Nusra. America’s military adventurism in the Middle East has achieved nothing aside from the destabilization of countries and the deaths of their people, as well as its own.
Though the American public needs serious scrutiny of its government’s foreign policy, the establishment media fails to provide it. During the lead up to and the early stages of the Iraq war, the major cable news channels on both sides of the political spectrum overwhelmingly featured proponents of the war and heavily relied on U.S. officials for news about the situation on the ground. Because of this media bubble, most Americans had minimal exposure to anti-intervention opinions or arguments against the war.
More recently, media outlets and pundits usually hostile to Trump showered him with praise following an airstrike on a Syrian airfield in April 2017. CNN host Fareed Zakaria proclaimed immediately after the strike that Trump finally “became President of the United States,” a statement which seems to suggest that the legitimacy of presidents depends on their willingness to take military action without congressional approval or oversight.
In the few instances where members of the establishment media challenged the wisdom of American foreign policy their critique has been mostly limited to how an interventionist strategy is implemented, rather than arguing against the fundamental assumptions of American foreign policy. During the Obama administration, many mainstream pundits denounced the president, not for getting involved in the Syrian Civil War at all, but for intervening less than more hawkish presidents would have.
The only way to change the media landscape of the country is to establish a fresh, atypical view of U.S. foreign policy. We need media outlets unafraid of challenging the prevalent narratives surrounding foreign policy. We need media outlets that can represent the perspectives of the next generation. We hope Realist Review will be such an outlet.
Our goal is to make this publication a national voice for young people who want a different kind of foreign policy, one not defined by a state of constant war. We seek to revive the current discourse by introducing young and dynamic voices in support of a more restrained and realistic foreign policy. We are not a publication limited to any single campus. Instead, we aim to publish the brightest minds and clearest voices from a variety of states, backgrounds and universities. In our own small way, we hope to shift the emphasis of American foreign policy away from confrontation, towards cooperation.
We are very excited about starting this journey, and hope that you will join us.