Columns, Opinion

RYAN: Don’t you think we’re Russian into this?

For the record, I do not enjoy foreign policy. I think my lack of interest stems from my Only Child Syndrome. I never liked sharing my toys or playing with others — one preschool classmate might have lost a chunk of hair because she took my Barbie. The scissors slipped, I swear!

Foreign policy is basically the same thing except they’re fighting about oil fields and human rights. As a result of my only child-ness, I am more than a little ignorant about foreign affairs in this nation, but I’m sure I’m not the only one. This crisis in Ukraine has demonstrated two main points: Americans don’t know what’s going on and the American government shouldn’t get involved.

Just a small side note: I did thorough research on this topic before writing this column. It’s not like I’m just making this stuff up. I may be creative, but I could never come up with names like Yanukovych and Tymoshenko.

Back to the main point of this week’s column: the American attitude toward foreign policy. As citizens we have a very limited view of how foreign policy works. It’s a little bit our fault and a little bit our culture’s fault. Foreign policy is nasty, complicated and messy. Take all the domestic policy for the United States, multiply it by about 195 (give or take a Taiwan), and add in teenage girl’s manipulation and passive aggression. Welcome to foreign policy. Since most people don’t have the time to understand health care in this country, I can understand why our interactions with other nations could be a bit overwhelming.

While our citizens might not know exactly what is going on, at least our politicians and military officials have some idea (I hope). However, that doesn’t mean we should be jumping head first into the situation. America has this habit of getting itself stuck in less than pleasant engagements abroad (cough Iraq cough).

Our track record doesn’t exactly inspire much confidence.

The fighting and protests in Ukraine and Russia’s involvement are important developments on the global stage. However, they aren’t the only ones. Has anybody even noticed the protests in Venezuela? I know Putin’s bear-wrestling skills make for sexy news coverage, but Venezuela is about 3,200 miles closer to the United States than Kiev, Ukraine. Kiev is literally on the other side of the world (I Googled this, so we know it’s legit). It’s about 4,600 miles to Kiev from New York City and 4,600 miles from Alaska’s west coast. I’m thinking of buying a house there. I could probably see Russia from my front porch. Cue Sarah Palin joke.

Even if Russia is an important global player, Venezuela is in the American sphere of influence. Politically speaking, the U.S. has a lot more control over what happens in the Americas than Eastern Europe. It’s just the politics of geography. Additionally, what happens in Venezuela affects America more directly than what’s going on in Kiev. Also, Hugo Chavez is not a very nice man. Shouldn’t we be fostering protests against him? Not to mention that according to the Maps of the World website, Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves. So yeah, that really sounds like a country that should be totally fine if we just completely ignore what’s happening.

This isn’t supposed to be #ThrowbackThursday Soviet Union edition or America vs. Russia either. We live in a global community where U.S. President Barack Obama’s decisions affect everyone else. Heck, even what kind of car I buy after graduation will have some impact on the global economy. Even 30 years ago as the Cold War was drawing to a close, we were much less interdependent. In the age of Internet and constant international communication, our decisions can change the lives for billions of people.

This is why we shouldn’t get involved in Kiev, at least not yet or by ourselves. In the same way that mothers tell you to “never go anywhere alone,” we need to use the buddy system when it comes to foreign policy. I am not an expert in foreign politics, but the United Nations seems like a pretty good place to start. Addressing the situation diplomatically (and publicly) allows both officials and private citizens to gain valuable information and form solid opinions.

Look, we don’t need to dive head first into the swimming pool of involvement. We shouldn’t unilaterally decide who is worth intervening for and who isn’t. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t stick our toe in the water to test the temperature. There is a fine line between information and influence, and we shouldn’t cross it quite yet. If we do, Ukraine might not be the best place to start. Instead, there’s a country south of the border that could certainly use some guidance.

If we can change how we look at foreign policy, we might be able to uncover some valuable solutions.


Sara Ryan is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences studying political science and math. She can be reached at [email protected].

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