Should the United States Always Act Alone in Foreign Policy?

There are very few times when the United States has acted alone. The critics who maintain that America is engaging in “cowboy diplomacy” are wrong. For example, America was criticized for acting alone during Operation Iraqi Freedom, but this was not an adequate explanation for what happened. First, there was unanimous approval for UN Resolution 1441 which authorized the use of force to get rid of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. There had been 17 similar resolutions which had been enacted since the end of the Gulf War in 1991. Despite this, the United States sought approval of an 18th resolution before the intervention, but this was stopped by a threatened French veto.
While the United States did bear the brunt of most of the fighting during Operation Iraqi Freedom, the NATO alliance has had a crucial role in providing the peacekeeping forces. This is also true in Afghanistan.
In the Middle East, the “road map” for peace between Israel and the Palestinians is being advocated by the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia. When North Korea threaten to deploy nuclear weapons, the United States insisted on multilateral talks involving America, China, Japan, North Korea and South Korea. Many of the same critics who condemned America for acting alone in Iraq wanted us to act alone in North Korea. They were advocating bilateral talks between North Korea and the USA, without the other interested parties. The bilateral talks were demanded by North Korea.
If the United States had acted unilaterally to end the killing in the Rwandan civil war, 800,000 lives could have been saved. Former President Clinton now admits this and has publicly regretted his error in judgement. Another example of a preemption policy was Israel’s 1981 decision to attack Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor.
If any nation had exercised unilateral action against Hitler, the holocaust and perhaps WW II could have been avoided. The United States will continue to be faced with situations where we are the only nation that can act. We are the only country that has power projection military force in all four corners of the world.
Even the liberal National Conference of Catholic Bishops acknowledged this in their 1993 declaration when they approvingly quoted this statement by Pope John Paul II: ”The principles of sovereignty of states and noninterference in their internal affairs . . . cannot constitute a screen behind which torture and murder may be carried out.”

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