The United States has come a long way from the isolated friend-of-all, enemy-of-none nation George Washington had implored we be in his Farewell Address. We are now (arguably) the only superpower nation, and our president is often named to be the most powerful man in the world.
For a lot of us in the United States, this idea can be taken for granted. I know I have always just thought it was the norm for the U.S. to be in a war. It felt like common sense that if there was anything going on in the world, the United State's Army would be there, they should be there. But now I'm left wondering, why does the United States do what it does, and perhaps more importantly, why should I care?
Well, there are a number of ways this can affect you. There is, of course, the most obvious way this affects U.S. citizens; war.
Military options are usually the last options when it comes to foreign policy, but they are on the table. From being drafted, having friends and loved ones serve in the military, and making sure that veterans are taken care of when they return, war can have huge consequences even on the individual level.
Also likely to affect us all; globalization. As the Huffington Post put it, "Globalization is here, and world economies are intertwined like never before. What happens overseas will affect us here at home." It matters how the economies of other countries are doing because that could help make or break our own economy. If other countries aren't able to buy our goods and services, then the people who provide those goods and services could be out of a job.
Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, it matters what's going on in the world. Just like ending World War II, when there is evil in the world, we all have an obligation to stop it. This last point gets tricky as you start trying to name actual people or actions as "evil" but let's put aside that for a moment, and I think we can all agree on the abstract level, stopping evil (like Nazi's) is a good idea.
Okay, so now we know why we should care, so let's see what is the US actually doing.
For one thing, the US is a part of various groups such as the United Nations (UN) and the National Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The point of the UN is to prevent war, and promote human rights, while the heart of NATO is "Article 5", if one country is attacked, all other members must come to their aid.
Although the US usually has some pretty important roles in these organizations (like being on the UN Security Council) it also has a history of not ratifying a lot of the treaties most other countries sign, such as the UN Convention on Human Rights. Not ratifying certain treaties can sometimes get in the way of the U.S. having as much influence as it potentially could have. Since the Senate is needed to ratify treaties, and some Senators feel that doing so would hurt our sovereignty, some people would argue that signing the treaties is what would get in the way of the U.S. from doing what it wants.
So what does the U.S. want to do?
Well, this is where Trump comes in. In his first year so far, with Twitter wars with North Korea and with his own Secretary of State, there is too much to go through it all in this article alone. But what the point of this all is that since we already showed that foreign policy affects individuals and that both the safety of our citizens and our economic opportunities are affected by decisions made on the global scale, we all need to pay attention to what is going on.
To name a few things that have happened so far, Trump has withdrawn from talks for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free trade deal that is now going on without America in it, meaning easier trading for those in it, and the U.S. potentially being left out.
He has also decertified the Iran Deal, which although doesn't kill it, does mean that it's up to Congress to do something, and doing something isn't what Congress is known for.
We need to decide if these actions are making Americans safer and providing them equal footing in the labor market. These decisions affect us, and whether you agree or disagree with them, we need to make sure that we are keeping up to date with them. This way, we can be better informed about what kind of world we're in, and what America's role and our own roles will look like in this world.