In the first week of April, the United States chose to snub a G7 meeting in favour of focusing exclusively on NATO. But while the U.S. has chosen to focus on great power politics, France has begun penetrating the now crowded soft power field in Africa to much success in former colonial possessions Algeria and Rwanda. Given France’s success, perhaps it is time for the Trump administration to re-evaluate the role of soft power in American foreign policy.
As if Russian airstrikes, ISIS suicide attacks, and chemical warfare were not enough, Turkish troops now join the Syrian civil war, a conflict entering its eighth year. On January 20, the media focused on the American government shutdown, providing no coverage on the day’s most significant development: Turkish president Recep Erdogan launched his long-promised assault on the Kurds in northern Syria, one of America’s closest allies in the campaign against ISIS.
With ISIS largely defeated, Iraq has retreated to the periphery of American attention; America and its allies abroad have left Iraq on its own after over a decade of intense involvement.This lack of engagement leaves a power vacuum open for exploitation by Iran, and yes, even a resurgent ISIS. A policy of complete disengagement is not only to the detriment of American interests, but those of its regional allies. The United States must decide whether it will stand idly by as the modest but appreciable gains made by trillions of dollars and the lives of thousands of US service members are swept away by Islamic extremism, or selectively engage in the region to counterbalance growing Iranian influence.