The Big Lie Americans Tell Themselves
At an August 7 press conference, Ed Henry of Fox News asked White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest a straightforward question about President Barack Obama’s decision to authorize force against the Islamic State (IS): "Is preventing a genocide in America’s core interests?" The question assumed greater resonance later that day, when Obama justified military action in Iraq "to prevent a potential act of genocide," as IS surrounds thousands of members of Iraq’s Yazidi religious sect.
Earnest paused. Then, in his incoherent non-answer, he paid lip-service to one of the most persistent truisms in American foreign policy: "Of course the United States has been and will continue to be a beacon for freedom and respect for basic human rights around the globe. And that is a core founding principle of this country and one that American men and women have fought and died to protect. And we will continue to stand up for that value."
The current generation seems to believe that preventing genocide around the world is and has always been in the United States’ interest. From calls to intervene in Syria, to activism around ‘Save Darfur,’ to attention paid to anti-Rohingya Muslim violence in Myanmar, there is widespread believe that the United States will intervene in troubled spots around the world. But Washington has always had a dismal record of stopping genocides and ethnic cleansing, and that is unlikely to change.
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Dhruva Jaishankar is a transatlantic fellow with GMF's Asia Program.