The State of the Union Address seems like a lifetime ago, but some of the president’s January speech still sticks with me. His call for increased investment in infrastructure was one of the better parts of the speech. State-led development theory states that the state is responsible for creating an environment for capitalism to flourish. Roads, bridges, stoplights and canals are all things that enable capitalism to function at its best (Of course who provides those things is a point of right-left disagreement).
It’s been nine months since the speech, and we haven’t seen this increased investment, but what we have seen lately is a plan to spend billions of dollars in Syria in a “limited” war. Call it an isolationist or an American-centered approach, but that money that will be spent on the war would be better spent on the infrastructure investment that was proposed months ago.
This is really a question of priorities. Job numbers aren’t improving at the expected rate, something that improved infrastructure could help rectify, but the investment in infrastructure has yet to occur. Despite these numbers, the White House wants to spend more money on a military engagement in the Middle East. At what point in time does the state of the United States trump the crises in other parts of the world?
At the same time, it is not a small thing that President Obama is trying to spend money on. It is an obvious fact that Bashar al-Assad is a despotic tyrant with no qualms about killing his own citizens. The U.S. is in a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation. Because America has taken upon itself the mantle of world police in the past, it is where the world looks to when a crisis arises. Teddy Roosevelt said in 1904 that it is the responsibility of the U.S. to intervene in cases of “Chronic wrongdoing, or an impotence which results in the general loosing of civilized society.” Although it was originally only applied to the Western Hemisphere, the rise of the American superpower applied this philosophy to the world. And while something needs to change in Syria, and traditionally the U.S. would be the catalyst of that change, the Obama Administration needs to take a long look inwards before starting another foreign conflict.