Everything is interconnected
By Lt. Col. Tony Mena, 354th Force Support Squadron commander
/ Published February 15, 2012
EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- Americans are busy. We lead busy lives, and no matter how hard we try, we never conquer our to-do lists. As a result, we don't always believe it's important to spend time following the international news. We have better things to do, right? "Facebook is more fun, and what does the unrest in Libya really have to do with my Wal-Mart shopping list anyway?--I have things to do!" The answer: everything is interconnected (a.k.a. the first rule of international relations theory). This is a concept that many Airmen are realizing, and so should we at Eielson.
The U.S. government is engaged in several international matters--that's no secret. And the U.S. Air Force is deployed to every continent except Antarctica. Why? Because as America's most potent arm of influence, the military is often called upon to be a force of presence around the globe. That means we as Airmen will most likely find ourselves in foreign lands as we answer our country's beckon. And that, my fellow Icemen, is why we should turn-off Facebook once in a while and click on economist.com or any international news Web site to catch up on international events; our next assignment--or deployment--is determined by them.
Why does the United States get involved in global matters in the first place? Put simply, we deploy around the globe to protect the concepts that we in the Western world hold dear: democracy, free enterprise and human rights to name a few. We protect these values against those who wish to defeat them, be it an unfriendly nation (the USSR during the Cold War) or a non-state actor who floats between countries (al-Qaeda). So when you hear about civil unrest in Libya, or food shortages in Southern Sudan, or drug-trafficking in Central America, find out why these problems exist. If their roots lie in long-term violations of Western values, then the United Nations will most likely become involved--and that almost always means the United States military will engage next.
It's interesting to point out that the afflicted people of the region in question reach out to the United States for help. Rarely does the United States invite itself to somebody else's problem. Countries in crisis ask the United States for assistance because we have a long, proud legacy of helping without conquering. Whereas other world powers have historically provided aid and then quickly claimed that region as its own territory, the United States will render aid -- economic, military, or other -- and then give the country back to itself with a new outlook on democratic principles and free enterprise. We do this because by defending and encouraging Western values abroad, we ultimately bolster our own nation's security in the homeland. For recent case studies, see Japan, Germany, Kuwait, Iraq, Colombia, Honduras, Israel, Egypt, East Timor, Singapore or a dozen other examples.
I am proud to be the 354th Force Support Squadron commander, and I am dedicated to being the best possible commander for the benefit of the FSS Ravens Family and the Iceman Team alike. That said, I am also proud to be an official International Affairs officer. The Air Force has spent a lot of time and money over the past seven years to train me to be multi-certified in foreign relations and policy advisement. I've seen firsthand how a little international awareness saved lives, prevented conflict, and established fruitful partnerships between the United States and other nations. This stuff works, folks.
The U.S. military is the mightiest military in the history of the world. And even though no other country or militia can match our military capacity, we will never again go to war alone. Instead, we will show up with other nations at our side, where we will yet again stand up for the values we hold dear in hopes of protecting our democratic principles. The sooner we realize that, the sooner we'll understand that if it's happening in the world, it matters to us as Airmen--even if we live way up in the frosty Alaskan Interior. Everything is interconnected.