After a 26-year hiatus, the drums of the Cold War are once again reverberating through the halls of Washington. With the recent passage of legislation imposing sanctions on the Russian Federation, Congress has charted an undeniable path toward confrontation with a historic adversary.
Though in no way should we become apologists for Russian President Vladimir Putin's draconian policies and authoritarian style of rule, it may do us well to remember that great nations often have and currently do — sometimes ruthlessly — pursue their self-interest. What is more, a federal government's pursuit of the nation's self-interest is arguably its sole mandate from those it represents. It is only in how its leaders construe that self-interest, narrowly or broadly, in isolation or as part of an increasingly integrated global community, that largely distinguishes one nation's course from another.
As we rush to condemn a foreign adversary, it might behoove the American people to reflect on our conduct on the world stage and ask ourselves whether we truly occupy the moral high ground.
A democracy can be a fragile thing, one that demands constant vigilance and care. As our nation seeks to steel itself against an array of boogeymen personified by Russia, Iran and North Korea, it might do us well to remember the financial, moral and security consequences of acting upon our grievances in Iraq, which many say contributed to the creation of a power vacuum that led to the eventual rise of ISIS and a global terror threat. It may be comforting to attribute Donald Trump's presidential victory to Moscow, but that would be dismissive of our own agency and culpability, for it is we who pulled our levers last November, not Mr. Putin. We would be wise to defuse tensions and to seek common ground with those foreign adversaries who seem by and large to be acting in accordance with the will of their own people, and we ought to take a discomfiting look in the mirror at a nearer, more frightening boogeyman.
America is an incredible nation, and I have dedicated my life to her service. Nonetheless, we are not unblemished, faultless actors, and we would do ourselves a disservice to claim otherwise. Russia certainly has made lamentable transgressions, and indeed all people should be outraged. But imposing ineffectual sanctions upon Russia for its actions amounts to the pot calling the kettle black. America must own up to her mistakes and act so as to inspire others through her example instead of seeking to punish others for crimes tantamount to those for which we too are guilty.