As we observe all the continuing chaos happening around the world, and the call for military action in places like Syria, many Americans are understandably asking what the real role for America should be in the world today. People are particularly sensitive, even cynical (understandably so), in backdrop of the Iraq War, and our incursions in Afghanistan.
There are two problems with this -- America (and everyone else) increasingly has decreasing levels of surplus funds for things like all out war. This is of course in addition to the moral issues.
The second problem is that in most cases around the world (and even here at home), the real problem is not political, racial or religious crisis, but an economic crisis.
The problem in Tunisia was economic first. The man who famously set himself on fire did so because the authorities took away his cart business, and with it his ability to provide for his family. The threat was not political or religious, but economic.
The problem in Egypt, at bottom, is economic. Approximately 30 million individuals were citizens when Mubarak first took office, and more than 90 million are citizens today. Economic opportunity has not been either fair or uniform in its growth over the decades since.
The problem in the Middle East is economic. You will soon have 60 percent of the population under the age of 25, and most with no clear economic path forward. Some research reports suggest that the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa) will need upwards of 100 million jobs by 2020 alone.
The problem in South Africa is economic. In a nation of 50 million citizens, less than 10 million are taxpayers. Sure there are racial and other issues. but the main problem is there simply are not enough jobs and economic opportunity to go around.
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