American foreign policy style should mellow this century

I am the type of person who loves to know random facts, look at various lists and try to know as many as I can. So when I heard about Newsweek’s ranking of the World’s Best Countries, I had to investigate. Released in August, the list was a study of various components, such as education, health, quality of life, economic dynamism and political environment, based on various scales and rationale with the help of an advisory board of the brightest minds in the world.

Like many Americans, I would expect the United States to rank in the top five, if not number one. So it came as a surprise when I saw the United States at number 11. And what country was ranked number one you might ask? Finland. The rest of the top 10 consists of Switzerland, Sweden, Australia, Luxembourg, Norway, Canada, Netherlands, Japan and Denmark in that order from two to 10. All of these countries are considered better than America, a nation that has always considered itself number one no matter what.

So what can we do to boost our ranking? It comes down to America no longer being the aggressive cowboy in world affairs. Over the past decade, America has lost respect from other countries, as it has become increasingly forceful in world affairs: look no further than Iraq and Afghanistan to see that there is an issue. We appear to be the bully in a world that needs to have more cooperation than domination. There was hope that America could restore some dignity with Obama’s election but, even now, as Newsweek columnist Michael Hirsh comments in his article "We’re No. 11!" "Critics are now back to grumbling that America is no longer a locus of wisdom, or a lodestar for behavior."

The wise thing for America to do is to take a cue from the countries ahead of us on the list. If you look at the top 10, with the exception of Japan, these are unobtrusive and seemingly relaxed countries, especially in comparison to the U.S. These are countries you are not going to hear about on the evening news. And they won’t be starting any international conflict any time soon. Even Japan, despite its status as a booming economic and world power and the recent conflict with China, has been dubbed the "Switzerland of Asia" by Hirsh.

If the United States wants to claim the top spot, or at least secure a position in the top 10, we are going to have to take a step back from the spotlight. We are going to have to stop acting like the world’s sheriff and start taking care of domestic issues rather than trying to fix other countries. We have enough problems of our own to be concerned with as we face the power struggle in Washington, the emergence of the Tea Party, obesity and the recession.

This may be difficult for many Americans to accept, especially those who used gunslinger tactics to put us in this situation. Some may see it as backing down from a fight and showing who we are, making us more susceptible to an attack in the future. But it is a necessary step for the country to move forward as a global partner as other countries will see that we accept that we have flaws and we are committed to fixing them. And as we work on those flaws, other nations will be more willing to work with us rather than be intimidated out of fear that we will try to take over the situation. By doing this, we will take care of both our domestic and foreign issues and will contribute to the great global community we are striving for.