The United States’ Near Abroad
The United States has been fortunate in that for over a century it has not had to devote considerable military resources to conflicts within the Western Hemisphere. Not since the Spanish-American War of 1898 has the United States made a considerable military effort close to its homeland. The periodic interventions in Central America and the Caribbean from early in the 20th century to the 1994 occupation of Haiti involved relatively small numbers of U.S. forces, and were conducted in the face of negligible opposition. To the north, relations with Canada have been completely nonthreatening since the 1820s. The United States has gained considerable advantage from this situation.
This chapter starts with a review of the current situation in the Western Hemisphere, particularly those nations closest to the United States. We then examine how things might change in the future, emphasizing plausible possible events that could require the U.S. to devote significantly greater resources to ensure its interests in this region.
The main threats to U.S. interests in the United States’ near abroad come from illegal immigration and the inflow of drugs. Both of these challenges come overwhelmingly from south of the United States; Canada is a very minor contributor to either problem. The immigration problem has become an increasingly politicized issue, and could be a major factor in the 2008 presidential election. With an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the nation today, the vast majority of