A foreign policy for Americans

The U.S.  role as the “world’s only superpower” is unsustainable.  We Americans need to give it up, and behave like a normal country instead.

A normal country’s aim is peace and prosperity for its citizens, not world military supremacy

hubris_172349597-3A normal country will go to war to defend itself, and to defend allies to which it is bound by treaty, but not invade foreign countries to achieve vague goals or because of hypothetical or imaginary threats.

A normal country will not interfere in the internal politics of foreign countries, nor give billions to foreign dictators to use against their own people.

The USA was once a normal country.  The reason we changed was because of the unique threat posed by Hitler and the Nazi regime.   Hitler aspired to world domination (a goal that we Americans rightly regarded as insane) and he had to be stopped.  We Americans woke up to that fact too late.

After World War Two we Americans saw Stalin and the Soviet regime as a threat equivalent to Hitler.  We committed ourselves to a generation-long global duel with the USSR and the world-wide Communist movement, which ended with Ronald Reagan making peace with Mikhail Gorbachev and the later break-up of the Soviet Union.

That was the point at which the U.S. government could have decided to relax and tend to the nation’s internal needs.   Instead policy-makers such as Paul Wolfowitz thought that the goal of the United States should be to maintain its position as the world’s only super-power, and to keep itself safe by crushing any potential rivals.

This was based on a misunderstanding of the nature of American military power.

From the Indian Wars and the Civil War through World War Two and maybe the Korean Conflict, the United States won wars based on superior firepower.

us-foreign-policy-flow-chart-gifFrom the Vietnam Conflict through the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions, the United States has been defeated by enemies who figured out how to turn our advantage against us.   The USA has a larger military machine than the other major world powers combined, but it does not have the power to make foreign people obey.   The inherent nature of U.S. military technology is that we kill indiscriminately.   Our enemies kill individuals for a reason.  So our enemies are feared and the US forces are only hated, both for what we are (foreign invaders) and what we do.

The American people would be willing to fight to defend our homeland, were it threatened, but we have never had any appetite for foreign intervention.  President Obama is trying to get around this with drone warfare and special operations teams.   I don’t think this will work.

Power consists of having people obey you.   The Viet Cong, the Taliban and the Iraqi insurgents had that power, and the U.S. military does not.  This is why U.S. attempts to dominate foreign countries end in failure.

Americans are willing and able to fight to defend ourselves and our home territory, when that is threatened.  Our military forces are well-suited for that mission.  But we Americans have never had any willingness to fight long wars to control foreign countries.   Neo-conservatives in Washington regard that as a problem.   The real problem is that we, the people, have failed to rein in our government.


Noninterventionism: a Primer by Daniel Larison for The American Conservative.

Post 9/11 Foreign Policy: a Record of Unparalleled Failure by Tom Engelhardt for Common Dreams.  Hat tip to Mike Connelly for the link.

The Long Shadow of a Neocon by Andrew Cockburn for Harper’s Magazine.

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2 Responses to “A foreign policy for Americans”

  1. williambearcatBill Says:

    One of the most cogent opinion pieces I’ve read in a long time. Needs to be widely distributed. I’m not completely convinced that the national leaders’ desires only developed after WW!!. what with the invasion of the Philippines and Cuba but the value of non-invention was never completely denied. Some sanity and adherence to the value of non-intervention has always existed.

    Blaming Obama for the disaster in Iraq and the one coming in Afghanistan is simply politics and an unwillingness for the neo-cons to face their own wrong prognostications.


  2. philebersole Says:

    A friend of mine e-mailed me the following:

    I think this is a wonderful article, just smashing! And of course I loved your flow chart and have co-opted (click at bottom).

    I have a caveat: This piece is wonderfully clarifying, but it begs (or leaves for another day) the question of why we now do what “America” and “Americans” don’t do [very well]. I think this question emerges especially from the cold war. Stalin like no one else provided a great model of what we can all love to hate, no doubt about it. He was too dreadful. However, I submit that Americans were all too ready, willing and able to be conned into conflating this “awful” with the actual threat the Soviets presented. The “Evil Empire” needed to be challenged and were, but the terms of engagement were always hugely exaggerated viz the missile gap, etc.

    This also was part and parcel of the McCarthyite business of discrediting a truly progressive left. I don’t know the history, but it is certainly possible this very left self discredited itself to the extent that they were tolerant of Stalin. But things change and US nuance about that was pretty much nil. We all know that there is nothing to advance the momentum of empire and hegemony like a good and worthy enemy.

    It won’t come as news to you but there are a spate of info pieces (alternative news and Bill Moyers only, please) about the 30 year (at least) corner we have painted ourselves into. Today, regardless of what is needed, we have only the reflexes of your flow chart. “Trouble in Iraq?” Bomb.

    One good example of this : http://billmoyers.com/episode/full-show-chaos-in-iraq/


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