American Foreign Policy

Here are some excerpts from
Taming American Power by Stephen M. Walt.

[Excerpts from Chapter 2, The Roots of Resentment, which once were here
have been moved to the post “Why They Hate Us” here.]

Paragraph numbers and emphasis are added;
titles are shown even for sections that are omitted.

Chapter 5
Foreign Policy in the National Interest

[5.0.1 is omitted]

America’s position of primacy
fosters fear and resistance when its power is misused.
Because the United States is so strong and its impact on others is so pervasive,
it inevitably generates suspicion by other states
and finds it difficult to elicit their full and enthusiastic cooperation.
because the United States is wrestling with so many issues in so many places,
it is prone to being manipulated or hoodwinked
by states that wish to use U.S. power to advance their own interests.

Given these constraints, how can the United States
maximize the benefits that primacy brings
minimize the resistance that its power sometimes provokes?

5.1 Preserving Primacy

5.2 Mailed Fist, Velvet Glove

5.3 Don’t Force Adversaries Together

5.4 Defending the Legitimacy of U.S. Primacy

Section 5.5
A New Approach in the Middle East

Suppose the Bush administration had decided to invest
the same level of energy, attention, and money
in rebuilding the U.S. relationship with the Arab and Islamic world
that it devoted to toppling Saddam Hussein.
In particular, suppose it had worked as hard
to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
as it worked
to engineer a war with Iraq.
Instead of claiming that the road to Jerusalem lay through Baghdad
[actually that view was being pushed by some academics:
see “Palestine, Iraq, and American Strategy” by Michael Scott Doran and
“U.S. Victory in Iraq Opens Possibility of Palestinian-Israeli Settlement”
by Martin Indyk]
what if Bush had realized that
winning the war on terrorism requires ending
the long-running conflict
between our main Middle East ally and the Palestinian people,
as well as eventually encouraging
economic and political reform in the Arab and Islamic world.
Instead of embracing Ariel Sharon’s rejection of the peace process and
Israel’s own agenda of territorial expansion and regional transformation,
what if George Bush had made
achieving a just peace between Israel and Palestine
the cornerstone of his foreign policy after 9/11,
and had been willing to commit the amount of time, political capital, and money
(i.e., more than $160 billion [as of 2005] and still rising)
that he committed to overthrowing Saddam?

Had the United States done any of these things,
its position in the world today would be vastly improved.
As the Pew Global Attitudes Survey concluded in 2003,
“The bottom has fallen out of support for America in most of the Muslim world.”
[Other Pew Global surveys; see also World Public Opinion.]

The United States is hated and feared for a number of reasons, but
a critical element in Arab and Islamic hatred
is the combination of
  1. Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians
  2. America’s increasingly one-sided support for Israel.
U.S. support for autocratic Arab rulers plays a role as well, but
it is clearly a lesser concern.
These attitudes make it more difficult for Arab leaders
to embrace any idea that seems to be “made in America.”

Equally important,
U.S. Middle East policy
is one of the main reasons
why terrorists like Osama bin Laden want to attack the United States,

and U.S. policy helps provide al Qaeda and its affiliates
with a steady stream of new recruits.

Even worse,
America’s tacit (and, at times, active) support
for Israeli expansionism (e.g.)
makes bin Laden and his ilk look like prophets and heroes

rather than murderous criminals.

If the United States wants to win the war on terrorism,
it must find a way to reverse the steady deterioration of its standing
in this critical part of the world.

To do this will require these steps:

First and foremost,
the United States should use its considerable leverage
to bring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to an end.

U.S. leaders have been actively engaged
in virtually every aspect of the peace process,
but they have never used the full leverage at their disposal.

While reaffirming its commitment
to Israel’s security within its pre-1967 borders,
the United States should make it clear that
it is dead set against Israel’s expansionist settlement policy
(including the land-grabbing “security fence”),
and that
it believes this policy is not in either America’s or Israel’s long-term interest.
This approach means going beyond
the Bush administration’s moribund “road map”
and laying out America’s own vision for what a just peace would entail.

Israel should be expected to withdraw
from virtually all territories it occupied in June 1967,
in exchange for full peace.

[An endnote adds the following paragraph:]

Israel and the Palestinians
will also have to reach agreement on the “right of return”—
the right of displaced Palestinians to return to their homes.
Allowing this “right” to be exercised in full would threaten Israel’s identity
and is clearly infeasible [at least to Zionists],
but the basic principle is both an essential issue of justice
and an issue on which the Palestinians will not compromise
save in the context of a final settlement.
To resolve this dilemma,
Israel should acknowledge a “right” of return,
and the Palestinians must formally agree to give up this right
in exchange for compensation.

The United States and the European Union could organize and finance
a generous program of reconstruction aid
to compensate the Palestinians,
which would be formally understood to end any and all claims
for the physical return of the Palestinians into what is now Israeli territory.

[“Pre-1967 Israeli territory” would seem to be the more specific description.]

The United States has every right to pressure Israel in this way:
so long as it is bankrolling Israel
(and jeopardizing its own security by doing do),
then it is entitled to say what it is willing to back and what it rejects.


And if an agreement can be reached,
then United States and the European Union should be willing
to subsidize the new arrangements generously.

If Israel remains unwilling to grant the Palestinians a viable state—
or if it tries to impose an unjust solution unilaterally—
then the United States should end its economic and military support.
Consistent with the strategy of offshore balancing,
the United States would pursue its own self-interest
rather than adhere to a blind allegiance to an uncooperative ally.
We can hope that it does not come to this,
but U.S. leaders should be prepared to pursue the American national interest
if it does.

In effect, the United States would be giving Israel a choice:
It can end its self-defeating occupation of the West Bank
and remain a cherished U.S. partner, or
it can remain an occupying power on its own.
In other words, the United States would be treating Israel
the same way that it treats any other county.
The United States would still support the continued existence of a Jewish state
(the same way that we support
a Norwegian state, a Thai state, a Polish state, etc.),
and it would be prepared to help if Israel’s survival were in jeopardy.
But it would no longer treat Israel as though
its interests and U.S. interests were identical,
or behave as if Israel deserved generous U.S. support no matter what it did.

It might be argued that no change of course is needed,
because the Sharon government is already planning
to withdraw unilaterally from the Gaza Strip
and has resumed talks with the Palestinians
in the wake of Yasser Arafat’s death
and the election of the more moderate Abu Mazen.
Unfortunately, there is still no clear sign
that Sharon intends to offer the Palestinians a viable state,
and considerable evidence suggests that he does not.
As Sharon’s close advisor and former chief of staff Dov Weisglass
told Ha’aretz on October 2004,
Sharon’s withdrawal scheme
“supplies the amount of formaldehyde that’s necessary so that
there will not be a political process with the Palestinians ...
When you freeze that process
you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state....
Effectively, this whole package that is called the Palestinian state ...
has been removed from our agenda indefinitely.”
Israeli settlements continue to expand on the West Bank,
and there is little reason to expect a viable or just peace
unless the United States uses its leverage to impose one.

This policy would undoubtedly be anathema
to the different elements of the Israel lobby
and would probably make some other Americans uneasy.
Americans should recognize, however,
that unconditional U.S. support for Israel
has done great harm to the U.S. position in the Arab and Islamic world,
and it continues to put the United States itself at risk.

[Paragraph 5.5.8 is omitted.]

the United States should reject
the quasi-imperial role
that neoconservatives in the Bush administration
have tried to play in the Middle East and Persian Gulf.

Instead of trying to impose democracy at the point of a gun—
a project that has already gone seriously awry in Iraq—
the United States should return to
its earlier policy as an “offshore balancer” in this region.
The United States does have important interests in the Middle East—
including access to oil and the need to combat terrorism—
but neither objective is well served
by occupying the region with its own military forces.
Because U.S. interests are served as long as
no single state controls all (or even most) of the Persian Gulf oil,
the United States can play the balancer’s role:
shifting its weight as needed to make sure that
no one state is able to dominate the others.
The United States pursued this policy successfully
from 1945 to 1990 during the Cold War era,
and it is still the right policy today.
In fact, a balancing strategy will be much easier now,
because we no longer have to protect oil resources from a Soviet invasion.

Taken together,
these two steps would facilitate the long-range goal of
helping various Arab and Islamic states
make smooth transitions to more pluralist forms of government.

At present,
U.S. efforts to encourage democratic change in the Arab and Islamic world
are undermined by America’s one-sided support for Israel.
Why should other Arabs believe that the United States is committed to freedom
when its money and its power
are used to deny these rights to millions of Palestinians?

History also warns that trying to run—let alone “transform”—
the entire Middle East
is a fool’s errand:
any leaders the United States might install will have little legitimacy, and
a continued U.S. occupation will
fuel anti-Americanism and make the terrorism problem worse.

Neo-imperial pundits who call for the United States to rule a new empire
(or, to put it more tactfully, a “U.S. protectorate”) in the region
ignore one of the central lessons of the twentieth century:
Nationalism is the most powerful political ideology in the world,
and trying to run large alien populations by force is a losing game.
Nationalism and the desire for self-determination helped destroy the Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, British, French, and Soviet empires,
just as it defeated Israel’s occupation of Lebanon
and continues to bedevil the Indians in Kashmir and the Russians in Chechnya.
Only a fool or a knave would send the United States down this path.

If the United States wants to play a positive role in the Middle East,
then it must
end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and
use nonmilitary means
to encourage progressive forces in the Arab and Islamic world.
The United States should encourage the gradual transformations
of Middle East monarchies and dictatorships,
but not by imposing democracy through invasion and occupation.

5.6 A “Grand Bargain” on Nuclear Terrorism

5.7 Playing Hard to Get

Section 5.8
Reduce the Impact of Foreign Lobbies and Special Interests

If the United States does play “hard to get,”
then other states will work even harder to win its favor.
As in any courtship,
America’s various suitors will use a variety of blandishments and deceptions
in order to ensure that
U.S. power is used in ways that advance their interests.
Given the openness of the U.S. political system,
and its tradition of interest-group politics,
one of the most effective ways to do this
is by organizing special-interest groups and lobbying organizations,
often based on ethnic groups with strong attachments to foreign countries.

If Americans want a foreign policy that is truly in the U.S. national interest,
then they must
take steps to curb the influence of special-interest groups
the American Israel Public Affairs Committee,
the Indian American Center for Political Awareness,
the Armenian Assembly,
and various other ethnic lobbies.
The most effective way to do this would be campaign finance reform,
which would help break the stranglehold
that some of these groups now exert on the U.S. Congress.
Barring such a far-reaching step (which is unlikely to occur anytime soon),
the next best alternative would be for other U.S. citizens
to challenge lobbyists and other special-interest groups
to justify their positions in detail.
In doing so, it should be entirely legitimate
to criticize such groups for advocating policies
that serve foreign interests but not those of the United States,
and to have an open debate on the policies they are endorsing.

Americans must begin to talk more openly about
the conflicts of interest that arise
when key foreign-policy officials
have strong affinities for particular foreign countries.
The problem is not “dual loyalty”:
all U.S. citizens have many loyalties,
and each of us has the right to hold particular attachments
and to pursue these attachments within the limits of U.S. law.
The issue is more properly seen as
a potential conflict of interest:
is it in the best interests of the United States
to place U.S. policy on key issues
in the hands of individuals whose evenhandedness is not beyond question?

In ordinary life,
we routinely expect people to recuse themselves from issues
in which their own interests or loyalties are involved.
Stockbrokers are not supposed to recommend
that clients invest in firms owned by their spouses;
judges and jurors are excused from legal cases
where they have ties to one of the parties;
and even university administrators are expected to divulge relationships
that might affect their objectivity or probity.

Yet in the United States,
it is commonplace for key foreign-policy officials
to be given responsibility for conducting U.S. policy toward countries
where they have very strong prior affinities and interests.
Instead of insisting that our foreign policymakers be above reproach,
it is more likely that anyone who questions this sort of relationship
would be accused of slandering dedicated public servants.

Why does this matter?
It matters because the United States cannot afford to lose sight
of its own national interest,
especially in an era where anti-Americanism is widespread
and when terrorists are trying to gain access to weapons of mass destruction
so that they can attack the United States directly.
Under these conditions, the United States must take particular care that
it not be enticed into conflicts that do not affect core U.S. interests,
simply because some country was able to manipulate U.S. domestic politics.
[Who could imagine such a thing?]
If the desire to placate domestic lobbies
dominates the political calculations of U.S. leaders
(both in Congress and in the executive branch),
then the United States is in effect allowing its foreign policy to be determined
in Taipei, Tel Aviv, Riyadh, New Delhi, Athens, Yerevan, and so on,
rather than in Washington.
It is one thing to pay a price for taking steps
that are clearly in the U.S. national interest,
but it is quite another matter to place U.S. security at risk
doing something primarily on behalf of some other country.

Section 5.9
Conclusion: A Mature Foreign Policy

The United States is
the strongest and most influential Great Power in modern history.
It also remains a remarkably immature Great Power—
one whose rhetoric is frequently at odds with the reality of its own conduct and
one that often treats the management of foreign affairs
as an adjunct to domestic politics.
Unlike Great Britain, whose empire was managed by a permanent civil service
that could bring continuity and expertise to the conduct of foreign policy,
the United States brings in a new team
every time the White House switches parties.
Americans remain remarkably ignorant of the world they believe
it is their obligation and destiny to run,
and the topic of foreign affairs captures public attention
only when major mistakes have already been made.

If the United States wants to make its privileged position acceptable to others,
then the American body politic must acquire
a more serious and disciplined attitude toward the conduct of foreign policy.
In the past,
seemingly secure behind its nuclear deterrent and oceanic moats,
and possessing unmatched economic and military power,
the United States allowed its foreign policy to be
distorted by partisan sniping;
hijacked by foreign lobbyists and narrow political special interests;
blinded by lofty but unrealistic rhetoric; and
held hostage by irresponsible and xenophobic members of Congress.
Even after the dramatic wake-up call on September 11, 2002, efforts
to reform U.S. intelligence services,
to corral loose nuclear materials, and
to improve U.S. homeland security
have been halfhearted at best.
And even though the country faced a new and very real enemy in al Qaeda,
the Bush administration was able to persuade Congress and the American people
that preventive war against a country that had nothing to do with 9/11
was still the best way to fight Osama bin Laden and his followers.
Is this the way that a mature Great Power behaves?

[I think it more accurate to say:
“the Bush administration and the media, working as a team,
were able to persuade ...” ]

The problem, alas, goes deeper than that.
Despite its pretensions as the world’s only superpower,
the United States has
starved its intelligence services,
gutted its international-affairs budget,
done little to attract the ablest members of its society to government service,
neglected the study of foreign languages and cultures, and
basically behaved as though it simply didn’t matter
whether the U.S. foreign policy was run well or not.
This policy might have been sufficient in the past
(though it is hard to be proud of it),
but it will not serve us well in today’s world.

What is needed, instead, is
greater confidence in America’s fundamental principles and institutions and
greater wisdom in understanding what U.S. power can and cannot accomplish.
America’s core values of liberty and opportunity
unleash the energy upon which our economic prosperity is built.
That prosperity, in turn, provides the sinews of our military power
and the hard core of our international influence.
But the ability to defeat other armies and our influence over the world economy
do not give the United States either the right or the ability
to impose these principles on others,

and it hardly gives 5 percent of the world’s population
the obligation, capacity, or right
to govern vast areas of the world by force.
Instead of telling the world what to do and how to live—
a temptation that both neoconservative empire-builders
and liberal internationalists find hard to resist—
the United States should lead the world primarily by its example.
If we have faith in our core principles,
we will expect to win hearts and minds first and foremost
because others will see how we live, and see what we have,
and they will want those things too.

[Compare the famous 1821-07-04 “monsters to destroy” address
of John Quincy Adams [Adams-06].]

Despite the missteps the United States has made in recent years,
it still retains enormous material power and considerable global influence.
The question is whether its future choices will
draw others closer,
drive them into sullen resentment, or
provoke them into open resistance.
The United States can use its power and wealth
to compel others to do what it wants,
but this strategy will surely fail in the long run.
In most circumstances, the key is not power but persuasion.

There is a lesson here.
More than anything else,
the United States wants to retain its position of primacy for as long as it can.
To do this,
it must persuade the rest of the world
that U.S. primacy is preferable to the likely alternatives.
Achieving that goal will require a level of wisdom and self-restraint
that has often been lacking in U.S. foreign policy—
largely because it wasn’t needed.
But it is today.
Although geography, history, and good fortune
have combined to give the United States a remarkable array of advantages,
it would still be possible to squander them.
And if the United States ends up
hastening the demise of its existing partnerships and
giving rise to new arrangements whose main purpose is to contain us,
we will have only ourselves to blame.

The Missing Debate

Priorities, Not Delusions
by Dimitri K. Simes
National Interest, 2007-05/06 (posted 2007-04-25)

[The beginning of the article:]

THOSE WHO hoped that the Democrats’ victory in November [2006]
would launch a major foreign policy debate
are disappointed.
Setting aside the immediate issue of Iraq,
which obviously requires the nation’s attention,
neither presidential candidates nor the Congress nor the media
have shown much interest in a serious conversation
about the direction of U.S. foreign policy.
A majority of legislators and opinion leaders act as if
Iraq were an isolated mistake
resulting from
the peculiar naivety and incompetence of the Bush Administration
rather than
the logical progression of the country’s post–Cold War foreign policy.

Indeed, with the exception of Iraq—
where they have demonstrated more indignation and impatience
than creative thinking—
Democrats in both Congress and academe have displayed little inclination,
nor have many of their Republican colleagues,
to question the fundamental assumptions of American foreign policy
since the Soviet collapse.

Lou Dobbs has asked rhetorically,
“Is there not one decent, honest man or woman
in either the House of Representatives or the Senate,
in either party’s leadership,
who possesses the courage and the honesty to say,
‘Enough. The people who elected us deserve better’?
So far the answer is no.”
I assume that even Mr. Dobbs himself
would admit to rhetorical exaggeration in this sweeping indictment,
but it is no exaggeration to say that
unless we do better—much better—as a body politic,
the United States will not be able to develop an effective foreign policy.
And without an effective foreign policy,
America could face potentially devastating consequences at home and abroad.

Today’s collective state of delusion about America’s role in the world
certainly did not begin with the George W. Bush Administration.
When the United States became the only superpower
and was no longer restrained
by calculations of Soviet reactions to U.S. actions,
quite a few in the American foreign policy elite
could not withstand
the temptation of triumphalism and a sense of unlimited possibilities.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright gave early voice to such sentiments
by publicly portraying the United States as an “indispensable nation.”
While America had clearly become the dominant voice in international politics,
Albright’s need to brag about it could not but irritate many abroad.
And it did.

The 1999 Yugoslav war was the clearest indication of
the very limited differences on key foreign policy issues between
the liberal interventionists leading the Clinton Administration and
neoconservatives outside it.
More broadly,
one could see some of the same authors
appearing in the pages of the neoconservative Weekly Standard
and the liberal interventionist New Republic
where they beat the same drum
calling for the United States
to become the vanguard of a worldwide democratic revolution
to liberate the masses and make America safe.
And, they assured us,
because the United States was strong
and would be acting to impose “the will of the international community”,
it would also be cheap.

This emerging conventional wisdom
was not seriously challenged by the media or think tanks.
At The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post,
the editorial and op-ed pages alike were dominated by
crusaders carrying the standard of America’s new democratic predominance;
other major papers,
like The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and The Washington Times,
were more open-minded,
but the overall balance in U.S. papers still clearly favored
the coalition of neoconservatives and liberal interventionists.
Revealingly, more op-eds by Americans questioning the conventional wisdom
appear in papers published outside the United States,
like Financial Times and International Herald Tribune,
than in major U.S.-based papers.

The U.S. media’s propensity
to cover international affairs through the prism of domestic politics
was a major reason for this phenomenon.
Those who had
roles in previous administrations,
demonstrable connections to the current one, or
particularly good chances to join the next administration,
enjoy the best access to op-ed pages.
The trouble is that
while many of these people have impeccable academic credentials
and are associated with prestigious think tanks,
few are analysts first and foremost.
On the contrary,
many if not most
are members of a government-in-exile aspiring to return to power
or, alternatively,
people whose livelihoods depend on their connections to the current administration, of whichever party.
Such individuals naturally and understandably
tend to be very careful to avoid defying the conventional wisdom
and especially careful to avoid saying anything
that could make them vulnerable to criticism
by Washington power brokers in both political parties.

liberal interventionists played a greater and greater role in the Clinton Administration
neoconservatives were believed to dominate the Bush Administration,
at least until recently,
those who did not share their views were considered marginal
and accordingly unworthy of significant media attention
regardless of the merit of their arguments. [!!!]
[What is hilarious is that, ignoring the above,
most of the media types ceaselessly brag about
what a meritocracy their regime is.]

The outcome, as Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke have written,
was “a marked failure of the institutions Americans rely upon
to analyze and, when necessary, challenge
Administration policy governing major foreign engagements.”
This is not merely an academic issue.
The honorable men and women sent to Iraq
deserve America’s profound gratitude,
and their families
have every reason to be proud of their courage and sense of duty.
However, if we had a more open-minded and competent leadership
and, at a minimum, a better debate
many of their sacrifices could have been avoided.

ONE OF the first issues Americans need to discuss as a nation,
in a meaningful way, is
what role the United States should seek in the world of the 21st century.
America had a vigorous debate about its mission in the world after the end of World War II,
including discussion of how to
confront the Soviet challenge,
restore European economies,
move Japan away from militarism, and
create a new structure of international organizations and regional alliances.
Strikingly, however, in the 15 years since the disintegration of the Soviet Union—after the George H. W. Bush Administration left office—
our leadership has made fundamental decisions about U.S. foreign policy
without much
analytical evaluation,
consideration of possible consequences of our actions or
debate about America’s purpose in an evolving world order.


Miscellaneous Articles


Foreign Policy as Social Work
by Michael Mandelbaum
Foreign Affairs, 1996-01/02

President Clinton’s foreign policy,
rather than protecting American national interests,
has pursued social work worldwide.
Three failed interventions in 1993--
in Bosnia,
in Somalia, and
the first try in Haiti--
illustrate this dramatically.
Preoccupied with “helping the helpless,”
the administration
alienated vital allies,
changed direction repeatedly to repair Clinton’s sagging image, and
let special interest groups harm U.S. policy toward Japan and Russia.

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

The abortive interventions shared several features.
Each involved small, poor, weak countries
far from the crucial centers
that had dominated American foreign policy during the Cold War.
Whereas previous administrations had been concerned with
the powerful and potentially dangerous
members of the international community,
which constitute its core,
the Clinton administration turned its attention
to the international periphery.

In these peripheral areas the administration was preoccupied
not with relations with neighboring countries,
the usual subject of foreign policy,
but rather with
the social, political, and economic conditions within borders.
It aimed to relieve the suffering caused by
ethnic cleansing in Bosnia,
starvation in Somalia, and
oppression in Haiti.
Historically the foreign policy of the United States
has centered on American interests,
defined as developments that could affect the lives of American citizens.
Nothing that occurred in these three countries fit that criterion.
Instead, the Clinton interventions were intended ...


The Wall of Silence:
America's Foreign Policy Discourse

by Justin Raimondo
Antiwar.com, 2007-09-24

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

The elites, centered right here in the Imperial City,
are not involved in any sort of real debate over what direction to take –
that course, as far as they are concerned, is already set,
and it’s just a question of how, and under what terms,
we steer our way to empire.
The “debate,” in these circles, is over
the methods we use
in getting to a universally agreed-upon goal,
which is
establishing American hegemony over much of the earth.
To the Washington elites, we are already an empire in all but name,
and that’s as it should be:
History (capital-H, please!) has so ordained it,
and we cannot shirk our “duty” to police the world.
To do so would not only signal
a military, political, and diplomatic failure on America’s part,
it would also underscore a personal failure on their part:
after all, these people –
government officials, think-tank policy wonks, the major media –
believe they are uniquely qualified to rule the world.
This grandiose idea of themselves lording it over everyone else
is intimately linked not only to their statist politics,
but to their conception of self:
in other words,
it is part and parcel of an overweening and irrepressible conceit,
which oozes out of their very pores
and is the central organizing principle of their personalities and their lives.


Instead of asking
why men who had once been our allies in the great crusade against Communism,
whom we had armed and financed and openly encouraged,
had struck such a deadly blow against their creators,
our response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks was one big temper tantrum.
That tantrum still continues to this day, practically unabated ....


Such debate as did occur
in the run-up to the invasion and conquest of Iraq
was not over fundamental questions.
Both “liberals” and “conservatives” agreed that Saddam had to go:
after all, he had defied the high and mighty warlords of Washington, repeatedly,
and our much-vaunted “prestige” was at stake.
Surely that was worth more – much more! –
than the lives of the million or so Iraqis murdered by sanctions,
killed in the 1991 war, and
picked off in the decade of bombing raids carried out by successive U.S. presidents.
The only difference between the two wings of the American ruling class
was over how much more time to give the murderous sanctions
before we started dropping the bombs that would do the same grisly monstrous work
in a single explosive instant.
The “liberals” said “Wait a few years, a few months.”
The conservatives demanded “Bombs away!”

No one questioned
our alleged right to determine the fate of the Iraqi people.

That is what this so-called “discourse” is all about:
there is no argument, no dissent, and no debate over fundamentals allowed.
We all agree that
America is not only uniquely suited to play the part of global hegemon
but is probably fated to do so:
it’s not just our moral responsibility but also our manifest destiny
to hold the life and death of nations in our ever-so-capable hands.
Many are called, but few are chosen, as we have been,
to exercise our divine right to global “leadership.”


Like all delusional systems,
this view of the United States
as the guarantor of world stability and self-appointed global policeman
requires those who suffer from it
to ignore large portions of reality.
Any sense of limits – economic, political, spiritual –
is banished from the self-enclosed universe of Washington warlords,
who are committed to believing that America is all-powerful
and that it’s just a matter of will – the will to power –
exercised in the right way.
Anything that doesn’t fit into the parameters of their shared delusion is ignored:
that’s how and why we were actually surprised that the Iraqi people,
upon waking up one morning to the sight of a full-fledged American occupation,
failed to greet us with showers of rose petals and cries of “Hallelujah!”
That’s why we were shocked – shocked! – at the growth of the Iraqi insurgency,
from a few “dead-enders,” as Rumsfeld used to call them,
to tens of thousands of heavily-armed insurgents
who enjoy the support of the Iraqi majority.


I started out by saying that,
when it comes to discussions of U.S. foreign policy,
there are two levels of discourse.
The first occurs on the level of the elites,
in the boardrooms, the newsrooms, the think tanks
and the editorial columns of elite newspapers, and
the second is the popular discourse,
which occurs around the office water cooler, over lunch,
at family gatherings, and in the streets,
where the hoi polloi –
when they aren’t completely immersed
in the mundane details of their own life dramas –
wonder what their rulers are up to.

To the ordinary American, in ordinary times,
foreign policy is a realm reserved for specialists, the “experts,”
who pontificate on events in faraway places
and whose job it is to explain the arcane mysteries of foreign peoples
to the rest of us.
Yet these are far from ordinary times.
9/11, we are often told by gloating neocons, “changed everything,”
by which they mean that
the Constitution and the foreign policy advice of the Founder
has been repealed.
Or so they hope.
Well, one thing did indeed change, and that was
the average American’s interest in foreign affairs.
The names of countries no decent American had ever heard of
were suddenly on everyone’s lips.
Suddenly, we are all Middle East experts:
the Shi’ites, the Sunnis, the Wahhabis, the Alawites,
and the theological and political distinctions
between the various factions that hold sway in Lebanon –
it’s all old hat to us, six years after 9/11.

This heightened awareness and interest is highly problematic for the elites,
who must now make sure that
the popular discourse doesn’t stray too far from
the official, elite discourse.
In the past, this was relatively easy to do,
since the elites controlled the mass organs of communication and opinion-molding,
and, when push came to shove,
they could always just jail
whatever inconvenient dissidents arose to defy the bipartisan pro-war consensus,
as they did Eugene Debs during World War I,
or harass and smear the opposition into silence,
as they did in the run-up to Pearl Harbor.
During the Vietnam era, it took 50,000 American deaths, and many years,
before the elites bowed to the popular verdict
and got us out of Southeast Asia.
What’s different about today is, in short, the Internet.

The Internet has abolished the basis of the foreign policy priesthood
by making information once readily accessible only to full-time intellectuals
almost common knowledge.
What’s more,
the war has increased interest in foreign affairs by several degrees of magnitude.
Antiwar.com’s readership has increased exponentially since 9/11,
until, today,
we are rated among the top 10 most popular political Web sites,
currently at number seven.

What’s happened is that the storytellers
have lost control of their own narrative:
the gatekeepers, the “experts,” the think tankers,
and the Washington cocktail party circuit
have lost their monopolistic grip on the molding of public opinion.
What this means is that reality is beginning to intrude
on the closed-in, monastic world
of U.S. policymakers and their partisan entourages,
and the discourse is undergoing a radical transformation.
Suddenly, it is possible to say things out loud
that no “serious” “respectable” person would have dared utter
before this new era of glasnost.

The first such inroad was introduced into the popular lexicon
by Chalmers Johnson,
the foreign policy writer and author of an excellent trilogy
on the nature and consequences of American militarism,
the first volume of which is titled Blowback.
This is a technical term
employed by U.S. government analysts to describe
the unpleasant consequences of Washington’s covert and overt policies,
and when Rudolph Giuliani claimed he had never heard of it,
and attacked Ron Paul for daring to suggest that
the 9/11 attacks were blowback
coming from our past interventions in the Middle East,
not even the most brain-dead Republican believed him.

[Sadly, Raimondo is surely wrong about that.
All too many Republicans are in denial over this.]

Of course he had heard it:
six years out from the worst terrorist attack in our history,
the phrase is on everyone’s lips.
In the public discourse, however –
the one officially recognized by our elites, that is –
it is still impermissible to admit the truth.
Instead, we are told,
the perpetrators of 9/11 attacked us
not because of our foreign policy,
but because we go shopping too much and don’t make our women cover their heads.


The great, yawning divide between popular and elite discourse
is dramatically demonstrated in the polls,
which show that over 60 percent of the American people now believe
the Iraq war wasn’t worth starting or fighting.
In official Washington, however, the climate of opinion is quite different –
or, at least, it started out quite differently,
and is now being pulled, kicking and screaming, toward the popular position.
The street is way ahead of the aristocracy,
on this and other matters of foreign policy import.

There is also the question of how we got into this war,
and the nature of the “intelligence”
that caused our public officials to get up there and say with certainty
that Iraq’s possession of “weapons of mass destruction”
posed a threat to us and our interests in the region.
In official Washington, it’s impolite to say the obvious:
that we were lied into war.
In the rest of America – the real America – it’s common knowledge:
a CBS/New York Times poll taken this month shows
60 percent of the American people
“think members of the Bush administration intentionally misled the public”
on the reasons for going to war.

Why did we go to war?
This is the question that is bothering the average American,
if and when the war comes into his consciousness –
which is increasingly the case.
In the official discourse, this never was much of an issue,
since both “sides” agreed on the necessity of going to war,
and it really boiled down to a question of timing.
The “liberals” wanted to wait Saddam out and delay the attack
until it could be done in alliance with the other imperialist powers,
under UN auspices – and, perhaps, with a Democrat as commander in chief.
The neoconservatives wanted to wade right in,
without international authorization or further delay,
and, in the end, both wings of the War Party signed on to the neocons’ war,
including all but one of the present major league presidential contenders.

Reasons for going to war?
Evidence of Saddam’s weapons and his supposed links to al-Qaeda?
Our elites didn’t really need any such rationalizations for what was, after all,
the pure exercise of the will to power for its own sake.

The American people realize they were lied into war,
even if official Washington has yet to acknowledge it,
and now they are asking the intriguing question:
Who lied us into war?


The wall of silence – if it doesn’t refer to
the baleful influence of the lobby,
then I don’t know what else it could signify.
Another meaning is the incredible secrecy in which major policy decisions
are made and carried out.
We still don’t know the provenance
of the so-called “intelligence” that lured us into the Iraqi quagmire,
you can bet Congress isn’t too eager to look into the matter.
[Nor do we know much about who in the CIA made their “mistakes.”]
Yet even this, the final secret of how we got into this intractable war,
may come out in the end,
now that the monopoly of the elites on the dissemination of information
has been ended.

I have to say that,
in exploring the issue of
how the foreign policy discourse is undergoing significant changes,
I surprised myself with the optimistic results of my investigation.
I didn’t expect to be heralding the breakup of the foreign policy priesthood,
which has been nearly solidly interventionist,
and the beginning of a popular revolt against
the mad project of turning our republic into an empire.
But there you have it: glad tidings all around!

[The personal opinion of KHarbaugh:
Raimondo is overly optimistic.
The domestic and foreign policy priorities of the Jews
will not be seriously challenged,
except by a few outliers.
The Jews have mastered the strategy of building an unshakable alliance
with those dependent on
left-wing, PC social, economic, cultural and political policies (e.g.).
The last real challenge to their hegemony was that of George H. W. Bush.
And he, of course, became a one-term president.
All politicians got the message.]

The collapse of Bush's foreign policy
By Juan Cole
Salon.com, 2007-10-24

From Turkey to Iraq to Pakistan,
the mounting chaos proves the White House is just winging it.

America’s self-defeating hegemony
by Francis Fukuyama
Daily Times (Pakistan), 2007-10-25

Pre-emption is fully justified
vis-à-vis stateless terrorists wielding such weapons.
But it cannot be the core of a general non-proliferation policy,
whereby the United States intervenes militarily everywhere
to prevent the development of nuclear weapons

[It is astounding that this American scholar of international relations
did not or could not
publish this important and interesting critique of American foreign policy
in the United States.
Something is clearly wrong.]

Embarrassed to Explain US Foreign Policy
by Doug Bandow
Antiwar.com, 2007-12-14

[An excerpt.]

Americans know very little about the world. Their ignorance is almost charming. In one sense, it’s good that most people are more interested in spending time with family and friends and in earning a living than in plotting a coup in some faraway land, waging a war against some emerging power, or issuing foreign ultimatums over random economic and political demands.

Unfortunately, however, as a result Americans have essentially delegated the power to do all of those things to a Washington-centered elite. When things go wrong, Americans get angry. Then the politicos start blaming each other. Specific policies sometimes change, but Washington’s interventionist enthusiasm always quickly returns.

It’s not a pretty spectacle. Most Americans are not ideologically committed to turning the U.S. into an imperial power. Few of them would like to spend months or years patrolling failed foreign states, such as Iraq. Most of them turn against needless conflicts when it becomes evident that they aren’t going to be short and sweet.


Yet in a perverse sense the biggest foreign policy problem is when the costs seem low. Then the public simply ignores the issue, giving policymakers wide discretion to continue advancing interventionist policies running contrary to America’s national interests.


America’s policy-making elite naturally offers a multitude of arguments to maintain the same military commitment more than a half century after the end of the Korean War. But what normal person would support spending billions of dollars to raise and maintain overseas thousands of troops to guard South Korea?

Then there’s Japan. The second ranking economic power on earth, Japan could do far more to protect itself and its region. Its neighbors prefer that Washington do the job, but so what? That doesn’t make the policy in America’s interest. Again, American elites rather like the idea of the U.S. attempting to run the world. But the vast majority of Americans, who have to pay the bill, probably would be much less enthused if they thought about it.

Beyond such major commitments, Washington has dribbled bases and forces around the world. It’s a policy of which Americans are largely ignorant. To the extent that they believed that such facilities advanced American security, they might support them. But alliances and bases can act as transmission belts of war at a time when we should be building firebreaks to war.

Although serious armed conflict is unlikely in either Asia or Europe, Washington’s explicit promise to defend the Baltic States and Eastern Europe necessarily makes all of those nations’ squabbles with Russia America’s squabbles as well. Washington’s implicit guarantee to Taiwan does the same thing with China next door. Bringing nations like Georgia and Ukraine into NATO would add more problems to America’s portfolio.

Advocates of scattering security guarantees around the globe argue that they deter aggression, which undoubtedly is true to some degree. But U.S. security guarantees also ensure American involvement in conflicts that would be little relevant to U.S. security. With the Cold War over, South Korea doesn’t much matter to America. It’s an important trading partner, but nevertheless remains a minor factor in American prosperity. Poland wasn’t important to America’s defense even during the Cold War. Promising to go to war in such circumstances is no bargain, even if the chances of conflict seem small.

Especially since guaranteeing the security of other nations changes their incentive for irresponsible behavior. That is, so long as small countries act in the belief that Washington will rush to their defense in a conflict with a bigger power – China and Russia most obviously today – they are likely to act more aggressively. We can see that phenomenon at work in Taiwan, which has adopted a confrontational stance with Beijing over Washington’s objections. With America behind them, why not assert their interest?

The challenge for non-interventionists is to break through the public’s ignorance to build popular support for overturning elite opinion. It won’t be easy, obviously. But it never has been. However, without the emergence of a real opposition to today’s aggressive foreign policy, we are doomed to continue following current policy around most of the world.

Ron Paul has made progress. But we have far to go to turn make foreign policy into an issue that moves voters and, in doing so, stirs so-called major candidates to challenge the interventionist status quo. Only then will we be able transform the American empire back into the American republic.

Argue Like It’s 1991
by Justin Logan
The American Conservative, 2007-12-17

The interventionist consensus breaks down, and an overdue debate begins.


The Foreign Policy Follies
by Justin Raimondo
Antiwar.com, 2008-02-29

A cavalcade of error, right, left and center

Intervening Our Way to Economic Ruin
by Rep. Ron Paul
Antiwar.com, 2008-03-14

Foreign Lobbyists and the Making of US Policy
by Justin Raimondo
Antiwar.com, 2008-08-27

American politicians are for sale – and so is our foreign policy

[This is posted in
American Foreign Policy
Russia and
The War Party.

Here is its beginning.]

“Politics stops at the water’s edge”
is an old aphorism that aptly describes
the history and current trend of American politics.
The period marking the run-up to World War II
was the last time we saw
any meaningful discussion of America’s role in the world.
Ever since that famous victory,
the interventionist consensus has been bipartisan and broad,
at least in elite circles.
All the newspaper editors,
the TV anchors,
the policy wonks, and
the bloggers-of-note agree:
we must go global.
The only other choice is a debilitating “isolationism,”
economic as well as diplomatic-military,
that would consign us to an autarkic well of loneliness.


Ending Our Imperial Foreign Policy
by Fareed Zakaria
Newsweek.com, 2009-03-15

[Its conclusion; emphasis is added.]

The problem with American foreign policy goes beyond George W. Bush [43].
It includes

a Washington establishment that
has gotten comfortable with the exercise of American hegemony
treats compromise as treason and negotiations as appeasement.

Other countries can have no legitimate interests of their own.

The only way to deal with them is by issuing a series of maximalist demands.

This is not foreign policy; it’s imperial policy.
And it isn’t likely to work in today’s world.

[And we can be quite sure who, no matter what party is in power,
is at the center of demanding this imperialist, interventionist foreign policy,
and suppressing all dissenting voices:
the Washington Post editorial board.
See their slapdowns of
Ralph Nader on the left and
Ron Paul on the right.]

Why we don't need another "National Strategy" document?
by Stephen M. Walt
ForeignPolicy.com, 2009-09-28

[I like this:]

We scholars also like these documents
because they give us a chance
to aim our intellectual firepower at a fixed target.
Dissecting written arguments
is something we’ve been trained to do since graduate school,
and giving an academic an official statement of “national security strategy”
is like
putting a seven-course meal in front of a gluttonous gourmet.
We can
dissect the underlying assumptions,
identify the theoretical underpinnings that are supposedly shaping policy,
compare and contrast this year’s version with earlier reports,
and look for contradictions, gaps in logic, or other shortcomings.
Plus, these reports make a great teaching tool;
they are the bureaucratese that has launched a thousand class discussions.
If your job involves teaching and writing about U.S. foreign policy, in short,
you should be grateful that Goldwater-Nichols forces every administration
to produce something new to feed on each year.

A thought experiment:
What if Obama delivered Bush's 2nd inaugural?

by Stephen M. Walt
ForeignPolicy.com, 2009-09-30

A Manifesto for X Street
by Philip Giraldi
Antiwar.com, 2009-11-05

It has been an interesting week.
President Barack Obama is about to approve a strategy of
holding urban centers in Afghanistan
while surrendering the rest of the country to the Taliban.
Someone should tell him that
something like that called “strategic hamlets
was tried and failed in Vietnam.
Meanwhile Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu
tells Obama to go to hell on freezing settlements
so Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rewards him
by praising his “unprecedented concessions”
and blames the Palestinians for not talking peace.
Congress also demonstrated that it knows who to blame
by overwhelmingly passing a resolution condemning the UN’s Goldstone report
which documented Israeli atrocities in Gaza last January.
And there have also been
more harsh words and resolutions coming out of Washington about Iran
from numerous parties,
heightening concerns that another war is coming.

It’s not exactly the change that we Americans voted for a year ago, is it?
What this country needs is a new direction,
possibly driven by a new foreign policy lobby that recognizes that
while all nations have an inalienable right
to be treated fairly by the United States,
Washington has a clear and compelling responsibility
to avoid involvement in other countries’ quarrels
so it can put its own people and interests first.
Though “America First” might sound like
a crude reversion to some forms of 1930s nationalism,
in reality the lobby could spearhead a withdrawal from empire
in reaction to
the American people’s having been sold down the river
by a succession of politicians of both parties
who have adhered to an agenda that is
completely hypocritical, blindly globalist, and persistently interventionist.
The inside-the-beltway political class has grown fat on empire,
shielded from the consequences of its own folly
and never held accountable for its sins,
largely because both parties adhere to the same basic policies,
albeit with slightly different packaging.
The sorry result has not benefited the American people in any way
unless one is a defense contractor
or a Wall Street banker
or a politician writing a self-exculpatory book.

Following the example of the currently fashionable pro-Israel group J Street,
which chose a Washington DC letter street that does not actually exist
for the name of its lobby,

I would like to propose a new lobby
that would also be based on a non-address, X Street.

Membership in X Street will be open to all American citizens
of every race, national origin, and religious belief.
It will be guided by a unifying principle,
that preservation of the liberties defined in the constitution
and support of the national interest of the United States
should be the sole objectives of any and all foreign policy.
It would be the modern embodiment of George Washington’s warning
to steer clear of foreign involvements and to be a friend to all.


[Giraldi has set forth a rather broad agenda for his proposed organization,
but the currently most significant part of that agenda seems to deal with
reducing America’s current master/slave relationship with Israel
(and I think you know who is the master and who is the slave there).
In that regard,
there already is an existing organization trying to accomplish that goal:
The Council for the National Interest,
originally founded by congressmen Paul Findley and Pete McCloskey.
Might it be worthwhile, or perhaps more effective,
to support that organization rather than founding a new one?
Again, I know Giraldi proposes a broader agenda,
but if “X Street” doesn’t gain enough support to fly on its own,
maybe a merger with the CNI might be in order.

By the way, note that the ADL,
showing its real nature as an anti-American organization,
declares the CNI an “anti-Israel” organization.]

U.S. Seen as Less Important, China as More Powerful
Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, 2009-12-03

Isolationist Sentiment Surges to Four-Decade High

The general public and members of the Council on Foreign Relations
are apprehensive and uncertain about America’s place in the world.
Growing numbers in both groups
see the United States playing a less important role globally,
while acknowledging the increasing stature of China.
And the general public,
which is in a decidedly inward-looking frame of mind
when it comes to global affairs,

is less supportive of increasing the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan
than are CFR members.


US Foreign Policy and the Cult of ‘Expertise’
by Justin Raimondo
Antiwar.com, 2009-12-07

Americans want our rulers to mind their own business abroad –
and good luck with that!


The Making of American Foreign Policy
by Justin Raimondo
Antiwar.com, 2010-04-21

It's all about domestic politics

Historical Lessons Warn Against Modern US Foreign Policy
by William Pfaff
Antiwar.com, 2010-06-16


Bolton pick underscores Trump's foreign policy confusion
Politico, 2018-03-22

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