US foreign policy 4

Should America intervene in other countries when, for instance, a tyrant is mowing down thousands of his own people? Is it in America’s interest to transform despotisms and anarchic states into democracies – as the neoconservatives believe? Or should America ignore what is happening in the world at large unless it is directly threatened – as the isolationists believe?

Caroline Glick writes at Townhall:

In truth, the dominant foreign policy in the Republican Party, and to a degree, in American society as a whole is neither neoconservativism nor isolationism.

It is, she argues, what may be called Jacksonianism, after Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the US.

What are the essential ideas of Jacksonian foreign policy?

The US is different from the rest of the world and therefore the US should not try to remake the world in its own image by claiming that everyone is basically the same.

The US must ensure its honor abroad by abiding by its commitments and standing with its allies.

The US must take action to defend its interests.

The US must fight to win or not fight at all. The US should only respect those foes that fight by the same rules as the US does.

President Ronald Reagan, she says, “hewed closest to these basic guidelines in recent times”.

Reagan fought Soviet influence in Central America everywhere he could and with whomever he could find … exploited every opportunity to weaken the Soviet Union in Europe … deployed Pershing short-range nuclear warheads in Western Europe … called the Soviet Union an evil empire … began developing the Strategic Defense Initiative. And he walked away from an arms control agreement when he decided it was a bad deal for the US.

Throughout his presidency, Reagan never shied away from trumpeting American values. To the contrary, he did so regularly. However, unlike the neoconservatives, Reagan recognized that … the very notion that values trumped all represented a fundamental misunderstanding of US interests and the nature and limits of US power.

What would be the foreign policy of a Jacksonian president  now?  She takes one example, the revolutionary upheavals in the Arab lands:

He or she would understand that supporting elections that are likely to bring a terror group like Hamas or Hezbollah into power is not an American interest … that toppling a pro-American dictator like Mubarak in favor of a mob is not sound policy if the move is likely to bring an anti-American authoritarian successor regime to power … that using US power to overthrow a largely neutered US foe like Gaddafi in favor of a suspect opposition movement is not a judicious use of US power. Indeed, a Jacksonian president would recognize that it would be far better to expend the US’s power to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad — an open and active foe of the US and so influence the identity of a post-Assad government.

In her view, neoconservative policy was fine in theory, but in practice it brought unwanted consequences:

Broadly speaking, neoconservatives argue that the US should always side with populist forces against dictatorships. While these ideas may be correct in theory, in practice the consequence of Bush’s adoption of the neoconservative worldview was the empowerment of populist and popular jihadists and Iranian allies throughout the Middle East at the expense of US allies.

Hamas won the Palestinian Authority elections in 2006. Its electoral victory paved the way for its military takeover of Gaza in 2007.

Hezbollah’s participation in Lebanon’s 2005 elections enabled the Iranian proxy army to hijack the Lebanese government in 2006, and violently takeover the Lebanese government in 2009.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s successful parliamentary run in Egypt in 2005 strengthened the radical, anti-American, jihadist group and weakened Mubarak.

And the election of Iranian-influenced Iraqi political leaders in Iraq in 2005 exacerbated the trend of Iranian predominance in post-Saddam Iraq. …

Still, the neoconservatives’ “muscular” policy, intended to “advance the cause of democracy and freedom worldwide”, was preferable to isolationism, and far preferable to [what passes for] Obama’s foreign policy.

For all the deficiencies of the neoconservative worldview, at least the neoconservatives act out of a deep-seated belief that the US as a force for good in the world and out of concern for maintaining America’s role as the leader of the free world. In stark contrast, Obama’s foreign policy is based on a fundamental anti-American view of the US and a desire to end the US’s role as the leading world power. And the impact of Obama’s foreign policy on US and global security has been devastating.

From Europe to Asia to Russia to Latin America to the Middle East and Africa, Obama has weakened the US and turned on its allies. He has purposely strengthened US adversaries worldwide as part of an overall strategy of divesting an unworthy America from its role as world leader. He has empowered the anti-American UN to replace the US as the arbiter of US foreign policy. And so, absent the American sheriff, US adversaries from the Taliban to Vladimir Putin to Hugo Chavez to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are empowered to attack America and its allies.

A worse position with regard to US foreign relations could hardly be devised.

Is the damage repairable by a Republican president adopting Reagan-like – or “Jacksonian”  – ideas?

The ideas seem to us to be sensible enough. But much of what is happening in the world – partly as a result of the disastrous Obama presidency – has no precedent, and new threats will require new thinking.

Huge changes are looming up. The age of the nation-state seems to be passing. There’s a global trend back to tribalism. Will America alone be immune to it? Much of the world – perhaps a third of its population – is likely to be Muslim before the middle of the century.

In his new book  After America: Get Ready for Armageddon, Mark Steyn visualizes “the world after America” will be “more dangerous, more violent, more genocidal” – in a chapter ominously titled The Somalification of the World. But he does hold out some hope:

Americans face a choice: you can rediscover the animating principles of the American idea – of limited government, a self-reliant citizenry, and the opportunity to exploit your talents to the fullest – or you can join most of the rest of the western world in terminal decline.

And he warns:

To rekindle the spark of liberty once it dies is very difficult.

But to do that must be the first task of a new president. Only a free, strong, prosperous America can be an effective power in the world, however it may decide to exert that power.

  • Harold

    As described, the Jacksonian ideals are not possible.  You cannot “maintain honor abroad” by standing by your allies if your allies are evil. 

  • Anonymous

    I diverge slightly from Glick’s opinion and veer closer to Steyn’s. An America most capable of defending itself and honoring its alliances is a self-sufficient America – one that can, to the best of its geographic vagaries, produce whatever it needs domestically in order to (1.) perpetuate the business, livelihood, and values of the nation, and (2.) maintain global influence in the face of destructive forces abroad.

    An America that imports millions of barrels of Saudi oil a week is inimical to this view. An American that imports millions of barrels of Canadian oil a week is much less inimical to this view, but still somewhat inimical (apologies to Steyn). An America that makes these imports after it has exhausted the capabilities of its own petroleum production complex is acceptable – remember the bit about geographic vagaries.

    Nation-building abroad cannot occur without sufficient nation-building here at home. Given how ignorant American citizens themselves are of the values that make America great, this task must be at once initiated. For all of the wise calls and pithy quotes of Reagan, I take strong opposition to many of his “socially conservative” domestic policies – escalating the Drug War and taxes to mention two. Furthermore, many on the Right want to see statues of him across the country – not only a waste of government money, but a chronic case of government worship which puts them in line with the Socialists.

    A friend of mine once argued for a “civilian competency” test, mandated to all students before they graduate high school and which would need to be passed in order to have full voting rights. I argued that such a policy would only work if the government also provided non-partisan civics classes, a position I maintain regardless of his proposal and even if the elementary public school circuit were to become private. Please entertain some thoughts on these notions since I know that reading them will not be in vain.

  • Joszaruba

    Yes, it is true that this show of constant slow loosing in kinethic actios, and slow destroying  of functioning states is bad for the US, because a lost war is also an important signal of one’s weakness. 
    But even Reagan’s policy is not the right one for our time, because in his time the enemies were still states. Now many states do not control their region . The main enemy of the USA are beliefs of people living in failed states. The US. must try to keep the system of states alive, otherwise lands of Taliban and other groups will be their only political partners. Partners without heads and bodies. 

  • George

    Someone needs to tell this to that sorry excuse of a President– Barack Otrauma .  We are now  reaching the  highlight of  Barackolypse  and  Obamageddon.  A nation is only as good as it’s leader(s) and governing body .   We have NO true leadership.  It is essential that President Otrauma  be voted OUT of office next term for the real salvation of America and we must put in a person who will stand up for America .  That’s it !              ( PS—— No  [  OTRAUMA  ]  was NOT a typo )