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.