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.

The United States in a hostile world 8

Should the United States refrain from any intervention in the world beyond its borders except in its own incontrovertible interest?

Or should it act as the world’s policeman? Does it have a “responsibility to protect”- if so, whom from what? Populations from their rulers? Vulnerable groups from any and all attackers?

To bring the debate to the moment and the actual, should the US keep its forces in Afghanistan after 10 years of fighting savage peasants and failing to crush them? Should there still be a US military presence in Iraq? In Germany? In South Korea? Should the US be fighting – as it is –  in Libya, Pakistan, and Yemen?

Should it not be using force to stop Iran becoming a nuclear power? And immediately against Iran’s ally, Bashar Assad, the bloody tyrant of Syria?

Should it not be outspending China on defense?

Should it not be helping Georgia liberate two of its provinces from Russia?

Should it be protecting South Sudan from its northern neighbors and their Ugandan proxies? Or the Nigerian Christians from their Muslim persecutors? Or the ethnic African Muslims of Dafur from the Arab Muslims who are raping, robbing, hounding and massacring them? Or destroying the pirates of Somalia? Or putting an end to the Arab/African slave trade?

Can those who answer yes to the first question fairly be called “isolationists”?

David Harsanyi considers, in a column at Townhall, whether the label is apt when applied to those who want America to withdraw from Afghanistan and refrain from any further participation in the NATO intervention in Libya:

There’s been a lot of talk about an alleged turn in American public opinion — particularly among Republicans — toward “isolationism.”

In a recent debate among GOP presidential hopefuls, there was some discussion about ending the United States’ commitment to the tribal warlords and medieval shamans of the Afghan wilderness. This induced John McCain to complain about the rise of a new “strain of isolationism” … McCain sidekick Lindsey Graham went on to notify Congress that it “should sort of shut up and not empower Gadhafi” when the topic of the House’s potentially defunding the military — er, kinetic, non-warlike bombing activity over Libya — came up. It would be a mistake, he vented, for Republican candidates to sit “to the left” of President Barack Obama on national security.

So if you don’t shut up and stop carping about this non-war war of ours, you are abetting North African strongmen. Makes sense. It’s the return of Teddy Roosevelt-style Republicanism, in which arbitrary power (and John McCain’s singular wisdom) matters a lot more than any democratic institution.

Sure, some on the far right and swaths of the protectionist, union-driven left oppose international trade agreements and [are] endlessly freaking us out about foreign influences.

Our interpolation: Is this protectionist section of the left aware of the left-elite’s longing for world government?

But isolationists? Judging from our conduct in the real world of economy, we’re anything but insular. So perhaps McCain simply meant noninterventionists — as in folks who have an unwavering ideological aversion to any and all overseas entanglement.

That can’t be it, either. Maybe, like many Americans, some in the GOP are simply grappling with wars that never end and a war that never started.

And with plenty of troubles here at home, it’s not surprising that Americans have turned their attention inward.

We can’t be in a constant state of war. Then again, Afghanistan is not a war per se, but a precarious social engineering project that asks our best and bravest (or, as our ally Hamid Karzai calls them, “occupiers”) to die for the Afghan Constitution, which is roundly ignored — except for the parts codifying Islamic law, that is. But all these conflicts come with the price of endless involvement. We almost always win.

When and where? Since World War Two, where has America won a hot war? Oh yes – against Granada.

But we never really go home. …

Did sometimes. From Granada after victory. From Vietnam after defeat.

This week, we learned that Obama rejected the advice of lawyers at the Pentagon and the Justice Department who questioned his legal authority to continue this nonmilitary military involvement in Libya without congressional authorization. Instead, the administration offered a string of euphemisms concocted to bypass the Constitution.

Without any tangible evidence that this conflict furthers our national interests or any real proof that we are preventing a wide-scale humanitarian crisis, it’s not a surprise that Defense Secretary Robert Gates says we’re “leading from behind” — which is, in fact, as stupid and deceptive as the case it doesn’t make.

Are you an isolationist for questioning those who continue to weaken the Constitution? … Are you an isolationist for questioning this brand of obfuscation? Are you an isolationist for wanting American forces to win and leave the battlefield rather than hang around for decades of baby-sitting duty?

And Tony Blankley writes, also  at Townhall:

I was one of the first GOP internationalist-oriented commentators or politicians to conclude that the Afghanistan War effort had served its initial purpose and that it was time to phase out the war. As a punitive raid against the regime that gave succor to Osama bin Laden, we had removed the Taliban government and killed as many al-Qaida and Taliban fighters as possible. …

But as the purpose of that war turned into nation building, even GOP internationalists had a duty to reassess whether, given the resources and strategy being brought to the new purpose, such policy was likely to be effective.

Now many others in the GOP and in the non-isolationist wing of the Democratic Party are likewise judging failure in Afghanistan to be almost inevitable. That is not a judgment driven by isolationism. Neither are we isolationist in our judgment (along with the opinion of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and almost the entire uniformed chain of command) that we see no national interest in Libya.

This is not isolationism; it is a rational effort at judging how best to advance American values and interests in an ever-more witheringly dangerous world.

Both Harsanyi’s and Blankley ‘s opinions are apt as far as they go.

But  the problem is deeper, the questions that need to be raised about foreign policy harder than those they are answering.

Can America have a coherent foreign policy that America itself and the other states of the world can depend upon for any useful length of time? The two political parties are now so divided ideologically that foreign policy will depend on whether the president is a Republican or a Democrat. It will necessarily chop and change. Or if relations with some states stay more or less the same for a while, they will do so unreliably.

Could the very uncertainty characterize foreign policy usefully? No foreign state being secure in its relations with the US, each would have to be vigilant, tack according to the US wind, adjust to the changes. A case could be made that a Machiavellian preference to be feared by other nations rather than loved might serve America well.

But there are other developments to be considered. In countries throughout the world – led in this by Europe –  there is an ideological tendency towards world government. The nation state is not liked: new political alignments, such as the European Union, are trying to phase it out. Democrats, for the most part, are in sympathy with the movement; Republicans are not. Democrats – like most leftists everywhere – have a vision of the UN turning into a world government; Republicans – many of them at least – would be happy to see the monstrous institution disbanded. It cannot continue long as it is: being a house of lies, it must fall down.

NATO is weakening. Letting Turkey into it was fatal. No longer secular, Turkey is now in the camp of Islam, inimical to the West.

The world as it was conceived to be after World War Two is changing kaleidoscopically under our eyes.

In relation to the rest of the world, what are American interests? How should they be pursued?

Should America concentrate on preserving itself as a fenced-in area of freedom on an otherwise unfree planet?  That would be isolationism. Should it form a union with other as-yet-free nation-states: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel? India perhaps? Honduras? Papau? …

What would such a union do, what would be in its joint interest – “spreading democracy”, “protecting civilians”, “building nations”? The questions troubling America now would trouble it jointly, and the answers remain as hard to find.