THE STATE OF AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY
The American Opportunity/Free Congress Foundation Viewpoint (Part 3)
In Part 1 of this series, we described and defined several foreign policy approaches previous Administrations have undertaken. To summarize, the various approaches can be described as: Nationalism, Realism, and Internationalism.
Nationalism seeks to serve the interests of America first, which can devolve into isolationism, leading to a separation from world affairs. Nationalism can also become a neo-conservative approach, using American military force to nation-build and impose democracy. Realism relies on power as the central principle of international relations, and promotes a balance of power to keep the peace with adverarties.
Liberal internationalism seeks to spread democracy, but relies upon international institutions like the United Nations and World Trade Organization with a dependency on joint agreements with allies and adversaries to achieve peace.
Conservative Internationalism (CI), as defined by Professor Henry Nau of George Washington University and espoused by American Opportunity/ Free Congress Foundation, combines diplomacy and the use or threat of force to achieve national goals. CI also promotes democracy and the American value of freedom, but does not advocate intervening everywhere, and particularly not in parts of the world with no history of freedom or Western values.
In Part 2, we discussed President Trump’s approach to foreign policy based on his pronouncements, speeches, and conduct. We take the position that the Trump Administration follows an approach more like Conservative Internationalism even though it has defined its policy as being one of pure realism.
In today’s discussion, we will identify potential adversaries in the world today, specifically Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea. In order to develop a successful policy, we need to first determine what the goals of these countries are in rough, simple definitions
China seeks its place in the world, and if not as a hegemon then at least as the dominant power in Asia and the Western Pacific. With a long history of civil war and foreign domination, its primary goals are (1) stability and (2) defense from invasion. The Chinese remember very well the Japanese invasion and domination in the 1930s and 1940s. But defense is not enough. It seeks a (3) revision of the Western postwar democratic order, and (4) believes its rightful role is to dominate the Pacific -- at least its immediate sphere of influence in East Asia.
China uses its population and economic power as an instrument of national dominance . It operates a mercantilist economy to increase its own economic power and maintain a trade surplus, the proceeds of which only add to its regional and global power. China’s Silk Road initiative seeks to spread its influence beyond well beyond East Asia, and domestically China desires to maintain its political philosophy of stable if autocratic rule through the Chinese Communist Party, rejecting democracy and democratic values. It seeks to be an example of a different way of living, one without an emphasis on the Western values of freedom and democracy.
To carry out this new mission, China has to break up the existing Western order that has existed since the end of World War II. This would require pushing the United States entirely out of the western Pacific, causing the U.S. to separate away from from its Asian allies, particularly Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, and even Australia. China’s illegitimate expansion into the East and South China Seas are an necessary and critical first step in revising the existing order, one designed to test American commitments and make America’s allies insecure. The hope is this will in turn force them to follow China’s leadership to security and safety while having them abandon the United States as a guarantor of their safety., independence, and freedom.
Russia, likewise, is a revisionist power not satisfied with the Western order that is now so firmly established in Europe. It too, feels that it has not achieved its rightful place in the world, especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the dismemberment of its 15 former Soviet republics -- among them the Baltic states and Ukraine. Russia remembers when it was an equal to the United States, dominating Eastern Europe and threatening Western Europe. Russia, too, offers a way of governing that downplays democracy and freedom.
Here NATO is Russia’s main challenge, as the European countries will resist Russian expansion. NATO expansion -- right up to the borders of Russia itself which include former regions once under Russia’s direct influence -- guarantees liberty to millions of people otherwise subject to Russian domination. However, the NATO expansion is perceived by Russia not as a mutual security pact of free nations, but as a direct threat to their near abroad. At the very least, NATO expansion limits Russia’s ability to exert dominance in Eastern Europe.
Russia feels justified in breaking all the post World War II rules, expanding by force, conquering the Crimea, repossessing the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, ruling half of Georgia, and with lesser incursions in other regions. This is a most central point of conflict and contention with America and the West. Conquest by force today is conquest by force tomorrow, and the excuse or justification can always be invented.
Russia may fear invasion of itself, remembering vividly invasion from Western Europe by Hitler and Napoleon. Yet so long as they take the position that Russian speakers or those of Russian ethnic origin should be under the “protection” of Mother Russia, no one is safe, especially the Ukraine, Georgia, the Baltic states, and other East European countries. It is important to remember this was the very same justification Hitler used to invade countries -- protection of ethnic German speaking peoples.
Iran is also a revisionist power, seeking to expand along the northern tier of the Middle East, through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon in what has been dubbed the Shia Crescent. It has only been temporarily stopped from obtaining nuclear weapons by agreement, but continues to develop ballistic missiles against the day it can threaten its neighbors. It is primarily blocked by other Middle Eastern countries, nominally by the postwar Western international order.
North Korea is also a revisionist country, but not very large or powerful. Seeking to leverage itself beyond its natural ability to project power, it is working to make up its deficiencies by developing nuclear weapons and the capacity to deliver them by ballistic missile against South Korea, Japan, and even the source of western Pacific stability, the United States. If they succeed in becoming a nuclear power, the politics of East Asia radically changes, and American allies will have to reconsider their position.
It is therefore obvious that the United States is currently in a world-wide conflict -- in a thirld world war for the future of mankind.
Should the U.S. simply withdraw from this world conflict and leave the field to the revisionists? Would the Western world be safer or better off if we just walked away? Why not just let someone else carry the burden and redefine the world?
This conflict is a shooting war across much of the globe, but not yet a military conflict strictly speaking with these principle adversaries. The U.S. challenge is how to contain and manage these revisionist goals of our adversaries without anyone resorting to a third world military conflict. When one considers the U.S. relative position today compared to just a few years ago, the U.S. is in a great position to win this conflict -- without a shooting war.
Tomorrow in Part 4, We will discuss the role of the United States, its strengths and position, and why we should and must win this conflict for the future of the world.
It is also time to discuss in more detail North Korea, and the approach the U.S. is taking to prevent the change in the balance of power in Asia by North Korea’s buildup of nuclear capacity. If North Korea is able to secure acceptance of its new position as a nuclear power, who actually gains in the big picture?
These essays are intended to inform our members and readers, many of whom enjoy a summary analysis. Other readers and experts may have something to add, or will disagree with these concluding. As always, different points of view and additional information or corrections are welcome.
Part 4 follows next week.