THE STATE OF AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY
The American Opportunity/Free Congress Foundation View (Part 5)
Parts 1-4 of this series of essays can be accessed on our webpage over at American Opportunity. As we have stated in previous essays, America today is in a world-wide conflict to determine how mankind will live. The conflict engages all elements of national power: military, ideological, economic, and diplomatic.
Despotism is indeed on the march, with Russia in Europe, China in the Pacific and East Asia, Iran in the Middle East, and North Korea in East Asia and beyond. All of these countries have been unleashed, and their aggression is encouraged by past American foreign policy of passivity and through the practice of Liberal Internationalism as defined in part 1 of these essays.
President Trump is clearly changing the approach of American foreign policy, away from Liberal Internationalism to a new policy of Realism. Realism is nothing new, and was most famously practiced by President Nixon and Henry Kissinger by seeking a balance of power during the Cold War to keep the peace.
That doctrine, called at the time detente, recognized the central role of power and the self interest of countries and societies.
Realism meant "live and let live" in order to avoid global war. The spreading of democracy takes a back seat in classical Realism in favor of the goal of stability and maintaining the international status quo.
President Reagan rejected this realist policy of "live and let live" and according to Professor Henry Nau of George Washington University, practiced the doctrine of Conservative Internationalism as described in Part 1 of these essays.
Reagan recognized the evil of the communist bloc, and the violence that despots did to their own people and the world at large. Reagan further understood the ultimate goal of a world democratic order, as famously described by his policy of "We win, they lose."
The result was the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the Soviet Union as a competing ideology, and the end of the cold war. This remains Reagan's greatness.
The lesson we can learn from the Reagan era is that Realism alone is not enough. Power flows to us by our standing for freedom. The natural order of humanity is to seek freedom. So long as America and the West stand for freedom, the people of the world will want to stand with us and will seek to help us. Positive power of people worldwide will flow to us, and give us more assets to win the present world conflict.
Realism alone -- maintaining a status quo -- is always temporary. Sooner or later, the despots achieve a breakthrough either economically or technologically, and the unbalance could lead to aggression and war in a Thucydides trap. Also, if America is only in the world conflict for itself and its own self-preservation, people across the world will have no reason to join with us. We must have a larger vision than only our own self-interest.
President Trump’s foreign policy has been famously described as America First to respond to Americans belief that we are being taken advantage of by allies and adversaries alike.
However, we do not believe that President Trump’s policy is America Alone. Despite the anti-American rhetoric, and the Administration's rejection of current trade deals, America has not abandoned any ally, or stood indifferent to freedom and democracy.
The world’s authoritarian regimes cannot exist side by side with the great democracies of the West. The 21st Century is a time of almost universal communication, awareness, and aspiration. Despite efforts to keep their citizens ignorant and propagandized, knowledge will spread of the opportunity for liberty, and a better way for economic advancement. Governments that threaten arrest, torture, forced labor and an ideology of despotism will sooner or later fail. The Chinese government knows this. They are on borrowed time.
How long can China suppress liberty and persuade over a billion citizens that the Communist Party has the legitimacy to suppress the people of China and beyond? In the communications world of the 21st Century, the answer is not much longer. They know this, and that awareness creates danger for the rest of the world. China and the other despots of the world must suppress the West and its ideas, or ultimately lose the war of ideas, and their control over their own people. Thus, today’s worldwide conflict.
The West can win this conflict. It is absolutely not inevitable that China has to be the rising power and America as a declining power. The immediate American goal should be to stay strong economically and militarily. The despotism cannot be allowed to outrun us technologically to gain an advantage. In the end, our embrace of freedom and democracy is the difference and will win out.
For the West to win this conflict, our adversaries must be led to conclude that they cannot carry out their strategy. The Soviet Union under Mikhail Gorbachev reached exactly this conclusion, and the result was the fall of Soviet communism. This was a moment when a path was opened to Russia and all under their control for a better life. This victory was, alas in large measure, wasted, but a better and safer world can come again. In the ultimate triumph of Western liberty, our promotion of freedom and democracy will be the pivotal advantage that despotism cannot match.
As always, we invite comments, suggestions or disagreement as we continue to develop the foundation’s ideas and positions.
More after the jump...