Reminder About Foreign Policy

I’ve told this anecdote often enough but it bears repeating. When I was in college I had a year-long argument with my professor of American Diplomatic History about whether the United States had a foreign policy or not. He said it didn’t; I said it did.

I didn’t have the vocabulary to express it succinctly then but I do now. U. S. foreign policy, unlike that of many other countries, is an emergent phenomenon arrived at through the individual decisions of presidents, American politicians, diplomats, businessmen, and American consumers. We have a foreign policy. It’s just not a top-down policy.

To whatever extent we have a foreign policy one of its components is to keep the governments of neighboring countries weak. Our pilot project for that was Mexico and even the most generous reading of the interrelationship between our two countries reveals how hard we’ve worked on that project over the years.

We are now extending that policy throughout the world, something understandable in a world in which technology has brought nearly every country in the world closer in practice than Mexico was to us 50 years ago. We want weak governments everywhere. Except for here, of course.

Remember that when you read about the collapse of the Westphalian system. It didn’t jump. It’s being pushed and we’re the main pushers.

And just for reference we don’t make war with the Mafia. We don’t enter into negotiations or declare truces with them. There’s a real danger in starting to treat NGOs the way we would states.

11 comments… add one

  • TastyBits

    That is a brilliant point.

    The system is being torn down by people who have no understanding of the how or why of that system.

    They want water, and the dam is keeping them from getting water. Their solution is to make a small hole at the bottom of the dam to let a little water through. They think they know everything, and they believe that the new physics is not the same as the physics of the past.

    It is not going to end well.

  • I think it was Chesterton who said that the difference between a radical and a conservative is that the radical says “I don’t see the use of that—it should be discarded” while the conservative says “I don’t see the use of that—it should be kept”.

  • TastyBits

    The delusional hawks have a foreign policy similar to the liberal economic policy. The delusional hawks believe in a fiat military and fractional reserve power. Their solutions are basically Keynesian.

    Their stimulus package is power abroad. They are trying to stimulate US power through a few decisive actions – “prime the pump” of US world standing. Like Keynesians, they believe in multipliers. When spending/meddling causing a problem, the solution is more of the same.

    I have the same argument with both. Neither understands how things work. Nothing is working now because the theory is wrong. Like the little girl in the back seat with her steering wheel, the people in charge were never steering anything.

  • ...

    “Fractional reserve power”

    LMAO, that’s good! I mean, it’s horrible, but the phrase is brilliant! With analogies like that, you should have been a mathematician, Tasty.

  • TastyBits

    @Icepick

    Conceptually, it is the same thing. Fractional reserve lending is taught wrong. Money is created through lending. Only a fraction of the loan is real money.

    The delusional hawks are implementing a similar process, but they do not realize it. They want to intimidate the Libyans, Syrians, Iranian, Russians, and Chinese, but today, only a small fraction of US power is real.

    For smaller countries, it may be enough, but for Russia and China, it is not even close. The problem is that the delusional hawks are convinced that it is real. If only President Obama talked tough, it would make the “printed” power real.

  • Andy

    Interesting theory, but I don’t think I agree. What about China for example? I don’t see how our foreign policy is making them weak – quite the opposite if you ask me. That said, I think we do want to be “top dog” or “king of the mountain” – at least that’s what our elites want.

  • I think we should see how things play out in the South and East China Seas before we decide what our foreign policy is with respect to China. At the very least I think it’s obvious that we don’t want other countries to have spheres of influence.

    What’s the explanation for our attitude towards Europe or, in particular, Russia? Why did we intervene in Yugoslavia? It was a European matter that the Europeans were completely capable of handling without our assistance or, at least, should have been able to handle without our assistance. I think the same goes for Libya.

  • Andy

    “At the very least I think it’s obvious that we don’t want other countries to have spheres of influence.”

    I would agree with that, I just think that our actions don’t consistently support that. Perhaps “lack of consistency” is the defining feature of our foreign policy.

  • PD Shaw

    American foreign policy in China has long been to strengthen it and opposed foreign efforts to weaken and divide China. Starting with the Burlingame Treaty of 1868, the Open Door Policy of 1899, and American support during the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1940.

  • Perhaps “lack of consistency” is the defining feature of our foreign policy.

    Which is exactly what you’d expect when your foreign policy is an emergent phenomenon.

  • American foreign policy in China has long been to strengthen it and opposed foreign efforts to weaken and divide China.

    Presumably, that’s why we have encouraged the Chinese to re-take Taiwan.

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