A nation’s foreign policy is a reflection of its philosophy. There are infinite examples: “Fifty-Four Forty or Fight,” “We are the bright and shining city on the hill,” “Don’t Tread on Me....”
FDR wanted World War Two to conclude with freedom for Europe’s colonies around the world; if it really was a struggle pitting freedom against tyranny, let the victory be universal, just as his New Deal wanted to ensure the economic well-being of all Americans, rich and poor.
JFK aggressively pursued racial equality at home, while abroad he espoused a confrontational policy against what he regarded as the Soviet Union’s imperialism.
Jimmy Carter promoted a kinder, gentler America at home and a foreign policy based on the same humanitarian values.
And we all saw way too much of Bush and the neocons’ doctrine of preemptive war, cynically disguising the most brutal kind of Realpolitik as a supposed holy war to spread “democracy” across the Middle East, while at home racism and neglect of the disadvantaged were masked by phony “volunteerism” à la “a thousand points of light” (the points of light coming from the Cuban cigars puffed by crooked bankers, Wall Street con men and corrupt Pentagon contractors).
So where does that leave us today? For one thing, the United States of today isn’t the United States of old; we are no longer the world’s only superpower, and we have been handicapped for years by our unwillingness to assist Third World countries with non-military aid; we come in dead last among the world’s industrialized countries in that category. As a consequence, we stand by and watch the Chinese build railroads in Africa, while we “help” African countries by sending weapons and advisors to anyplace al-Qaeda makes an appearance. In Pakistan, the Chinese are building an entire seaport complex on the coast of Baluchistan while we deluge Pakistan’s military with billions of dollars worth of arms.
Then there’s our Department of State, who have almost completely yielded policy-making in Iraq and Afghanistan to the Pentagon, with catastrophic results. Today’s Foggy Bottom is so contemptibly pathetic that Foreign Service officers had to be ordered to serve in Baghdad and Kabul, and once there they built themselves embassies so “secure” that the inmates have almost no contact with the local population.
True story: a security contractor and longtime Aghanistan hand learned that a young FSO acquaintance was working at the embassy in Kabul. He managed to spirit his friend out of the embassy, dressed him in Afghan garb, and spent a day taking him on a sightseeing tour of the city. At the end of the day the young man thanked him: “You know, this is the first time I’ve been outside the embassy since I got here, and I’ve been here for nearly a year. I’m flying home next week, and I’m so glad I got to see a little bit of the country before I leave.”
To be continued…