US Foreign Policy, an Antonym for Realpolitik

Realpolitik, a definition: Realpolitik (German: real “realistic”, “practical” or “actual”; and Politik “politics”) refers to politics or diplomacy based primarily on practical considerations, rather than ideological notions or moralistic premises;

There is no listed Antonym for Realpolitik, but one can be found in the practice of Foreign Policy of the United States. The US has practiced an unrealistic, impractical policy since the end of World War II and it is a policy that unusually attracts bi-partisan support. Both the Democrats and Republicans are guilty of pursuing a policy clearly inimical to the US national interest.

The US foreign policy is the antithesis of practical no-nonsense national interest, diplomacy. All one needs to do to understand this is the recent row with China, the world’s second largest economy, the world’s number one exporter and most importantly, the US’s major creditor holding over $700 billion in US treasury notes. Without China’s purchase of US debt, the US would be on the brink of financial collapse. In addition, China’s economy is driving the global economic recovery. Yet, rather than applauding China, the US has done all possible to provoke and alienate China by imposing tariffs on Chinese imports at the behest of US labour unions; catering to a the Tibetan Dali Lama as a head of state when he is only a religious leader; supplying arms to Taiwan, regarded by China as a breakaway province. In addition to China’s importance as an economic power it also wields a Security Council veto. It can put a stop to any coordinated attempt to impose sanctions on Iran and could withdraw from the six party talks aimed at containing North Korea signalling the death knell of those negotiations. For the US in particular there is a huge risk in antagonising China. Presently, China buys US debt in order to prop up the US financial structure and thereby its major export market. However, should China’s domestic economy and those of its Asian neighbours mature, China would no longer be dependent on exports to the US market and no longer find it necessary to purchase US debt. At that point the danger to the US economy becomes acute.

Then, there is Georgia that foolishly began a war with Russia and invaded an inconsequential breakaway province, South Ossetia, which had opted to join Russia. The US inserted itself into the conflict supporting Georgia, which was clearly at fault, thereby angering Russia and went so far as to express support for Georgia’s application to join NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Georgia, situated in the Caucasus region on the Black Sea, far removed from the North Atlantic. Little wonder Russia looked upon this bit of foolery as an attempt to gain a military foothold into the Russian sphere. Somehow the US, which regarded the Soviet presence in Cuba as a threat to its national security in 1962 and invasion of its sphere could not understand why Russia should object to the US having a military presence in the Caucasus. Russia, no longer the formidable foe that was its predecessor state, the USSR, is still an important nuclear armed global power, and a member of the five nation UN Security council, like China, with veto power. Without Russia’s support in the six power talks on North Korea negotiations would grind to a halt. Again, without the support of Russia, there can be no effective UN Security resolution regarding Iran.

Without a doubt the most grievous and damaging mistakes made in the name of US non-Realpolitik has been the unstinting support of Israel. That support has led to the alienation of the entire Muslim world and has been at the crux of the rise of radical fundamentalism and attendant terrorism. The US, to mollify and gain the support of the US based pro Israeli lobby, has sacrificed relations with the entire Middle East, and large parts of South East Asia all in order to accommodate a nation state of no strategic value. The only value Israel now has is as an ally is to counteract terrorism, the cause of which was the creation of the state of Israel, and the US support of subsequent Israeli policies. One cannot turn back the clock and remove the state of Israel, but if the US were to be a truly honest and impartial broker in its dealings with the Palestinian problem, perhaps something could be salvaged from what is a geopolitical disaster.  I fear, however, matters have now deteriorated to the point that not even a two state solution is possible, or even desirable. The bloodshed, acrimony and deep-seated hatred is so imbued in the Palestinians that the people will never fully accept such a compromise. In the long term, as one Israeli friend said, demographics will prevail, a separate Jewish state will not survive but will revert to a pre-war single state embracing both the Muslin and Jewish peoples. In the meanwhile, both the Israelis and the Palestinians will continue to suffer.

As so often much of the US foreign policy has been formulated to accommodate US domestic ethnic and religious pressure and lobby groups rather than for the national interest. And when one looks at the current conflicts and potential ones on the boil, most of them can be laid at the doorstep of a deeply flawed US foreign policy.

1 reply »

  1. I find a contradiction in your argument concerning South Ossetia and Taiwan: you seem to be asserting that China has every right to claim their "breakaway province (in your own words)" of Taiwan, which is in actuality being recognized as a sovereign state by many nations, as theirs, and by supplying arms to Taiwan, the US is provoking China without reason. Yet at the same time you're saying that Georgia had NO right to claim South Ossetia, which is again a "breakaway province" that in this case a) has no sovereign power and b) is totally subject to the sovereign rule of the Georgian government. So you're now interpreting the Georgian government (which retains sovereignty, I might add) trying to defend its territory and people as an act of provocation to the Russians. Doesn't this incongruity seem illogical to you? What's more, then according to your reasoning, the Indian state of Kashmir should be immediately ceded to Pakistan, since it opts to join Pakistan. I should be allowed to buy a house in the middle of Oklahoma and declare it a part of Australian territory if I wish. Do I have that right? Does Kashmir have that right? And does the Federal government have no right of its own to try to stop me from defecting my house to Australia? Think about that.

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