US Foreign Policy

Postscript 1, US Foreign Policy, Post 2016 Elections

This is Postscript to the earlier blog post Foreign Policy Post Elections 2016. As I wrote in that post, there will be updates with candidates added or subtracted as the quadrennial circus progresses.


Since that post on 23 January what appears to be a significant player has surfaced, Marco Rubio, the telegenic young, first term Senator and Hispanic is a foreign affairs Uber-Hawk. He is strongly supported by the Republican establishment, has substantial endorsements and is well bankrolled. In other words, a potential big player. Rubio accuses Cruz of “saying anything to get votes” and that is true of all the candidates including himself. As for his foreign policy positions, they are not unlike other Republican candidates:

  • Global Hegemony: He supports an increased defence budget to “make America the mightiest” in the world. So, no difference from other Republican candidates or Clinton.
  • Engagement: He considers engagement with countries such as China, Cuba and Vietnam a failure because they have not followed the US template for governance. However, he does concede that China must be considered a separate case without stating the obvious, namely the US and global economies reliance on China.
  • Russia: He is particularly hawkish on Russia, essentially wanting to destroy its economy, calling Putin a gangster that wants to reassert Russia’s geopolitical role in the world as if Russia has not right to do so. He favours replacing Russian gas exports to Europe with US LNG (liquefied natural gas) ignoring the obvious cost disadvantage of LNG for the Europeans. But he has not yet addressed the European’s more flexible and pragmatic approach with respect to Russian sanctions. As long as the drunken buffoon Yeltsin, who sold off most of Russia’s assets and catered to the West, ruled Russia, Russia was not considered a threat by the US. Under Putin, Russian has adopted an independent policy; one that does not accept US global hegemony and looks after Russian national interests and that is unacceptable to the US.
  • China: Rubio, aside from the standard attacks on China’s human rights has not threatened China economically or militarily but that could well change if the other candidates adopt a more aggressive stance. Stay tuned.
  • Iran: When asked, “would you impose sanctions on China or India for not sanctioning Iran?”, without answering that question directly, he replied, “our foreign policy as a nation is not subject to what China wants to do or Russia wants to do; we have our own foreign policy”. Fair enough, but so do other countries.
  • ISIS/ISIL:  Much the same as others, Democrats and Republicans, let the “moderate” rebels and Middle Eastern countries, with the exception of Iran, sort them out. The same refusal to recognise there are no “moderate” rebels or Middle East countries, only ones looking after their individual and disparate interests.

Sanders Updated: Sanders continues to offer only the vaguest foreign policy statements because there is currently no pressing crisis; because he is poorly grounded in international issues and because he is not interested. Should there be a crisis, it will suddenly become an issue and, in any administration there has always been one. His narrow focus on domestic problems has blinded him to existential influences. Neither Sanders, nor his supporters are living in the real world. In part this is because the Democrats’ base is guilty of the same, as evidenced by recent polls, showing that only 16% of Democrats regard foreign policy as a priority. They see US domestic issues such as income disparity as much more important, and they are indeed important, but we are in February, nine months until elections. In the interim, should another domestic terror attack occur or another threatening international crisis arise, polls will shift rapidly to an emphasis on terrorism and foreign affairs. And that will leave Sanders open to criticism by the Republican hawks.

Philosopher Kings: Alas, utopian states and philosopher kings have always failed. As Peter Green wrote in in his history Alexander to Actium,” in 317 BC a philosopher king, long proposed by Plato as the ideal ruler, took charge of Athens. He was Demetrius of Phaleron and, as Peter Greene went on to say, “what happened was “nothing happened”. Demetrius was unable to accomplish anything. The lack of pragmatism and Quixotic attacks on the status quo by these aspiring philosopher kings have been their greatest failing and Sanders would be no exception.

Geopolitics: The candidates, Republican and Democrats, one and all, need a primer in the geopolitics that drives all countries’ foreign policies. Unfortunately, US politicians favour confrontation and military force over a diplomacy centred on understanding the concerns of their perceived enemies.

This failing is just as much due to the disinterest and lack of understanding of the American public as that of the politicians. As Patrick L. Smith wrote in a very astute article, the Angry American, the Fearful American, and the misguided belief in the Exceptional American are what drive American foreign policy.

His conclusions, with which I agree, lead to a very bleak view for the future of the United States.









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