Discovering The Road Back to Sanity in American Foreign Relations
Posted by intellisg on May 12, 2007
George Yeo, 13th March 2007
Since 1993, the disintegration of the Soviet Union left the US as the only super power. When the Republicans came into power under the banner of the Bush administration, 9/11 provided what seemed an unchallengeable opportunity to promulgate a new “Pax Americana” – a new order in world politics.
The “war on terror” was seen as a sort of “crusade” reborn again. Yet it was without a clear enemy except against a man who lived in a cave in Tora Bora and rode a donkey.
The US launched a series of military campaigns first against the Taliban in Afghanistan. Followed by a long and protracted military campaign to oust the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
5 years later after over 5,000 coalition troops have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. The “war on terror” has achieved little – sectarian violence rages on in the streets in Baghdad – terrorist recruitment has never been higher before. The war on terror is looking like another Vietnam and the US is seen to have squandered all its moral currency on pursuing a lost cause which has seen it continually mired as it ambles like a drunkard trying to find his way out of the quagmire.
In “The Age of Fallibility” George Soro’s sums up the prevailing mood,
“Since 9/11, America’s power and influence in the world has declined more than at any other time in its history.”
The proximate cause of this change is the invasion of Iraq, which Soros describes as:
“Ill conceived and an ill-executed adventure that would undermine the American supremacy that it was precisely meant to underpin!”
This report will go on to examine in broad strokes what must be seriously considered in both the short and long term to reverse the rot in US foreign policy in the Middle East, if he trend to reinforce failure is to be successfully reversed.
As Ian Timothy wrote:
“If America leaves Iraq, it would be damaging for South-East Asia. That might be the case. But if America remains in Iraq, it could be damaging for Singapore.”
This statement more or less sums up the hubris quite nicely. Should the US cut its losses and get out of Iraq? What would be the repercussions? Is it even a practical idea? What would form the ideological basis of such a strategy and how workable is it?
It raises the specter of futurism in so far as we are compelled to ask, the question where is the road to sanity? How can the US get itself out of the quagmire that it found itself embroiled in not only in Iraq but also the broader sphere of foreign relations with other states?
1. Let’s get back into the car and go back where we came from!
The idea of a deliberately and carefully planned American withdrawal has merits. For one it would compel a sort of resolution between the feuding factions within Iraq and the conflicting ethnic and religious factions to confront the reality of civil war and try to find a political compromise to the insurgency and to sectarian conflict. The assumption in Ian Timothy’s thesis (if I read correctly and he may very well go on to contend otherwise) is; as long as US forces remain in Iraq, they only exacerbate the discord and terror and provide Iraqis with an alibi for ceaseless haggling.
By proposing a withdrawal, the onus of seeding a peaceful atmosphere shifts from the US the presumably the occupiers to act accordingly. This naturally posits how much good the US would accomplish by remaining is off set by how little they have accomplished in the last 5 years! The proposal to withdraw is sensibly and intellectually cogent, but it still raises the issue of what would happen after that.
Given that the US doesn’t have a fully functional working relationship with the UN. Could the peacekeeping role be effectively entrusted to the UN? And what role will the US play in the post- US occupied Iraq? What would happen in a power vacuum? Would an Iranian styled theocracy rear its ugly head and revive another wave of fundamentalism? It’s anyone guess, but if I had to plumb a guess, I would go with this comment from another poster, Azmodeus who put the “futurescape” quite succinctly,
“The ripple might spread further to the local context, Islamic fundamentalism would always be here to stay in the region, the local governments too weak, or too estranged to remove their influence. After 911 and successful attacks by Islamic radicals in other parts of the world, which would only serve to embolden their actions, strengthen their resolve.”
All of this, however suggests even if the US effected a pull out of Iraq, it would leave a power vacuum and translate into a position where the political situation would be exacerbated further, provoking not only active resistance which would spread across its borders in costly ways.
It raises the question what else needs to be done to dampen the cost of pulling out? This naturally throws out the questions what is the root cause of the debacle in Iraq and bring to the forefront the myth or misguided goal of US foreign policy that has much to blame for the present debacle in Iraq.
2. Throwing out the old road map – We’re lost!
In the first part of this two part segment on US foreign policy, a poster by the name of SCB wrote the following:
“The US failures in the aforementioned regions in the past and present has in a way also show its inability to prove that it has an ideal political system and culture that others will adopt for own wellbeing.”
This statement posits that there is a systematic flaw that determines the logic of US foreign relations, especially in the Middle East. How true is this assertion? Since 1989, when the end of the cold war left the US as the sole superpower – American world hegemony has increasingly seen a unilateral line where it sees, itself as occupying an unique moral position in the world stage to play a bigger role in the history of nations.
In “America at the Crossroads; Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy,” Francis Fukuyama acknowledges that much of US foreign relations is predicated on the misguided claim. “Americans are superior. This unearned claim to American exceptionalism (i.e they are extraordinary, does this sound familiar? We reserve comment) that most non-Americans simply find not credible,” is perhaps the single reason why US foreign policy embodies a hard line that suggest, “they know what best to do.” Fukuyama goes on to state, nor is the claim tenable, since, “it presupposes an extremely high level of competence” which the US simply does not demonstrate. In short, most nations don’t see the US as a paragon of progress despite its economic and military superiority.
The most coherent and plausible official articulation of such corrosive reasoning was offered by Condoleeza Rice in 2003. When she mooted the idea of abandoning the system of balance of power as a means of moderating international affairs – instead the US under the Bush administration adopted a policy of marginalizing the role of the UN as a means of establishing hegemony.
To paraphrase Rice, the UN was a faulty embodiment of international authority because it is an indiscriminate assembly of all the governments of the world, and should, she argued, be replaced as the ultimate world authority by an alliance or coalition of the democracies. This is a theme that gained wide currency in the circles of conservatives in Washington and has been widely documented as the main reason why the US felt morally empowered to play a determinant role in shaping world affairs through military might.
The author contends this misguided goal needs to be dismantled if the US is to regain much of its loss ground. Bush vision is of a vast struggle that pits the forces of democracy against the forces of terrorism which he sees as attempting to establish an oppressive Muslim caliphate. The weakness of the argument becomes all too evident, when one considers: how they are going to accomplish all this against the opposition of the industrial West.
3. Dismantling the myth of “hard” power.
By all practical definitions, the US today is the largest economy in the world and a military superpower. However, what cannot be denied in this day and age is while military might does constitute “hard” power. It is widely acknowledged in the nature of political relationships – an effort to maximize the role of influence and reach has nothing to do with material superiority and everything to do with how well a nation is able to leverage on its “soft” power to influence other states.
The US under the Bush administration has paid scant regard to the nourishing and more importantly developing its network of allies through the usage of “soft” power and “soft balancing.” The latter is defined by Stephen Walt, in “Taming American Power,” as,
“The conscious coordination of diplomatic actions in order to obtain desired outcomes.”
Failure to do so has led to the most flagrant and widely deplored contradiction between US self image as a force for democracy and human rights. As the US continues to go its own way by disregarded the international community –democratization has become wholly confused and incoherent – leaving many wondering whether the American way of fighting terrorism isn’t just a wolf in the sheep’s clothing, that it evens harbor an secret agenda that is ill-disposed to garner its fair share of moderate and rational allies in the international community.
As Tony Blair, a loyal supporter of the Bush administration signaled that he’s bowing out of the labor party leadership – and the Americans begin their negotiations with the Iranians this week, to forge a new inclusive blue print in the Middle East.
Let us all hope that the chapter of failure and mismanagement will come to a close and with it – a new chapter in foreign relations will be duly discovered – one which will even suggest that the US has finally made peace with the error of its ways – guaranteeing us all a return to the sanity.
(By Scholarboy & Astro Boy / Sociol / Politics / Strategic Studies / EP 993838 – 2007 – The Brotherhood Press 2007)
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