You've all heard the expression, ‘nature abhors a vacuum’, but few people understand that expression also applies to politics and foreign policy.
Newspapers and news sites are reporting that America is now planning for more drone strikes overseas. Over the past few months we have seen the Middle East almost completely destabilized, and the violence spread not only to countries like Libya and Egypt, but Syria, Bahrain, Tunisia and other Arab nations. Few people, even in the darkened corridors at Langley or the Pentagon, know entirely what all the machinations are in the factions there, and I won’t begin to speculate myself.
What I CAN tell you is that the increase in instability is directly related is America’s foreign policy worldwide. Over the last two years, Obama has moved the United States into a more Wilsonian position in foreign affairs. While increasing our presence in Afghanistan, in order to squelch the Taliban and finish the job we started almost 10 years ago, he has shown a public image to the world that America is no longer the world’s policeman.
For better or worse, the American position now is that world problems must be solved as a team effort, and is no longer the sole purview of the American military. Although pundits are exclaiming this is a radical change in American foreign policy, it is no more radical than Bush’s theory of ‘first strike’ in the event of a threat to American interests. In fact, Obama’s foreign policy really is nothing new—it was first developed under Woodrow Wilson, and then expanded again under Jimmy Carter.
The Wilsonian narrative goes like this—America is just another nation in the world, no better, or worse than any other nation and is not exceptional in its political theory or military influence. The world must solve its problems together, in a cooperative manner, rather than resort to violence or war. It is the world view of an academic; Wilson was a professor by endeavor (he was a law professor at Princeton), not a politician, nor military leader. As such his position was the traditional textbook version of American excellence; taught even today in most secondary institutions. Wilson often wrote in his papers and books disparagingly of the Constitution as outdated and needing revision; and was much more in favor of a monarchical government tempered by an English style of Parliament.
Unfortunately, such political theory often works in a classroom, but fails in actual practice. Wilson’s pacifism and failure in the years before WWI to act as a barrier to German expansionism and rising nationalism was a contributing factor to the Great War, and the US late entry in European intervention resulted in many deaths, from the sinking of the Lusitania, to the thousands of French and English locked in a stalemate in trench warfare Europe. While many at home praised Wilson for his peace efforts, and keeping the US out of war, the end result was far more tragic for the world.
In fact, Wilson’s pacifist intentions with the signing of the Versailles Treaty and his philosophies in the reparations against Germany, allowed Germany to rebuild and with even more hostility toward the Allied powers. His creation of the Federal Reserve, the Internal Revenue Service and the income tax, and the massive new farm subsidies acts to stabilize American food pricing all are the brainchildren of an academic and not one schooled in the real life world of practical economics. All of these policies and more are the forbears of President Obama’s agenda.
While some call these policies ‘Nazi’ or ‘socialist’, they are neither—they are simply a product of an academics’ preoccupation with blackboard economics. And as with Wilson, they lead to worldwide instability, and a broken economy. Obama's speeches in Egypt and the Middle East are remarkably similar to Wilson's Fourteen Points speech, and had almost the same effect; derision by our allies and increased aggressiveness and instability worldwide.
Later on after Wilson, President Jimmy Carter moved forward again with centralized economic planning and a backseat position in world affairs. The result was the rise of jihadist Iran, the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, and the collapse of the American economy.
The problem with academic economics and centralized planning is that it fails to address the human factor—that man often acts with greed and aggression when faced with an opportunity for military or economic gain. Less civilized nations act aggressively in the absence of anyone to stop them; and planned economies fail because the nature of bureaucracy is that human beings are fallible and size does not equate to efficiency. Without the basic profit motive, man simply fails to accomplish much.
Obama, with his background in academics and community activism sees American government as the place to go to for solutions to problems. As an activist, when you wanted things done and problems solved in your community, you went to government. As a leader, he is attempting to do the same thing.
But community and government action does not work well from a top down academics’ approach, because it fails to understand that community activism is highly reliant on the skill and motivation of the individual activist. The same goes for foreign policy and power politics; a top down teamwork approach is only as good as its weakest link. Thus as America withdraws from the world center stage, others simply fight over who will be the next top dog, rather than share the limelight equally.
For better or worse, America is world’s top dog right now, and if America wishes to live in a world dominated by trade and peaceful people’s it had better maintain that position through the use of strong rhetoric and the use of overwhelming force in the event it comes to war. This was the doctrine of Reagan, Roosevelt and Monroe. It was during these President’s tenure that the world saw its greatest threats to peace removed, not Carter, Wilson or now Obama.
The textbook is an excellent source of reference material, but it should not be the bible of American policy.