Tuesday, March 28th, 2006
FOREIGN POLICY AND THE AMERICAN ELITE : PART I
My blogfriend Dave Schuler had a post today entitled “American foreign policy in an age of proximity” which spurred me to think on many levels. A thoughtful, well-crafted, essay it is definitely worth the full read but here is a significant excerpt:
“My own view was (and is) that America has a foreign policy and, using the diction I’d use today rather than the way I’d have put it back then, the policy is an emergent phenomenon of the major forces in American foreign policy thought: mercantilism, missionary internationalism, populism, and libertarian isolationism (AKA Hamiltonianism, Wilsonianism, Jacksonianism, and Jeffersonianism).
This emergent policy has a number of components but included among them are open borders facilitated by ensuring that our neighbors are weak. This is a policy that has been pretty successful for the last two hundred years or so. I’ve argued against it for the last forty and IMO the policy is beginning to look a little shopworn at his point.
Consider the case of Cuba in the light of this policy. We don’t really care whether Cuba is communist or dominated by a dictator or spreads instability in other countries in the hemisphere (that’s actually something of a feature rather than a bug) or outside of the hemisphere or makes its people miserable. We’ll avoid trading with Cuba (a few cavils from Hamiltonians notwithstanding) but we won’t stop others from doing so nor will we overthrow the tyrant (a few sporadic actions from Jacksonians and complaints from Wilsonians notwithstanding). We’ll even encourage emigration from Cuba (which provides a safety valve for the Castro tyranny). We’ll accept it as long as Cuba is weak.
But if Cuba shows signs of becoming strong (as it did during the Cuban missile crisis almost 45 years ago) then it’s a threat and we’ll act forcefully to correct the situation.
Things have changed quite a bit since the first quarter of the 19th century. They’ve changed quite a bit in the last 45 years. China and Iran are closer to us today than Mexico was in 1850 and little farther away than Cuba was in 1962. We’re pursuing the same policies although our notions of where our borders lie and who our neighbors are has changed to include the entire globe.”
I have many comments.
First, I very much like Dave’s elastic use of ” proximity” as a relative cognitive perception. He’s right. As the world has globalized and moved into the information age, what constitutes “distance” has changed irrevocably for people in advanced ” Core” societies. Only a little more than a half-century ago a British Prime Minister justified appeasement because the costs were being borne by a ” far-away people, of whom we know nothing”. What was that, of course, compared to ” peace in our time”?
That excuse is much harder to make these days, at least in terms of Western statesmen avoiding obloquy. Just ask former Secretary of State Warren Christopher, whose new first name might actually be ” Feckless”.
Secondly, (and at least to me, interestingly) revisionist historians like William Appleman Williams, Walter Lefeber, Thomas J. McCormick, Gabriel Kolko and Lloyd Gardner
would agree with Dave that “We’re pursuing the same policies although our notions of where our borders lie and who our neighbors are has changed to include the entire globe”, albeit for very different ideological motivations.
Thirdly, I sense in the immigration debate to which Dave refers a growing and serious disconnect in terms of values betwen our leaders and the American people. I generally consider that immigrantion has been helpful to this country. Unlike, say, Pat Buchanan, I am not alarmed by Mexican immigration per se, brown skin can be good kin, as it were.
But the sheer magnitude of illegal immigration coupled the deliberate attempt by Mexico’s Vicente Fox government to cultivate and retain the immigrant’s primary loyalties is worrisome. The inability of our current security procedures to exercise even minimal control our own borders is worrisome. These things are basic challenges to American sovereignty. A policy encouraging a high degree of mobility across the border does not have to be implemented with a high degree of stupidity.
Most worrisome of all is that our bipartisan elite is content to tur a blind eye to the problem and pursue an uncontrolled borders policy to which nearly 60 % of the Americans are strongly opposed – opposed even by a majority of Hispanic immigrants. A policy contrary to American national interests but very much conducive to the political and economic interests of this insular bipartisan elite.
End Part I.