Monday, March 27, 2006

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.
Just a couple of odd thoughts, Mark.

1) Russia also favors a policy of weakness in its "near abroad." It's sort of a no-brainer for foreign policy, until you think of the downsides too.

2) In this age of electronic globalization, everyone is your "near abroad." Oh, there are some things that the further away physically can't do quite as easily, but they might have friends who are physically closer who can. Or they can get there pretty easily.

Does that imply that a superpower might want everyone else to be relatively weak? Seems that the Rumsfeldian "divide and conquer" strategy of "old Europe" versus "new Europe" might fit that mold.

Well, Rummy also has a long history of being intentionally provocative,abrasive and aggressive in order to shake-up the status quo and opportunistically accrue advantages for his side or for himself from the resulting bedlam.

That's the reason why Rumsfeld, as a young man on the make, was one of the few outsiders ( along with John Connally)to breach Haldeman's iron grip on the White House Staff and win Nixon's personal confidence. A pattern of behavior he later demonstrated at Searle Corporation and today at the Pentagon.

I think your point # 2 is well taken - as the most connected society in the world in terms of power the U.S. reaps the advantages but is subject to the disadvantages of that position as well.
An irony of the bipartisan, Coastal Elite consensus on immigration is that such integration, if taken to its logical conclusion, will destroy the Bicoastal Elite
Interesting post Dan. Very Barnettian
Post a Comment

<< Home
Zenpundit - a NEWSMAGAZINE and JOURNAL of scholarly opinion.

My Photo
Location: Chicago, United States

" The great majority of mankind are satisfied with appearances as though they were realities" -- Machiavelli

Determined Designs Web Solutions Lijit Search
02/01/2003 - 03/01/2003 / 03/01/2003 - 04/01/2003 / 04/01/2003 - 05/01/2003 / 05/01/2003 - 06/01/2003 / 06/01/2003 - 07/01/2003 / 07/01/2003 - 08/01/2003 / 08/01/2003 - 09/01/2003 / 09/01/2003 - 10/01/2003 / 10/01/2003 - 11/01/2003 / 11/01/2003 - 12/01/2003 / 12/01/2003 - 01/01/2004 / 01/01/2004 - 02/01/2004 / 02/01/2004 - 03/01/2004 / 03/01/2004 - 04/01/2004 / 04/01/2004 - 05/01/2004 / 05/01/2004 - 06/01/2004 / 06/01/2004 - 07/01/2004 / 07/01/2004 - 08/01/2004 / 08/01/2004 - 09/01/2004 / 09/01/2004 - 10/01/2004 / 10/01/2004 - 11/01/2004 / 11/01/2004 - 12/01/2004 / 12/01/2004 - 01/01/2005 / 01/01/2005 - 02/01/2005 / 02/01/2005 - 03/01/2005 / 03/01/2005 - 04/01/2005 / 04/01/2005 - 05/01/2005 / 05/01/2005 - 06/01/2005 / 06/01/2005 - 07/01/2005 / 07/01/2005 - 08/01/2005 / 08/01/2005 - 09/01/2005 / 09/01/2005 - 10/01/2005 / 10/01/2005 - 11/01/2005 / 11/01/2005 - 12/01/2005 / 12/01/2005 - 01/01/2006 / 01/01/2006 - 02/01/2006 / 02/01/2006 - 03/01/2006 / 03/01/2006 - 04/01/2006 / 04/01/2006 - 05/01/2006 / 05/01/2006 - 06/01/2006 / 06/01/2006 - 07/01/2006 / 07/01/2006 - 08/01/2006 / 08/01/2006 - 09/01/2006 / 09/01/2006 - 10/01/2006 / 10/01/2006 - 11/01/2006 / 11/01/2006 - 12/01/2006 / 12/01/2006 - 01/01/2007 / 01/01/2007 - 02/01/2007 / 02/01/2007 - 03/01/2007 / 03/01/2007 - 04/01/2007 / 04/01/2007 - 05/01/2007 / 05/01/2007 - 06/01/2007 / 06/01/2007 - 07/01/2007 / 07/01/2007 - 08/01/2007 / 08/01/2007 - 09/01/2007 / 09/01/2007 - 10/01/2007 / 10/01/2007 - 11/01/2007 / 11/01/2007 - 12/01/2007 /

follow zenpundit at http://twitter.com
This plugin requires Adobe Flash 9.
Get this widget!
Sphere Featured Blogs Powered by Blogger StatisfyZenpundit

Site Feed Who Links Here
Buzztracker daily image Blogroll Me!