A Restrained Foreign Policy


Walt3.jpgI found this clip by Stephen Walt interesting in which he notes the New America Foundation as one of the few islands in the policy establishment that believes we need a more restrained approach to America’s foreign policy commitments.
Here are the last grafs:

By the way, I won’t be offended if you toss in public policy programs like John Hopkins’ School for Advanced International Studies, Tuft’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School, or my own employer, the Harvard Kennedy School. These institutions are dedicated to various forms of social engineering at home and abroad, and to preparing students for careers of public service. I’m all for that, because there are in fact plenty of big problems out there and I’d rather they were addressed by people who were trained to do so. But no matter how well we train our students to weigh alternatives carefully, the raison d’etre of these programs reinforces the same message: don’t just sit there, DO SOMETHING!
By contrast, there are at most a handful of institutions whose core mission is to get the United States to take a slightly smaller role on the world stage. There is the CATO Institute (where Preble works) and maybe a few people at the Center for American Progress and the New America Foundation. And there are plenty of peace groups out there with an anti-interventionist agenda. But these groups are hardly a match for the array of forces on the other side. And apart from Steve Chapman at the Chicago Tribune, I can’t think of a major mainstream columnist or media commentator who is a consistent voice for a more restrained foreign policy. Lots of pundits want a smarter foreign policy (though they often disagree about what that would be), and most of them have a pet issue or two that they like to flog, but how many have been arguing for doing somewhat less as a general rule?
In short, what I’m suggesting here is that America’s role in the world today is shaped by two imbalances of power, not just one. The first is the gap between U.S. capabilities and everyone else’s, a situation that has some desirable features (especially for us) but one that also encourages the United States to do too much and allows others to do either too little or too many of the wrong things. The second imbalance is between organized interests whose core mission is constantly pushing the U.S. government to do more and in more places, and the far-weaker groups who think we might be better off showing a bit more restraint.

It is coincidental that I’m traveling with Stephen Chapman of the Chicago Tribune in China now — along with Bruce Stokes of National Journal and Tom Omestad of US News & World Report.
— Steve Clemons


8 comments on “A Restrained Foreign Policy

  1. DonS says:

    I’m all for a more “restrained” foreign policy. But what am I supposed to think about a foreign policy that posits Iran as some sort of serious threat (to the US ???), and it’s “nuclear ambitions” as demanding critical attention. Is this really the sine qua non of American foreign policy, restrained or not?
    I’ll opt for “logical” and “honest” as goals for foreign policy, and then layer “restrained” on top of that.


  2. fidelcastroruz is for the usa says:

    The third reason to oppose AIPAC is the corruption of the U.S. political system by the Lobby’s money and power, resulting in a bought-and-paid-for Congress and a rule of law for everyone except those guilty of crimes on behalf of Israel. Even when one is caught red-handed and confesses to spying for Israel, it is apparently no big deal, aside from the cost of a lawyer. Israel runs an extremely aggressive espionage program inside the United States involving hundreds of operatives and agents, but the only Israeli spy to be arrested, charged, and imprisoned is Jonathan Pollard, and that was over 20 years ago. Even Larry Franklin, the Pentagon “Iran expert” who spied for Israel because he believed AIPAC would get him a better job on the National Security Council, is not actually in jail in spite of his 12-year sentence. He is reportedly free due to his service as a witness in the recently terminated AIPAC Steve Rosen-Keith Weissman espionage trial.


  3. ron says:

    History is good thing.
    Nathan Schwalb
    Nathan Schwalb served as the representative of the Jewish Agency, exercising authority upon matters of rescue of the European Jews during the holocaust.
    When he was approached by the rescue committee of Czech Jewry for a sum of money to halt the transports to Auschwitz, he answered:
    “Since we have the opportunity of this courier, we are writing to the group that they must always remember that matter which is most important, which is the main issue that must always be before our eyes. After all, the allies will be victorius. After the victory they will once again divide up the world between the nations as they did at the end of the first war. Then they opened the way for us for the first step and now, as the war ends, we must do everything so that Eretz Yisroel should become a Jewish state. ….we must be aware that all the nations of the Allies are spilling much blood and if we do not bring sacrifices, with what will we achieve the right to sit at the table when they make the distribution of nations and territories after the way? ”
    …the shedding of Jewish blood in the Diaspora is necessary in order for us to demand the establishment of a “Jewish” state before the peace commission…Czech Jewry must resign itself to annihilation in the Auschwitz crematoria”
    …Holocaust Victims Accuse, pp 26-28.


  4. fidel castro ruz is for the usa says:

    phillip giraldi on the special relationship.
    “Even in the blogosphere, Israel has many friends, at least some of whom are Israel Defense Forces soldiers fluent in English tasked with presenting a rebuttal whenever a critic surfaces. Israel has no shortage of allies, but most would agree that its principal supporter in the United States is the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, known as AIPAC.”


  5. non-hater says:

    “In short, what I’m suggesting here is that America’s role in the world today is shaped by two imbalances of power, not just one.”
    I think Walt makes a good point. Without the Cold War limitation of a roughly equal adversary, there is no obvious immediate geopolitical reason America should not stick it’s nose into everybody’s business. There are, of course, plenty of non-obvious and/or long-term reasons.
    The domestic imbalance is overwhelming due to the triple-whammy of single-issue cranks, transnational corporations, and the defense-industrial complex. I don’t see the this imbalance changing until we fix our system of legalized bribery, aka campaign financing.


  6. janinsanfran says:

    Hmm — wonder if Walt things Andrew Bacevich is chopped liver?


  7. Don Bacon says:

    SW: “what I’m suggesting here is that America’s role in the world today is shaped by two imbalances of power.”
    No. America’s role in the world today, as yesterday, is shaped by the quest for more power and profit, mostly profit, which is why the US is broke.
    “I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912 (where have I heard that name before?). I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested. During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”–Maj Gen Smedley Butler, USMC, 1933


  8. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Hmmmmm, a “restrained foreign policy”. Has a nice ring to it.
    Does that mean we are going to cut down on the blood money we send Israel? Perhaps trim it down to justa coupla billion everytime a member of Congress farts?
    Or are we still going to keep the spigot turned on full blast, while being more “restrained” about criticizing Israel’s war crimes and human rights abuses???
    Oops, forgot, we can’t get any more “restrained” about that.
    Besides, look at the restraint we’re showing in Pakistan and Afghanistan, by having our drones kill those nasty little terrist pickaninnies before they get to gun-totin’ age. Heck, how much more restrained can we get? Its not like we have actual troops killing these kids.
    Haven’t you heard, man? This is the dawning of the Age Of Aquarius. Change is in the air! Saint Obama has arisen.


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