Tony Karon argued yesterday that Israel's 'Diplomatic Tsunami' has arrived, I think he’s right, and it got me thinking about America’s foreign policy.
From Wikipedia, “a country's foreign policy... consists of self-interest strategies chosen by the state to safeguard its national interests and to achieve its goals within international relations milieu.”
For almost a century, America has been the world’s cop, the world’s strongest economy, and even the world’s authority on morality. From protecting Korea and Taiwan in Asia, to helping Japan and Germany with their post-war economic recoveries, to leading the world in communications and high tech and entertainment, to being Israel’s doting uncle, America has been a (really “the”) dominant force in shaping the world’s behavior.
America, the President of the United States, and the American Congress were regarded, respected, and feared as the pinnacle of freedom, integrity, power, and achievement.
When “powerful” is your norm, you assume infallibility and righteousness are forever yours. The most brazen example of this is the Bush Doctrine (aka National Security Strategy of the United States) wherein the American government empowered itself to preemptively strike any entity or sovereign state that it deemed threatening.
American foreign policy is/was not so much a diplomatic process as thuggery; using either the threat of, or the actual act of military or economic retribution to impose its wishes.
Wielding brute force will go to your head; when you have this kind of power, why bother with subtlety? Why waste time on nuance and wit when you own the most powerful one-two punch (US Military, US Dollar) in history? Sure it's dominant now, but time isn’t kind to those that drink too much of their own Kool-Aid; Davids are able to find slingshots, Goliaths are vanquished.
Ten years ago today, America was the victim of a horrible and criminal act, and it reacted with force and anger, some of which was directed against its own citizens, making us a lot less free than we’ve ever been. America is a more intrusive place to live today than it was on September 10, 2001.
That same act also robbed America of its integrity, as evidenced by three words - Guantanamo, Rendition, and Torture.
The American military is without equal in “traditional” warfare; the last time they were asked to fight one of those was 21 years and 40 days ago, and they were victorious. Since then, the “enemy” has been replaced with individuals and small groups of criminals who are inhuman, without honor, and lack any national affiliation. This is a law enforcement problem, not a military one.
Using the military to counter terrorism is like using a gun to kill a mosquito. You make a fool of the weapon, create a ton of random damage, and help the foe look agile and effective. Case in point - Afghanistan, ironically the same place where Americans helped the “locals” defeat the Soviet Union. American power does exist in reality, but in the eyes of the rest of the world, it is no longer mighty, nor is it feared. The thug mind assumed that every problem could be solved with the same weapon, and that delusion made a mockery of both the thug and the weapon.
Can we at least rest on achievement?
Going back to Karon’s article, taking its cue from Uncle Sam, Israel assumed that a powerful military and self-righteousness are all that’s required to maintain the status quo; but they didn’t count on the agility and effectiveness of the mosquito, which took the form of individuals and their desire for personal freedom and justice.
They did count on Uncle S to stand with them and “prevail” on the Turks, Egyptians, and even the Palestinians to respect and honor the integrity of Israel; and of course America did stand with its favorite nephew, but regrettably, with little effect. Nations (and worse, individuals) that once cowered are no longer bowed. They listened politely, but then followed their own beliefs rather than US "advice."
Why? Because today even America’s ability to get it done is suspect - the military will leave its last two theaters of operation without victory; the economy is weak and depleted; the government prefers ideology over strategy.
What was once a majestic and imposing and relentless is tired and fading. The “assets” that America has held dear for so long, it’s military and the all-mighty dollar remain, and remain strong, but only according to the definitions of the last millennium.
While the world moved on, America chose laurels and rest.
The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin’
And the first one now will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’
Bob Dylan - The Times They Are A-Changin’
These are harsh words on this sad day; but this is also a day of reflection, when we contemplate not just what was lost, but how we've changed, and what we've become. Reflection must encompass the whole image in the mirror, not just the convenient illusion. Humility always prevails over hubris.