President-Elect Barack Obama has always been confident of his ability to tackle anti-Americanism. He said this in November 2007, campaigning in Iowa:
"The day I'm inaugurated, not only will the country look at itself differently, but the world will look at America differently."
Early reaction to his election has indeed been very positive. We noted some of the warm response last week.
But popularity shouldn't be the primary objective of US foreign policy as Jeff Jacoby noted in Sunday's Boston Globe:
"Great nations have great interests in the world - interests that cannot
always be secured through patient negotiation or Security Council
resolutions. As the foremost military power, the United States must at
times be "the world's reluctant sheriff," using force to maintain order
or defend liberty. President Obama may speak more softly than his
predecessor, but he will still be carrying a very big stick. Like other presidents, he will be loudly condemned when he uses it."
Many thought anti-Americanism - a plague that has beset every recent US administration and, for that matter, every 'top dog nation' in history - had suffered a terminal setback on 9/11. It hadn't, of course. Anti-Americanism resumed because of America's assertive response to those attacks and also because that response was often pursued incompetently and ineffectively.
Barack Obama's foreign policy options divide into four broad categories. We list them below with some example policies:
RIGHT FOR THE WORLD, RIGHT FOR ANTI-AMERICANISM
An and to aggressive interrogation techniques including waterboarding and the closure of Guantanamo Bay.
The continuation of the Bush administration's Africa policies which have included large increases in aid spending - particularly against malaria and HIV/AIDS.
RIGHT FOR THE WORLD, WRONG FOR ANTI-AMERICANISM*
Perseverance in Iraq until the benefits of the surge are
safeguarded. Many in Europe and the Middle East will be disappointed
at a measured withdrawal of forces but a precipitate exit would not
just endanger Iraq's transition to stability but, in the medium term,
contribute to a lack of confidence in American power.
A surge of troops into Afghanistan and greater commitment of European soldiers to the task of defeating the Taliban.
WRONG FOR THE WORLD, RIGHT FOR ANTI-AMERICANISM
Submission to the UN. The world will initially appreciate
multilateralism but many will come to resent the lack of action that
results from prolonged summitry.
WRONG FOR THE WORLD, WRONG FOR ANTI-AMERICANISM*
Anti-free trade policies as supported by many US Democrats and union leaders. UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown is urging the President-Elect to resist protectionism.
* When we say "wrong for anti-Americanism" we only mean in the short-term. Policies that are "wrong for the world" - pursued for a long enough period - will progressively undermine confidence in US policy and power.
Daniel Drezner of the Fletcher School of Diplomacy writes for the National Interest on the second of this year's three Presidential debates, which took place in the early hours of Wednesday morning (UK time). He concludes his column by criticising both John McCain and Barack Obama for scepticism of engagement with the world on an economic level.
"What was odd was that [their] hopeful vision of America’s role in the world clashed badly with their rhetoric on the global economy. When talk turned to economics, the rest of the world was viewed as a scary, scary place.
"Both candidates lamented the fact that the United States was borrowing so much from China (Obama added Saudi Arabia for good measure). Obama stressed that he wanted to offer incentives, “so that you can buy a fuel efficient car that’s made right here in the United States of America, not in Japan or South Korea.” McCain warned against returning to the protectionist policies of the Great Depression, but he also warned that some of the $700 billion trade deficit, “ends up in the hands of terrorist organizations.” The candidates fell over each other stressing the need to develop energy independence—which most energy specialists believe is little more than a pipe dream.
"Some of these economic security concerns are valid, but the tone of the responses suggested a mismatch between the candidates’ vision of world politics and the world economy. They see the United States playing a positive role in security issues. On the global economy, however, the language was much more zero-sum.
"Foreign economic policy is related to foreign policy—it’s hard to get cooperation on matters of high politics while claiming that other actors in the world are economic threats. Both candidates recognized the relationship between a strong military and a strong economy. It was surprising, then, that neither John McCain nor Barack Obama realize that economic isolationism will cost them goodwill in dealing with the trouble spots of the world."
The book is a defence not of the administration in all it has done, but specifically of the two components that Kaufman understands to make up its dominant foreign policy doctrine: (i) deterrence and containment cannot head off threats, and so pre-emptive and preventative action are sometimes needed; (ii) democracy promotion.
Kaufman devotes a chapter of the book to each of the rival theories critical of this doctrine, which he defines as 'moral democratic realism'.
The first chapter examines the notion of American isolationism. As indicated in our mastheard above, AmericaInTheWorld opposes isolationism in America as much as we oppose anti-Americanism from the rest of the world. Both of these beliefs are contrary to the view we take that America and American engagement in the world are to be welcomed. In light of this view, we find particularly compelling Kaufman's opening chapter, and its refutation of the often vague idea that up until the early twentieth century, America prospered quite safely and happily by following this doctrine.
From America's birth until the twentieth century, Kaufman argues, the degree to which America was isolationist must be understood in light of Britain's role as the offshore balancer throughout this period. He quotes Henry Kissinger:
"Geopolitically, America is an island off the shores of a large landmass of Eurasia, whose resources and population far exceed the United States. The domination by a single power of either of Eurasia's two principal spheres - Europe or Asia - remains a good definition of strategic danger for America ... For such a grouping would add the capacity to outstrip America economically, and in the end, militarily."
Fortunately for America, until the First World War Great Britain was both capable and willing to prevent one single power dominating these parts of the world. America's ability to resist involvement in European conflicts therefore ended not when American statesmen changed their minds, but when Britain proved incapable of resisting alone those who risked dominating Europe. As Theodore Roosevelt is quoted as saying:
"As long as England succeeds in keeping up the balance of power in Europe, not only in principle but reality, well and good. Should she, however, fail in doing so, the United States should be obliged to step in, at least temporarily, in order to reestablish the balance of power in Europe, never mind against which country or countries our efforts have to be directed. In fact, we are becoming, owing to our strength and geographical situation, more and more the balance of power of the whole globe."
The United States also relied on Britain, in this period, to protect the Monroe Doctrine of opposing any intervention by Europe in South America. This was scarcely an isolationist position, and nor was it respected by European nations. Rather it succeeded as a doctrine because of British opposition to its rivals expanding into South America, and her willingness to use the Royal Navy to prevent it.