Myths About American Foreign Policy And Global Conflicts

Writing in Politico magazine, Robert Kagan contends the belief that emerged after the Iraq War that the world “wished to emulate [the US] and eagerly sought its leadership” is nothing more than a myth. In fact, he says, “anxiety about American isolationism is once again matching anxiety about American imperialism.”

While the world consumed our Hollywood movies and music, they also looked askance at the election of Ronald Reagan, Kagan notes. The world also demonstrates its hypocrisy. After lamenting US engagement, we do not hear from the world a hearty  “good riddance but the surprisingly common plea for more U.S. involvement. Africa wants more U.S. investment. Latin America wants more U.S. trade. The Middle East and Asia just want more: more diplomacy, more security, more commerce.”

Outside of American borders, impressions of the world’s superpower are not always favorable. For example, Kagan points to the Middle East, “where U.S. policy is regarded as having produced only disasters, and others, like Latin America, where the United States is faulted for its failure to pay enough attention (except when its strategic or economic interests are threatened). American motives are often suspect and regarded cynically. Some see the United States pursuing only selfish interests. Others see confusion, an inability to explain what America wants and doesn’t, and perhaps even to understand what it wants.”

Kagan, is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, chair of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on the United States, and author of The World America Made.

Taking a contrarian view of the current state of American leadership and engagement, Fareed Zakaria disputes the notion of an America in retreat from the global stage, as well as the perception of a chaotic world.

The CNN commentator insists the world “is not in great disorder” and, rather is “mostly at peace with one zone of instability, the greater Middle East, an area that has been unstable for four decades at least — think of the Six-Day War, the Yom Kippur War, the Lebanese civil war, the Iran-Iraq war, the Gulf War, the Iraq war, the Sudanese civil war, the Afghan wars and now the Syrian civil war. The Obama administration has not magically stopped this trail of tumult.”

Zakaria also suggests the US rebuff any calls for greater involvement in foreign lands, like Syria. He compares the situation today to the 1950s when “after the long, bloody stalemate in Korea, cries for U.S. intervention popped up everywhere,” but “President Dwight Eisenhower turned down every plea, refusing to inject U.S. troops into complex conflicts without clear missions and paths to victory.”

Zakaria’s arguments are somewhat ironic given the fact North Korea launched four Scud missiles into the sea off its eastern coast on Thursday. Although they were described as “low-level,” it is the first time since 2009 that North Korea took action of this kind and a move which South Korea viewed as a clear provocation.

“North Korea is keeping its head up in the face of the South Korean-U.S. drills,” Sohn Yong Woo, a professor of North Korean studies at the Graduate School of National Defense Strategy of Hannam University told Bloomberg News.

In addition, Zakaria’s pronouncement that the world is largely peaceful appears to be contradicted by Antonio Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

In a recent speech, Guterres said multiplying global conflicts demonstrated a dire need for nations to be better prepared to deal with the unpredictable dangers.

“Preparedness and response is something we badly need in today’s world – a world that is dangerous and unpredictable. We don’t know where the next crisis will be and unpredictability has become the name of the game,” he said.



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