Toward A New Realism In Foreign Policy
by James Veltmeyer, MD | Nov 29, 2017
We need a foreign policy based on enlightened realism and the national interest, not high-sounding campaign rhetoric.
Since the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, America’s foreign policy lost the unifying theme and focus which had guided it since the end of World War II. During the post-War period, Americans enjoyed a certitude of the moral imperative of resisting communist tyranny. After 1990, our purpose seemed to shift and sway from promoting “human rights” to encouraging “democracy” to various sorts of globaloney.
This has led to a variety of misplaced priorities and policies which have resulted in staggering debacles like the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as military interventions in Serbia, Syria, Libya and other nations, costing U.S. taxpayers trillions of dollars and thousands of lives.
After World War II, as the sole economic superpower on the planet and an aggressive Soviet Union subjugating central and eastern Europe and fomenting a communist takeover of mainland China, leadership of the so-called “Free World” passed to the United States. For more than forty years, the U.S. – practically single-handedly – embarked on a policy of “containment” of Soviet and Chinese communism, leading to wars in Korea, Vietnam and elsewhere.
“Containment” was the bi-partisan consensus of the foreign policy establishment, rejecting grandiose concepts of actually rolling back the communist advance and liberating the enslaved nations of eastern Europe ( President Eisenhower rejected calls to intervene in the Hungarian uprising of 1956).
America – with its economic strength and nuclear arsenal – eventually prevailed in the Cold War, but not before President Reagan’s policies forced the Soviet economy to the brink of collapse and Secretary Gorbachev to the negotiating table.
With the fall of the Berlin Wall, the liberation of eastern and central Europe, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union itself in 1991, it was time for a new bipartisan foreign policy consensus and one seemed to emerge, but was it the right strategy for America’s third century?
With Republican president George H.W. Bush’s proclamation of a “New World Order” and initiation of “Operation Desert Storm” in 1990, it appeared as if the direction of U.S. foreign policy would abandon the high hopes of many for a post-Cold War “peace dividend,” a return to normalcy at home and abroad, and possibly a reapproachment with a non-communist Russia.
The Persian Gulf War ushered in a quarter-century of wars and military interventions around the world, often with little or no national interest involved. Was there any American interest in bombing Serbia for eighty days in 1999 under Bill Clinton? Or Clinton’s prior intervention in Haiti? How about Obama’s intervention to topple Khadafy in Libya in 2011? Or the ongoing involvement in the Syrian civil war? Will the American people benefit from replacing the secular ruler Assad ( who protects the religious rights of Christians ) with emissaries of radical Islam?
Of course, the tragic disaster of the Iraq War represents perhaps the worst foreign policy decision since LBJ went to war in Vietnam in 1965. Fabricated on false intelligence, with no clear long-term strategy, the war simply served to destabilize the entire Middle East, upset the balance of power in the region, and exacerbate the threat from Iran. Far from creating “democracies” in that part of the world, it only unleashed the profoundly anti-democratic forces of Islamic extremism and terrorism.
The tragic disaster of the Iraq War represents perhaps the worst foreign policy decision since LBJ went to war in Vietnam in 1965.
While noble concepts like promoting “human rights,” Western values, and “democracy” sound good in political speeches, they are simply not appropriate to a hard-headed, common sense foreign policy based on dealing with the world the way it is, not as we would wish it to be. We need a foreign policy based on enlightened realism and the national interest, not high-sounding campaign rhetoric.
As a member of the U.S. Congress, I will support and advocate a foreign policy that opposes military interventions abroad, unless there is a compelling national interest involved and a clear exit strategy. I will not support keeping American ground troops stationed permanently on foreign soil, engaging in nation-building rather than eradicating our enemies. I will insist that our wealthy allies and strategic partners pay the bill for their own defense and shoulder more of the burden for regional security. For example, a stronger, militarily-potent Japan could easily check North Korea’s ambitions and China’s as well.
Why force Tokyo to adhere to an outdated post-War constitution that restricts her ability to defend herself and assist the United States in providing for such regional security? I will be willing to use our enormous economic muscle and wide-open consumer markets to discourage Beijing’s attempts to dominate Asia. I will work to deploy an impenetrable missile defense system to protect us from any foreign missile threat. Lastly, as a physician profoundly concerned with saving lives, war will always be the last resort, when everything else has failed.
Dr. James Veltmeyer is a prominent La Jolla physician voted “Top Doctor” in San Diego County in 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2017. Dr. Veltmeyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. James Veltmeyer is Chief of the Department of Family Medicine at Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa, California. His views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Sharp Grossmont Hospital or its staff. Dr. Veltmeyer can be reached at email@example.com